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Without intending the smallest disparagement to charities of less considerable extent, we may be allowed to observe, that the Hospital founded by Archbishop Whitgift, conveys to us in its history a delightful representation of benevolence, liberality, prudence, and humility combined.
The Archbishop having obtained letters patent for building the hospital, with license of mortmain, from Queen Elizabeth, dated the 22d. of November, in the thirty-eighth year of her reign, began it on the 17th January 1596, and finished it on the 29th September, 1599. It appears that this distinguished prelate was extremely desirous that his charitable work should be completed in his life time; he knew that a man's own experience of temporal things was the best proof of their existance; and he could fully estimate the difference of value between an actual donation during life, and a bequest to be enforced after death. "This yeere*," says Stow, "the most reverend father, John Whitgift, Archbishop of Canterbury, did finish that notable and memorable monument of our time, to wit, his Hospital of the
* Stow is here speaking of the year 1600, in which the schoolmasters house, adjoining the Hospital was completed.
Holy Trinitie, in Croydon, in the countie of Surrey, by him there founded, and builded of of stone and bricke, for reliefe and sustentation of certaine poor people. As also a fair school house for the increase of litterature, together with a large dwelling house for the schoolmaster, his use, and these premises he through God's favourable assistance in his own life time performed and perfited, for that (as I have heard him say) he would not be to his executors a cause of their damnation, remembering the good advice that an antient father hath left written to all posteritie: Futior via est ut bonum quod quisquis post mortem, sperat agi per alios, agat dum vivit ipse per se it is a way far more safe for a man to doe good and charitable deeds by himself, whilest he liveth, then to hope that others will dothe same for him after his death*."
The reverend Samuel Finch, who was vicar of Croydon at the time this Hospital was founded, was employed by the Archbishop to make contracts, to superintend the workmen, and to see that his plan was put into execution. "This", says Dr. Ducarel," he performed with great care and diligence, paying them
* Chronicle, p. 791.
regularly every week." In a book preserved in the manuscript library at Lambeth, and entitled "the particular accounts of the building of Trinitie Hospital in Croydon, and the statutes and ordinances belonging to the same," is contained a very minute schedule of the expenses attending it; the sum total of which, up to the 29th September 1602, amounted to £2716 11 11.
It seems that the workmen, while digging the foundations, discovered some skulls, and bones, of which Mr. Finch gives the following account, in two letters to the Archbishop: in the first, dated from Croydon, February 7, ` 1596, he says, "the labourers have dug up three skulls and the bones of dead persons in the trench that they are now in digging next the highway, leading to the parke." In the second dated from Croydon, February 19, 1596, he writes thus " For the skulls, there were four digged up indeede, and I presently upon the finding of the first did confer with Outred, and asked him if his conscience were cleare, and he said that it was cleare; I reasoned also with Morris, an old Welshman, that had dwelt there a long time, and he knew nothing. Moreover, for a better satisfaction in this matter, I caused Hillarie to cast the measure of the grounde this day, and we find that
the bodies could not lie within the compass of the house, for (to the end that the plotte might be cast square) there was five foot taken in of the way against the George, and four foot left out of the grounde (wherein the house stood) against the Crowne (as Mr. Doctor Bancroft knoweth well), so that the skulls being in the trenche next to the George, Hillarie dare depose they were without the compass of the house besides there be many that can remember, when they digged in the middest of that street, to set a may-poole there, they found the skull and bones of a dead person; so it is generally supposed that that hath been some waste place wherein (in the time of some mortalitie) they did bury in, and more I cannot learn*."
*The circumstance here mentioned may be easily accounted for, when it is recollected that a very severe contest took place at Croydon, in the year 1264, between the forces of King Henry III. and the Londoners, after the battle of Lewes, of which Stow gives a circumstantial account, concluding it as follows; on the Saturdaie the King licenced them that were about him to depart to their houses, and writ unto them that were at Tonbridge Castle, that they shoulde not molest ye Barons as they returned homewards: but they notwithstanding beeing in armes, when they heard that the Londoners were fled from the battell were received into Croydon, they hasted thither, and sleying manie of them got great spoyles. There was slaine in the battell at Lewes (which was fought on the twelfth of Maie). about 4500 menne".