15 July 2023

The former Bablake school
and Bond’s Hospital share
a common site in Coventry

The Hill Street site shared by Bond’s Hospital and the former Bablake School in Covtentry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

At the beginning of the 16th century, Coventry was the fourth largest city in England after London, Bristol and York, and a significant religious centre with four monastic houses within the city wall: the Benedictines, Franciscans, Carmelites and Carthusians.

Two prosperous city merchants, who had been mayors of Coventry in successive years and whose families were linked by marriage, each in their wills left estates to found almshouses for the benefit of members of the Trinity Guild who had fallen on hard times.

One of the finest half-timbered Tudor buildings that survives in Coventry is the old Bablake boys school and Bond’s Hospital or Bablake Hospital, founded by Thomas Bond, a wealthy draper and former Mayor of Coventry, in 1506. The two foundations shared an arched gateway and courtyard or quadrangle that have stood on Hill Street without significant change for the best part of five centuries.

The Bablake School was founded in 1560, but the educational institution possibly dates from 1344, when the Bablake lands were granted by Queen Isabella, widow of Edward II. In 1344, she gave land at ‘Babbelak’ to build Saint John’s (or Bablake) Church.

Bablake School was in existence in 1364, and may have been established on additional land granted by Queen Isabella’s grandson, Edward, the ‘Black Prince’. It was first built to house the priests of the Collegiate Church of Saint John, who lived in a college immediately behind the church.

Bablake School was suppressed under the Chantries Act in 1548, at the time of the dissolution of the monastic houses. But the buildings survived, and it was remodelled in 1560 as a boys’ hospital and later became a school, with 41 boys attending.

The school provided free board, clothing and education for poor boys who were to become apprentices, and depended on charitable gifts until 1563, when Thomas Wheatley, a former Mayor of Coventry (1556), endowed it with much of his estate.

The reason for Wheatley’s generosity is extraordinary. He had ordered steel wedges from Spain, but by mistake received a chest of silver ingots. He decided not to profit from the mistake but to give to charity.

Old Bablake School and Bond’s Hospital formed a complex of buildings on the one site (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Little is known of the progress of Bablake in the 17th and 18th centuries, a period when the boys wore the traditional ‘Blue Coat’ uniform. By the early 19th century, it is said, the school had declined to just one boy. But under Henry Mander, who was Master from 1824 to 1870, the school began to flourish, and Mander took additional private pupils.

A new schoolroom and a house for the master were added in 1833. Two years later, after mismanagement and extravagant spending, the administration of the charities was removed from the corporation, and Bablake came under the control of the General Charity Trustees. By then, there were 20 boys in the school, and this had increased to 70 in 1855.

A new governing scheme was drawn up in 1886, and the school moved to Coundon Road in 1890.

After World War II, the school returned to Coventry, opted to go independent, and became a member of the Headmasters’ Conference. In the 1970s, it amalgamated with King Henry VIII School to form Coventry School.

After the school moved to Coundon Road in 1890, the Hill Street building was used as offices for General Municipal Charities and governors of Bablake School. The cloistered passage that was once part of Bablake School has been transformed into modern-day offices, but the buildings retain their mediaeval character.

The cloistered passage that was once part of Bablake School has been transformed into modern-day offices (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Old Bablake School and Bond’s Hospital formed a complex of buildings on the one site. Bond’s bedehouse was founded in Hill Street in for ten poor men and a woman to ‘dress their meat’. Three years later, William Ford’s Hospital and Chantry was built in Greyfriars’ Lane in 1509, and accommodated six poor men and their wives. Over the years Bond’s came to house only men and Ford’s only women. Both now have a mixture of both.

Thomas Bond was a wealthy draper and former Mayor of Coventry (1497). Together, the hospital and school form a beautiful courtyard of historic buildings reached through an arched entrance on Hill Street.

The hospital was intended to provide accommodation for elderly ‘bedesmen’ or pensioners who said prayers for the benefactor in exchange for their accommodation. In his will, Bond directed that the residents should year a black gown with a hood, wearing a sign of the Trinity before and behind them. They were to attend Mattins, Mass and Evensong daily, and to pray for the souls of the founder and his ancestors, and the brothers and sisters of the Trinity Guild.

