Inside the Hospital of St. Cross, UK's oldest charitable institution

Solutions

Here at Kinder, we're often busy thinking about the future of philanthropy and how charitable organizations will look like 100 years from now.

However, every now and then, it's also helpful to look back at history and realize that there's a handful of charities that have been around for so long that there's certainly something we can learn from them.

One of them is the Hospital of St. Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty in Winchester England, that actually prides itself to be the UK's oldest charitable institution.

Founded around the year 1132, the almshouse was initiated by Bishop Henry of Blois to support thirteen poor men who were unable to work and to feed some 100 people who showed up at the gates every day.

The thirteen men became known as the "Brothers of St. Cross". Despite the religious connotations of the term "brother", the Brothers of St. Cross were not and are not monks, therefore St. Cross is not a monastery. 

The Wayfarer's Dole

The Hospital of St. Cross' most unique and famous charitable endeavor is surely the so-called "Wayfarer's dole".

According to this delightful tradition, every visitor of the almshouse can ask for a free horn of beer and a morsel of bread. As recalled by the organization's website, the custom was started by a monk from Cluny, in France, whose holy order always gave bread and wine to travelers.

After so many centuries, this tradition still continues nowadays as seen in the BBC's program Songs of Praise👇

The Hospital of St. Cross, which is hosted in a beautiful medieval building immersed in the British countryside, is regularly open for visits. Head to the organization's website for additional information.

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