To Live Contented, Private and Refign’d : the Jesus Hospital in Rothwell

Watching football is not – fortunately – all about the game itself.  As the match doesn’t last very long, an afternoon at the football does allow the time to ft in some lunch and a spot of sight-seeing.  Rothwell has many sights to see (yes, really – it does) and one of the pleasantest is the Jesus Hospital (or Jefus Hofpitall, as it announces itself) –

Jefus Hofpitall

This Elizabethan almshouse was originally built in 1586, by local schoolmaster Owen Ragsdale.  Childless himself, he decided that he wanted to make the poor of the parish “his sons and heirs” and allowed 25 old men to live in the almshouse free of rent “for ever”.  Nowadays it is used as sheltered housing.  Although they no longer live rent free, I did glimpse one or two of the residents, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that they had been living there since 1586, as, indeed, who wouldn’t want to?

The Hofpitall has what appeared to be its own vegetable garden –

Vegetable garden

and resident staff who, when I visited, seemed to be working in the garden and – how rare this is these days! – happy in their work.

I was particularly struck by this plaque –

 In case you can’t make it out, it reads –

CHRIST Blefs our Governors prolong their Days,

Who plac’d us here to render heav’n our praife

To live contented, private and refign’d,

Free from life’s toils, and humours of mankind

Pleaf’d with wife AGURS Mediocrity,

Too low for Envy for contempt too high,

What we now have we thankfully poffefs,

Till we exchange for greater happinefs.

(Henry Dorner Principal 1721) 

I confefs myfelf greatly imprefs’d by the fentiments exprefs’d herein, tho’ vex’d to difcover that the meaning of  “Pleaf’d with wife AGURS Mediocrity” efcapes me quite.  Plufs, of courfe, the ufe of Capitalization and italics – I think I shall adopt this ftyle forthwith.

 

 

8 thoughts on “To Live Contented, Private and Refign’d : the Jesus Hospital in Rothwell

  1. Thanks for telling us about that. I sang with the Rothwell Choir in March (Faure’s Requiem – lovely) and walked past the Jesus Hospital on the way to rehearsals. I kept meaning to look it up and now I don’t have to. How lucky that it has survived.

  2. Glad to be use, WH. It is worth a look around if you happen to be passing again. A lovely peaceful place. Though it’s a bit worrying that I’ve started fantasising about living in an almshouse.

    • Amen to that. I wouldn’t fancy the workhouse one bit – very nasty places. And please don’t put ideas into anyone’s head – I’m sure the workhouse was very cost-effective.

  3. My Great Great Great Grandfather’s Brother lived here from at least 1861 until 1881 according to the censuses. In 1881 he was 85. In 1851 he was a widower and “employed on the roads” which I assume meant he was a labourer building roads. It looks a really nice place for him to have lived for 20+ years

    • My GGG- Grandfather was also a resident (or inmate, as described on the census). He was here from around 1871, until his death in 1892. He was also a widower. Their paths almost certainly would have crossed! Have you been able to find out any more about daily life, living at the hospital?

  4. Hello Gaynor – yes, I think it must have been a very nice place to live, and he was probably very lucky to find a place there. I don’t know whether you know Rothwell at all, but it’s a pleasant little town. The Hospital is on the market square, just opposite the Parish Church, with a decent old pub on the other side of the square. The Hospital is a very old building, a little like a Cambridge college, with a view over open country from the back of it. I’d guess he found it very restful to retire that after all that labouring!

  5. I visited the Jesus Hospital this morning, and was pleased to find the text of the plaque on your website. As puzzled as you by, ‘Pleaf’d with wife AGURS Mediocrity’, I found by searching a devotional book by Sir Matthew Hale from fifty years before the plaque commending ‘Agur’s Prayer’ for Mediocrity, and that took me to the Bible and to Proverbs 30.1,7-9 where an Agur prays not to be too rich, and neglect God, or too poor, and fall from God. So I suppose these men in the Hospital (single or widowed) were, as it were, to be married to that way of living.

    My football team, Norwich City, takes on Liverpool tomorrow!

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