Situated just off the main through road in Warwick, which many a person will walk or drive past each day, sits a wonderful little place. Passers-by often comment on what a pretty building it seems to be. ‘Some sort of old hospital’ I regularly hear muttered. Sometimes, you’ll see a wedding party buzzing about eagerly awaiting a blushing bride, and frequently, a very smart gentleman is proudly stood by the entrance gate, complete with puffed up chest and beaming smile.
Where is this place, I hear you ask…Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick.
The beautiful Lord Leycester Hospital in the heart of Warwick.
Twisting My Arm
After five years of ‘passing by’, I resolved to visit the Lord Leycester Hospital, and after seeing this rather intriguing tweet, my mind was most certainly made up:
‘Don’t forget the #tweetup 1030 am this Saturday at #lordleycester. Guided tour with the Master, tea, cakes and superb historic buildings.’
With the promise of cake and a special tour, I had no excuses. I had to be there…
Setting The Record Straight!
The Lord Leycester Hospital is a cluster of beautiful timber buildings set behind a large gate. A 12th Century chantry chapel sits atop the ‘West Gate’ and the site also boasts a tranquil secret garden and a terrific tea-room.
Now, first things first, I must explain a one or two points. Our tour was led by the fantastically entertaining master – Lt. Col Gerald Lesinski, who was so kind to divulge the backgrounds of a couple of misconceptions. Was the site really a hospital? And what about that spelling of Leycester? Shouldn’t it be Leicester?
Inside the walls.
As it goes, the building is known as a hospital in the very oldest sense of the word, to mean “a charitable institution for the housing and maintenance of the needy, infirm or aged”. It was actually established in the years of Elizabeth I for old warriors, and has never been a medical institution. To this day, the site continues to run as an independent charity which provides a home to a small number of ex-Servicemen (referred to as the ‘Brothers’) and their wives.
As for the spelling, it is spelt Leycester because, well, if you’ve enough money you can spell your name any which way you like. However, historical documents do show both versions!
Although a small place, the tour was vast, taking in a perfectly formed military museum, hall, chapel, garden and courtyard. My favourite spot was perhaps the Chapel, where we learnt more about the daily routine of the brothers who say prayers here each day. We were also treated to viewing the stunning stained glass and original William Morris fabrics. Gerald also made sure we didn’t miss the saint eating a banana nor the chap with his skis…ask him about that if you ever meet him.
Top Tip: When in the courtyard, take a moment to find the Y-M-C-A type bears holding up the wooden beams and the sad looking porcupine!
I very much enjoyed hearing stories of time-travellers and dashing regency gents. Did you know the site has been a filming location for both Dr Who and BBC1’s Pride and Prejudice? Now you do!
As our tour came to an end in the Master’s Garden, Gerald told us the story behind the rather large sandstone urn featured within the garden. The ornament originates from Egypt, and dates back 2000 years. It is in fact an Egyptian Nilometer* and had lived at nearby Warwick Castle before being transported to the hospital in 1838! I think it looks like a tea pot…
Part of the wonderful Master’s Garden.
The Lord Leycester Hospital is open to the public Tuesday to Sunday including Bank Holiday Mondays all year round. I urge you to pay them a visit. Guided tours are available by arrangement with the Master and come highly recommended! Find out more about opening hours and admission prices on the website.
If you want to know what the tea room is like, it is amazing!
*Nilometer is the name given to one of several devices that are different in design but that all serve the same function: measuring water levels in the River Nile.