CHAPTER I. THE PURPOSE
OF THE MONOGRAPH.
The endeavour of the following Monograph is to give a description of a
famous London building, to trace its relation to certain periods of
national life, and to show what it may be regarded as implying to us
historically and æsthetically at the present day.
The Foundation of The Trinity Hospital.; The Mediæval and Stuart Traditions.
Most great architecture bears upon it the mark of what is best in the
national character that gives birth to it, and its purpose is always distinct
and appropriate. The Trinity Hospital, or College, built in the reign of
William III., in 1695, shares this appropriateness with other great English
buildings, and up to the present day serves the wise and beneficent
purpose for which it was originally erected. What, however, gives the
Hospital in Mile End its peculiar historic interest, is that it remains the
only memorial left to us of the Trinity Corporation, or, as it would be more
correct to call it, the Guild of the Trinity House, in the time when the
Guild was actually the English Navy. From the day of Henry VIII.
to the day of James II., from the time of Sir Thomas Spert, the traditional
founder, to the time of Mr. Secretary Pepys, the English Navy either
actually is synonymous with the Trinity Guild, or is guided and watched
over from the Trinity House of Deptford Strond. The little group of
buildings on the Waste are the only remaining record of the work of the
Guild at the time of its greatest influence and authority, and they combine
in themselves the two vitally important traditions, that of the Navy Office
with its little official Board under the later Stuarts, out of which sprang
the Admiralty, and the Guild tradition of the middle ages, which brought
with it the element of charity and fellowship. It was in the conception of
this later tradition that the hospital was built, by those who were working
out the destinies of the earlier, and it will be seen that the architecture
is expressive of both.
In its style and external characteristics, the building is classic, of the
period of Sir Christopher Wren, in its planning and general disposition
it is still mediæval. The endowments and the bequests of the site are of
the Stuart time, but the nature and manner of endowing are in spirit
many centuries earlier, and the buildings are built on the model of an
earlier set at Deptford, now destroyed, which, in their turn, very probably
replaced a yet earlier foundation. The character of the middle ages is
evidenced in the planning of the Collegium, the little open court walled
off, with the chapel at the end for service, and the manner and purpose of
the Charity, as we shall presently see, was in no wise Stuart, but entirely
To trace this dual relationship between the existing buildings and the
two periods of English history to which they owe their origin, it will be
necessary to briefly review such of the functions of the Trinity Corporation
as may be considered to have given rise to the Hospital.