There were strong links between the school and hospital, and the same people often served as feoffees or governors, of both institutions.

Most of the street frontage of Bond’s Hospital was rebuilt in 1832, the west end bay was rebuilt in 1832, and the back wing was extended in 1847. But the core of the building is late mediaeval and retains its original features, and a section of the mediaeval city wall runs through the read garden. Bond’s Hospital still offers accommodation for the elderly and is a Grade II* listed building.

The small cells in Bond’s Hospital were converted into bed-sits in the early 1970s and 10 new flats were added in 1985. Bond’s Court was built in Hill Street with 27 self-contained apartments, and was opened by Princess Diana in 1985; 31 two-bedroom flats were added in 2004.

Bond’s Hospital is now vested in the Bond’s and Ford’s Hospital Charit, part of the Coventry Church (Municipal) Charities, which consists of three charities. The trustees are in the process of transferring the almshouse charity within CC(M)C to the Bond’s and Ford’s Almshouse Charity.

The two foundations shared an arched gateway on Hill Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (48) 15 July 2023

Trinity Church on Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, was built in 1839 as the Protestant Episcopal Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and tomorrow is the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (16 July 2023). The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today gives thanks for the life and work of both Saint Swithun, Bishop of Winchester (ca 862) and Saint Bonaventure, Friar, Bishop, Teacher of the Faith (1274).

Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel or cathedral I know;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

A sign outside the church tells the story of Trinity Church on Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Trinity Church, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin:

The former Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church on Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin, is in use once again as a church, having closed in 1916.

Trinity Church began life as the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1838. It closed in 1916, and for many years it was an unemployment or labour exchange. It was reopened as a church in the 2000s by an independent Christian group using the name Trinity Church.

Trinity Church was designed by Frederick Darley, who designed many buildings in Trinity College Dublin, and the church would have accommodated up to 1,800 people.

The story of the church begins with the Revd John Gregg (1798-1878), a charismatic and controversial preacher who attracted the funds and the congregation to support building a church that was independent of the parish structures in the Church of Ireland.

John Gregg was born on 4 August 1798 near Ennis, Co Clare, the son of Richard Gregg, a landowner, and educated at Trinity College Dublin. He was ordained deacon and priest in 1826 and 1827, and he soon gained a reputation as an eloquent preacher, fluent in the Irish Language. He was Bishop of Cork when he died on 26 May 1878.

Gregg was the assistant chaplain and then chaplain of the Bethesda Chapel, Dublin, until Trinity Church was built on Gardner Street. His son Robert Gregg (1834-1896), was Bishop of Ossory (1874-1878), Bishop of Cork (1878-1893), and Archbishop of Armagh (1893-1896); his grandson John Allen Fitzgerald Gregg (1873-1961), was Bishop of Ossory (1915-1920), Archbishop of Dublin (1920-1939) and Archbishop of Armagh (1939-1959).

The architect Frederick Darley junior (1798-1872) designed and built many prominent buildings in Dublin, including New Square, Trinity College Dublin, the Carpenters’ Asylum, Gloucester Street (now Seán McDermott Street), Merchants’ Hall, the King’s Inns Library, Henrietta Street, and the Bethesda Chapel, a former Church of Ireland church on Dorset Street, now demolished.

Darley was a son of the builder and architect Frederick Darley Senior, who was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1808-1809. His mother, Elizabeth (Guinness), was the eldest daughter of Arthur Guinness of Beaumont.

Frederick Darley junior was a pupil of Francis Johnston. He was the architect of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for the Church of Ireland Diocese of Dublin in 1833-1843, and a founding member of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI).

During the 1830s, he was also architect to Trinity College Dublin, a position he held until at least 1850. As architect to the Board of National Education (1848-1856), he was responsible for designing a series of model schools and model agricultural schools throughout Ireland.

In addition, Darley was a patron of Aged and Infirm Carpenters’ Asylum, advisory architect to the Dublin Exhibition Palace and Winter Gardens Company (1863-1870), and one of four architects involved in restoring Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin.

