Friday, 6 January 2017

Remember the Poor's Box

Before the National Health Service ensured free medical treatment for all, the sick were often dependent upon charity. The wealthy hospital of St Bartholemew's in Smithfield had Crown endowments given when Henry VIII refounded it after the Dissolution, as well as various bequests to fund its work, but public giving to help the impoverished was also encouraged.

Wealthier philanthropists could subscribe to bodies such as Deptford's Kent Dispensary, giving relatively large amounts of money in return for the ability to recommend patients. Those of less commitment or more slender means could simply put money into a hospital poor box. Such boxes had a history at least as old as Bart's Hospital's refoundation: legislation of 1536 required them to be placed in every church, and their use soon spread to other places including hospitals. Charitable donations to the poor were encouraged by both church and state.

Some of the finest survivals are still in situ, in the Henry VIII Gate of St Bartholomew's Hospital. These red boxes, bearing the message 'Remember the Poor's Box', are believed to date from the early nineteenth century. 


Hels said...

This is an interesting area of investigation, thank you. When medical care WAS provided, how would it have been delivered - hospitals? alms houses? the Tudor equivalent of knightly orders?

CarolineLD said...

Bart's had a physician from 1567. Although 'hospital' was then a place to care for the poor and sick generally, not specifically for medical treatment, Bart's seems to have focused on medical care despite its official title then being 'House of the Poore in West Smithfield in the suburbs of the City of London of Henry VIII's Foundation'. Other institutions such as the Dispensaries provided out-patient care and medication.