St John's Hospital
Northampton is one of the oldest towns
in the country and one of the first towns to establish a
hospital – St John's Hospital in Bridge st within
the ancient wall of the town, and near the site of the
south gate. St John’s, being the oldest non
religious building left in Northampton, started life as a
Hospital in 1137. St John’s was built for the
benefit of the poor and sick as well as for orphans and
passing pilgrims and was one of four hospitals close to
the main gates of the medieval walled town of
Northampton. The buildings consisted originally of a
chapel,infirmary and a master’s house, sustained by
rent income and donations. The site was dedicated to St
John the Baptist and St John the Evangelist but is more
popularly known simply as St. John's.
From its origins as a hospice it also became a soldiers’ burial ground. Some of the dead from the Battle of Northampton in 1460 were buried in the grounds of St. John’s whilst many other bodies were washed away down the river Nene. Later, in 1500, the land belonging to St John’s was confiscated during the reformation of Henry VIII when the Church of England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church.
The hospital buildings fell into neglect for several centuries. Mastership and administration of St Johns became a position requiring little or no work but gave the holder status and financial benefit. Charges of mismanagement and monopolisation of the funds pervaded and it came to be regarded as a lucrative sinecure. Constant abuse dogged the charitable foundation with accusations that, "hardly the xxth part of the revenues were given to the reliefe of any impotent aged or feeble persons." Litigations and allegations of corruption followed and continued over the centuries until 1866 when Richard Pretyman, the last appointed master but one died. The building was extensively restored in 1853–4 by the Charity Commissioners, the whole of the south wall being then taken down and rebuilt in its present form and renovated again in 1882.
The master's house and garden together with the chapel were eventually sold in 1870 to the Bedford and Northampton Railway Company. The house was demolished to make way for St John’s Street Railway Station. The chapel was sold on again in 1877 to the Roman Catholic church and the inmates of the hospital were transferred to a new building at Weston Favell, opened in 1879.
A window contains the figure of a man and the name of 'Richard Sherd,' who was master in 1474, The original double doors remain but the ground level has been raised outside. Above is a large four-centred five-light window with perpendicular tracery and moulded jambs and mullions. The two-armed cross on the gable is said to be original.
Listed as a Grade 1 building since 1952, it now belongs to the Richardsons Group who purchased the site in 1997. During 2004/5 St John’s underwent a complete refurbishment to restore the building and equip it to be a modern restaurant. Over 860 years after it was originally built St John’s still offers hospitality but as The Church Bar & Restaurant.