This volume, Number 34 in the series of Otter Memorial Papers, extends to 112 pages and includes 40 illustrations in full colour and 13 in black/white. Prepared by Ken Green, local historian and founder of the Chichester Local History Society, and edited by Paul Foster, the volume contains a Preface by the Dean of Chichester, The Very Revd Nicholas Frayling, and an Epilogue by the present Custos, the Revd. John Harrington.
St Mary’s Hospital, situated in the centre of Chichester, can claim to be the oldest almhouses in Europe that continue to perform the purpose of their foundation on a site occupied continuously since 1269 – and prior to that for about 100 years in premises elsewhere in the city. Recently extended to provide additional accommodation, the almshouses now cater for about 30 residents, and are led by a Custos and Deputy Custos, with the day-to-day care of residents organized by a Warden, an Assistant Warden, and a staff that include a Bailiff.
Throughout its history, with the exception of four brief years, St Mary’s, as a Christian Foundation, has been overseen by Trustees (or equivalent), led by the Dean of Chichester Cathedral, the earliest extant statutes being prepared by Dean Thomas in the period 1232-48. As historians will know, the four-year period of non-Church control was initiated in 1656 by Cromwell, who transferred responsibility to the City Council – for which a special seal was created that is still housed with the City Plate in The Council House in North Street.
Alongside a detailed history of St Mary’s across the centuries, the book contains photographs by the late Tony Barnes of a unique collection of misericords dating from c. 1300 (all of which predate the misericords in Chichester cathedral), a list of Custodes of the Hospital from Henry (recorded in 1230), to today, Census records from 1851, and details of visits by members of the Royal Family. On the back cover there is an image of a sculpture, FIVE FIGURES OF THE ALMSHOUSE, which is an assemblage created by Helen Sinclair – and inspired by the five residents of St Mary’s whose names are recorded in the fifteenth century, two men and three women.