The first chaplain of Trinity Episcopal Church was the Revd John Gregg, from 1839 until he was appointed Bishop of Cork in 1862.

A wealthy Dublin businessman named Vance funded half the building costs on condition that Gregg could raise the other half of the money needed. It was a proprietary or trustee church, independently funded by wealthy laypeople. The term ‘Episcopal’ was used to distinguish it from other evangelical movements of the day that were outside the Church of Ireland.

From the beginning, Trinity Episcopal Church was evangelical, verging on Calvinist. Similar Protestant Episcopal chapels in Dublin at the time included: the Bethesda Chapel, Dorset Street; Saint George’s Church, Temple Street; the Free Church, Great Charles Street; the Episcopal Chapel, Upper Baggot Street; Swift’s Alley Free Church, Francis Street; Plunket Street Meeting House, Plunket Street (now Dillon Street); the Magdalen Asylum Chapel, Leeson Street; and the Mariner’s Church, Dún Laoghaire.

A parochial district was assigned to Trinity Church in 1847 from Saint Thomas’s Parish. Those who attended church services included George Howard (1802-1864), 7th Earl of Carlisle, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1855-1858), and John Pentland Mahaffy, future provost of Trinity College Dublin.

Gregg was succeeded by the Revd John Nash Griffin (1862-1879), the Revd Thomas Preston Ball (1879-1884),and the Revd Dr John Duncan Craig (1884-1902). Craig was a poet, chaplain in the Franco-Prussian war, and a deputy chaplain in the Orange Order.

Craig’s successor, the Revd John Olphert Gage Dougherty, was the last chaplain (1902-1904), and in 1904 the parish was joined to Saint Thomas’s as a mission church.

The original setting of the church has been compromised by the Loop Line railway bridge (1888-1889) which has blocked the view from the Custom House so that it is difficult to see the church in its context from a southern vantage point.

The church was closed in 1916, was later sold, and was used as a labour exchange from the 1920s. The galleried hall was probably removed in the 1920s and mid-20th century concrete reinforced columns now support the first floor.

A school was built to the rear of the church in the mid-19th century with similar detailing and materials. Both buildings retain many of the original ventilation measures, including their internal controls and the external vents, a particular preoccupation of Victorian construction.

The rendered accommodation block to the side was built at the same time as the church and retains its original windows at the rear laneway.

The former church was bought in 2006 by the Fellowship Bible Church, which had been renamed Trinity Church Network in 2002. The recent re-conversion from a labour exchange has restored the large space on the first floor that had been subdivided and this room retains its original cornice.

The large space to the top floor has had recent reinforcement of the original large spanning timber queen-post trusses and reversion to its original single space. The building retains a substantial amount of its original features and fenestration and its recent refurbishment has successfully maintained these characteristics.

After the major restoration in 2006-2009, the original marble memorial with a bust of John Gregg was erected in the entrance lobby.

Mark 10: 24-33 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 24 ‘A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; 25 it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

26 ‘So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 27 What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father. 30 And even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

32 ‘Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; 33 but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.’

Saint Swithun (second from left) among the saints and martyrs on the Great Screen in Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023; click on image for full-screen viewing)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), has been ‘Fighting Climate Change Appeal – Hermani’s story’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

Find out more HERE.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (15 July 2023) invites us to pray in this way:

Let us pray for young people like Hermani. As they enter a world filled with uncertainty, may You guide them. We pray for skills programmes such as eco-learning that encourage young people to become ambassadors for the environment, protecting our precious world.

Collect:

Almighty God,
by whose grace we celebrate again
the feast of your servant Swithun:
grant that, as he governed with gentleness
the people committed to his care,
so we, rejoicing in our Christian inheritance,
may always seek to build up your Church in unity and love;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

God, shepherd of your people,
whose servant Swithun revealed the loving service of Christ
in his ministry as a pastor of your people:
by this eucharist in which we share
awaken within us the love of Christ
and keep us faithful to our Christian calling;
through him who laid down his life for us,
but is alive and reigns with you, now and for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org