A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1948.
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29. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. ANTHONY AND ST. ELOY, CAMBRIDGE
Henry Tangmere, who died about 1361, built at his own expense the Hospital of St. Anthony and St. Eloy (Eligius) for lepers (fn. 1) —a term which need not be taken as medically exact.
The date is a late one for a leper house, except in the west country, but for a long time no lepers had been housed at Sturbridge and the foreign trading connexions of Cambridge may have made such a house desirable.
Very little is known of its history. It stood outside the Trumpington Gate 'in front of the present line of houses in Trumpington Street at the Lensfield Road corner'. (fn. 2) Cooper, quoting Masters, says that Tangmere gave both his religious foundations to the College of Corpus Christi, but that 'the townsmen soon after took them away by violence'. In 1392 the Bishop of Ely, Fordham, granted an indulgence to such as should relieve the brethren and sisters of the house of lepers, or Hospital, of St. Anthony and St. Eloy. (fn. 3) John Harryes, mayor 1394-6, by his will in 1418 left 6s. 8d. to 'the lazar house towards Trumpington'. (fn. 4)
In 1526 the mayor and burgesses let 'the house of lepers commonly called the Spetylehouse' with its garden to Robert Brunn and Margaret his wife for their lives, to receive leprous men and women and to collect alms for their support. They were to maintain good order in the house and to keep securely the furniture and ornaments. The schedule of the latter shows that the chapel was well appointed: besides four altar cloths and five alabaster images, there were of the recent gift of John Grene an altar frontal 'steyned with an ymage of our Lady Seynt Anthony and Seynt Loye', a wooden image of Our Lady, newly painted, and 'iij ymages closed in iron', also of wood. There were also four bells; one in the roof, one at the chapel door, St. Anthony's bell, of latten, and a sacring bell. The furniture of the house, so far as it was considered worth mentioning, was very scanty. (fn. 5)
Beyond occasional small bequests, (fn. 6) and such records as the purchase in 1584 of a pair of sheets 'for ye madd woman in ye spitle house', (fn. 7) there is little reference to the hospital, or almshouse as it had become by the middle of the 16th century.
Francis Turner, Bishop of Ely, reporting on hospitals in his diocese in 1686 says that besides the hospitals at Sturbridge, 'Wittsford Bridge' and Leverington 'believed to have been eaten up' by the Act of 37 Henry VIII 'any other Hospitall now being within the Diocese of Ely is not to be found, only a poor house there is at the entering into Cambridge from London which hath been called the Spittle. It was built up with brick within the memory of man in the room of a few old rotten cottages, and the poor which now possess it have neither rule nor endowment besides their dwelling there, having only a small allowance out of two Parishes in which they are situated, and for the rest of their sustenance they are obliged to the Basket which the Master of the Hospitall (who is allowed to keep an Alehouse in a mean tenement next adjoining) sends out to begg relief for Himself and the rest with Him.' (fn. 8)
The Spital House seems to have been used as an almshouse for widows which passed under the Municipal Reform Act of 1837 from the governorship of the mayor and aldermen to that of trustees. (fn. 9) The house in Trumpington Street was pulled down in 1852 and the present almshouses were built in Panton Street. (fn. 10)