Surrounded by roads and modern buildings, the Holy Jesus Hospital in Newcastle is an historical gem amongst modern concrete.
It is also one of only two intact 17th century brick buildings that survive in the city, the other being Alderman Fenwick’s House.
Owned by Newcastle City Council but managed by the National Trust the property is over 700 years old.
From the late 1200’s an Augustinian friary stood here. The monks lived and worked on this site for almost 250 years from 1291 until 1539.
Freemen of Newcastle
Remnants of the Augustinian friary can still be seen, including parts of the church and one of its ornate windows.
By 1648 the site belonged to a Newcastle corporation and in 1682 the Holy Jesus Hospital was opened for poor freemen and later their widows and unmarried sons or daughters.
Freemen were skilled workers or tradesmen, who had completed an apprenticeship, sometimes lasting up to ten years. They joined a guild specific to their work once the apprenticeship was finished successfully, for example the Silversmith’s Guild or the Cooper’s Guild. Once a guild member, the person became a freeman of the city. This was passed down the male line of the family once the son reached twenty years old.
The brick built building contain 42 rooms, each 13 feet by 12 feet.
Each room was home to only one person, they had a fireplace and their own front door.
All of the cooking, eating and sleeping was done in this room. The rooms were considered very large for one person and records show that it was normal for up to eight people to live in a room the same size on the quayside.
In 1705 the inmates of the Newcastle House of Correction were commissioned to produce ‘purple and grey cloth’ for the uniforms of the widows of the Holy Jesus Hospital.
The Holy Jesus Hospital was lived in until 1937 when it was moved to Spital Tongues and joined with the Mary Magdalene charity.
At the rear of the main building is a Tudor tower thought at one stage to have been used as an amunitions store.
In the 19th Century the building was used as a soup kitchen. Soup was made in 100 gallon quantities and sold to the poor of the city.
By the middle of the 1950’s the Holy Jesus Hospital was derelict and was almost demolished, but the people of the city fought to keep it and in 1968 the restoration began, costing £67,000. The John George Joicey Museum was opened in 1971.
The National Trust took over the lease from the Council in 2000, refurbishing the building as offices and meeting rooms which are available to hire by businesses.
The National Trust’s Inner City Project is now based from the site.
Holy Jesus Hospital – NewcastleGateshead