Great Hospital’s master prepares to move on after refurbishment
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016
With its picturesque cloisters and ancient church, the Great Hospital, in the heart of the city, is a key part of Norwich's history.
Founded in 1249 by Bishop Walter de Suffield to look after aged priests, poor scholars and sick and hungry paupers, the organisation's history is as fascinating as its architecture.
Its first Master, Sir Hammond De Castle, had the power to put residents in the stocks. These days its chief executive is more restrained in his role – but Kevin Pellatt has still had a hugely influential role in overseeing the running of the organisation.
And now he has announced his plans to depart in April next year.
Mr Pellatt has spent almost 10 years leading the historic charity.
His time there is eclipsed by the hundreds of years of heritage the organisation itself has behind it.
Today it plays a slightly different role to that of the 13th century institution, albeit one that retains the same ethos on which it was founded.
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The hospital currently has 108 residents in sheltered housing and assisted living apartments.
The Great Hospital, on Bishopgate, has three roles: providing accommodation for elderly residents, hosting events in their community hall and preserving the historic site for the people of Norwich.
The Master of the Great Hospital, Mr Pellatt's official job title, has a wealth of heritage – something which is not lost on Mr Pellatt.
He said: 'I find the fact that the Great Hospital has continued for 760-odd years truly amazing. It is difficult to find another organisation that can claim that.
'As trustees and masters we understand that we are only stewards of a very important part of English history that will continue, hopefully, for another 700 years.'
Having taken on the role in September 2007 Mr Pellatt has overseen a £6.5m refurbishment of the site, which took seven years.
Despite its history Mr Pellatt said the key to the Great Hospital's longevity has been its ability to adapt.
He said: 'The big thing for the Great Hospital is that is has continually changed over time. It has reacted over time to the various changes in legislation and I think we are also very responsive to what our residents want and need.'
He said the next plan for the hospital will be to knock down one of their unused residential care homes to replace it with newer accommodation.
Following his departure Mr Pellatt will work with the Norfolk SSAFA armed forces charity and will take up a position on the Police and Crime Panel.
The charity is now recruiting for a new chief executive to take up the post in April 2017.
Multi-million pound refurbishment
Over the past 10 years Mr Pellatt has overseen a £6.5m transformation of the
The project involved old cottages on the site being replaced with a modern block of apartments, the gardens being redesigned,
and additional rooms being built.
Mr Pellatt said the 'piece de resistance' of the project was the community hall built on to the back wall of the cloisters.
The project was the biggest challenge, but also one of the most fulfilling aspects of the job, over his 10 years in the role.
'The project itself was set right in the middle of a very, very historic site and that brings with it a huge number of challenges,' he said.
'It wasn't a big project in financial terms but it was very demanding in practical terms so that gave me a lot of pleasure.'
History of the Great Hospital
Founded in 1249 by Bishop Walter de Suffield, the hospital was originally known as the Hospital of St Giles and it provided care for poor, elderly clergy.
In addition, a number of the poor of Norwich were given food and access to a fire during the winter months and on feast days and special anniversaries.
The hospital was staffed by four chaplains, four lay brothers and four sisters who, in the interests of propriety, Suffield insisted were over 50 years old.
At the dissolution of the monasteries, the hospital and the church were taken from the cathedral priory by Henry VIII.
It was not until the reign of Edward VI that the citizens of Norwich managed to successfully petition the king for its return to local control.
Edward VI re-founded
the hospital to care for the poor of Norwich and it continues its good work today, providing sheltered housing and a nursing
home for the elderly of Norwich.
Information kindly republished from The Norwich Knowledge, written and published by Michael Loveday and available in Norwich bookshops.
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