HL Deb 30 April 1869 vol 195 cc1945-8

asked the Lord Chancellor, When the Report of the Royal Commission issued last Session on St. Katherine's Hospital is likely to be made? St. Katherine's Hospital was a distinctly religious foundation. It was originally built near the Tower of London and endowed by Queen Matilda, in 1148; and afterwards received a charter from Queen Eleanor in 1273. It was founded for a master, three brethren, who were to be priests, three sisters, six poor scholars, twenty-four poor men, and ten poor women. In the charter of Queen Eleanor there was this important provision—that if in future times the possessions of the Hospital should be increased, the number of chaplains, poor men, clerks, laymen, and women should be augmented, according to the means of augmentations of the goods of the Hospital. Unfortunately, that provision had been shamefully neglected. Such provision would have met the increasing needs of the place, and as the Charity Commissioners remarked, the duties of the sisters bore a strong resemblance to the duties of mission women employed in the destitute district for which the Hospital was originally founded. Henry VI. confirmed and extended the privileges and immunities of the Hospital; and that monarch's object, no doubt, was to carry on a good work among the seafaring population in the neighbourhood of the Tower. At the time of the Reformation this Hospital was saved from the general destruction of monasteries and other religious institutions, and though not turned to all the advantage it might have been, it, nevertheless, must have done eminent good so long as it remained in the locality where it was founded. That it had been of some benefit to the locality was shewn by the fact that when the first Bill to transfer the Hospital from the East of London, in order to allow of the formation of St. Katherine's Docks on its site was defeated, the feeling of the locality was so strong in favour of the Hospital that there were great rejoicings on the occasion of the defeat of the Bill. In 1825, the Hospital was removed from St. Katherine's Docks to the Regent's Park at a cost of £125,000, and a curse seems to have rested upon it ever since, for although the large sum of £44,709 was expended upon the new buildings, a sum of no less than £32,088 was spent in repairs of the new buildings from 1826 to 1857. In December, 1865, the Charity Commissioners made their Report, which was presented to their Lordships' House in the following year on the Motion of the Bishop of Peterborough. From that Report it appeared that the gross income, which at the time of the Reformation was about £400 a year, amounted in 1865 to £7,097; and it was capable of increase, under good management and by the extinction of leases, to £14,000 per annum. There was also revealed one of the greatest sinecures that were ever exposed. It appeared that the Master was doing nothing on £2,000 a year; each brother ditto on £365 a year and a house; each sister ditto on £240 a year and a house; although there were twenty bedesmen and twenty bedeswomen with £ 10 a year each; not one of these poor persons was taken, until the Charity Commissioners reported, from the poor district of the East end of London. There were besides chapel services, which were conducted for the benefit of the rich people living in the neighbourhood of the Regent's Park, who paid for pew rents £100 per annum, which went to pay a curate to help in the services. There were also schools for thirty-three boys and eighteen girls, who came from a district which was perfectly capable of supporting its own schools. It was admitted that the Hospital might again be placed in the neighbourhood of the Docks; and one scheme, among many, had been devised, by which churches, almshouses, penitentiaries, and schools might be built in time, as leases fell in, and an income would still be left for the Hospital of more than £8,350 a year. It was asked that this income, in compliance with the original foundation and that special clause in Queen Eleanor's charter to which he had drawn their Lordships attention, might be devoted to the maintenance of fifteen missionary clergy, with a body of sisters, teachers, and lay helpers, while £3,000 a year would be left for the support of the schools and reformatories. It was not to be wondered at that those who were interested in the temporal and spiritual welfare of the seafaring population of the East end, for the benefit of whom this Hospital was originally founded, and who, when any check Came upon trade, were peculiarly liable to great distress, should have rejoiced very much when last Session, at the instance of Her Majesty's late Government, a Commission was appointed, with the then Lord Chancellor at its head, for the purpose of seeing what could be done with this foundation. They were anxious that whatever scheme might be adopted it should be one which would at least insure the return of the Hospital to the place where it might do so much good; and that, in accordance with the spirit of the original foundation, it might be such as to enable the poor people of the district to benefit, spiritually and temporally, by the institution. He begged to ask the noble and learned Lord when the Report of the Royal Commission issued last Session on the St. Katharine's Hospital was likely to be made?


said, he had, in the first place, to state that, not being himself a member of the Commis- sion, he had caused inquiry to be made as to the course of its labours and when they might be supposed likely to terminate. The Commission was appointed in March last to inquire into the resources of the establishment, it having appeared from the Report made by the Charity Commissioners in 1865, which would be found in the library, that those resources were very likely to increase. The Commissioners had begun to inform themselves on the subject, and had proceeded so far as to be in a condition to take measures for considering what should be a proper Report to make under the circumstances of the case, when a change occurred in Her Majesty's Government, and it appeared to the Commissioners that it might be desirable, before the final Report, to make application to the Crown in reference to the constitution of the Commission—in other words, whether the Chancellor of the late Government, or of the Government for the time being, should be at its head. The circumstances of the case were somewhat peculiar. The present state of things in connection with the charity was entirely under the direction of Her Majesty, and the Lord Chancellor had only such authority as from time time to time might be given him to visit the charity. The Report, however, would be made before long. He would not say a single word as to the Report the Commissioners should make. He would leave that entirely to themselves.