Dr. Richard Steevens

From A Compendium of Irish Biography, 1878

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Steevens, Dr. Richard and Grissel, brother and sister, founders of the Dublin hospital bearing their name, were born in England the latter part of the 17th century. Their father, a royalist Church clergyman, for preaching against Oliver Cromwell, was obliged to seek refuge in Ireland, bringing with him his wife and twin infants, Richard and Grissel. He gave the former a good education, and at his decease in 1682 left his daughter a portion of £800. Richard, after proceeding so far in his divinity course as to be admitted to deacon's orders, devoted himself to the study of physic, and became a doctor. Impressed with the condition of the Dublin sick poor, he, when dying in 1710, left the whole of his property, consisting of real estate in the County of Westmeath and Queen's County, worth then £604 a year, in the hands of trustees, for the benefit of his sister during her life, and after her death to be devoted to the foundation of a hospital.

Grissel, desiring to see her brothers good intentions carried into effect during her own lifetime, surrendered the income bequeathed to her, reserving only £150 a year for her maintenance, and apartments in the proposed institution. She also contributed £2,000 of her own savings. Additional funds were collected, an Act of Parliament was procured, and a board of governors incorporated at Madame Steevens's desire, of which, Swift was a member. Among the endowments was one from Esther Johnson, to continue only so long as the Episcopal Church remained in connexion with the state in Ireland. The building of the hospital was commenced in 1720 and completed in 1733, at a cost of £16,000; and it has ever since continued one of the most important and beneficial of Dublin charities. It was very generally believed amongst the poor that Madame Steevens had the face of a pig; to dissipate which absurd idea she was accustomed to sit in one of the corridors of the hospital with her veil up, for some hours once a week. Grissel Steevens died at an advanced age, in March 1747. Her portrait occupies a prominent position in the board-room of the institution.

Sources

146. Gentleman's Magazine. London, 1731-1868.
Gilbert, John T., see Nos. 110, 335.

316a. Steevens' Hospital, History of: Cheyne Brady. Dublin, 1865. (Pamphlet.)
Supple, Gerald H., see No. 5.

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