The purpose of the monograph

Survey of London Monograph 1, Trinity Hospital, Mile End. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1896.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'The purpose of the monograph', in Survey of London Monograph 1, Trinity Hospital, Mile End, (London, 1896) pp. 7. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]


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 mediæval.

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.