An almshouse originally formed part of the great religious houses' of the Middle Ages. It was the place where alms were distributed, and in which the hospitality of the house' was extended to visitors, including the poor and vagrants as well as pilgrims and other travellers.

St Mary's Hospital
St Mary's Hospital

St Mary's Hospital has existed on its present site since the end of the thirteenth century; not as part of a religious order but an independent Christian foundation. A community had already been established who were to care for the sick, and for the poor who needed a bed for the night. It was supported by endowments and benefactions, and by the middle of the sixteenth century the hospital' catered for permanent residents rather than temporary visitors.

The hospital interior is notable for its timber construction, particularly its roof, and for the chapel attached to it. The wooden stalls in the chapel contain some fine misericords, similar to those to be found in the choir at Chichester Cathedral.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral have been the Trustees of the hospital and its endowments, and the residential accommodation has been progressively improved and increased. Four cottages were converted into almshouses in 1905 and more recently, these have been converted into three flats plus a staff bedsit; in 1986 the building of St Mary's Lodge provided a further twelve flats, and in 2003 St Mary's Courtyard was completed on land to the north of the medieval building, providing a further seven flats as well as office accommodation and a communal meeting room for residents.  

The Trust also owns a number of commercial properties in and around the City, the rent of which is used to run and maintain the almshouses.

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The Royal Chantry, Cathedral Cloisters, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 1PX - ECRR Number X6489