WATERFORD CITY HOSPITALS

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

A neat range of houses with two returns, facing the grand entrance of the cathedral church, and called the Widows' Apartments, was, according to the inscription on a marble tablet over the central house, founded by the Right Rev. Dr. Hugh Gore, for the use of clergymen's widows, and erected, in 1702, by Sir John Mason, Knt., surviving executor of his lordship. By this will £1200 was bequeathed for building an asylum and purchasing lands for the maintenance of ten poor clergymen's widows, to each of whom he assigned £10 per annum. Connected with the meeting-house of the Society of Friends is a house of refuge for aged and reduced members of that body.

The leper hospital was founded about the year 1211 or 1212, by King John, who incorporated it under the designation of the master, brethren and sisters of the leper-house of St. Stephen, and granted the society a common seal; he also endowed it with the house and several other buildings in St. Stephen's parish, and with the oblations and offerings of that parish, with lands at Poleberry without St. John's gate, and with the lands of Leperstown, in the barony of Gualtier, containing 500 plantation acres; also with the tithes of Carrigbrahan.

The Poers, Lords of Carraghmore, endowed an hospital adjoining the leper-house, which circumstance has led to an erroneous opinion that the Poers were either the original founders of the leper-house of St. Stephen, or that they endowed at least one ward in that establishment. In the middle of the last century, when leprosy had become of very rare occurrence, the corporation shut up the house; but legal proceedings being instituted against them by the Rev. Dr. Downes, a decree was obtained for appropriating the funds of the charity to the relief of the sick and maimed poor. Under this decree an infirmary was built for the reception of 50 indigent patients, and the funds afterwards increasing, a magnificent hospital was erected in the suburbs, capable of receiving more than 400 patients, but the average number seldom exceeds 40.

The government is vested in a master, appointed by the corporation; and the medical attendants, housekeeper, and inferior servants are appointed by the master, subject to the approval of the corporation. The rent-roll of the estates is about £1300, but the actual receipts are only about £1000 per annum; and the annual expenditure, including the salaries of physician, surgeon, and others, nearly approaches that sum. The Holy Ghost hospital was originally a monastery of Friars Minor, founded in 1240 by Sir Hugh Purcell; after the settlement of the French Huguenots in this city, a part of the building was appropriated to their use as a place of worship, and still bears the name of the French Church; the steeple is yet entire; and in the vaults beneath are several curious monuments, but the inscriptions are now illegible; among these is the tombstone of Sir Patrick O'Neill, a colonel in the army of James II., who served in the battle of the Boyne, and dying of his wounds, was buried in this church.

At the Reformation, Henry Walsh purchased the site and all the possessions of this dissolved monastery, for the sum of £150. 13. 4., and founded the present hospital for a master, brethren, and the poor, to whom he gave it in trust at a rent of only 8s. The brethren were incorporated by an act of the 36th of Henry VIII., providing that the master and his successors should be appointed by the heirs of Patrick Walsh, Esq., who should nominate three or four secular priests to celebrate divine service in the hospital, and have the nomination of at least 60 of the sick, infirm and impotent folk of both sexes; that all persons thus nominated should be a corporation for ever, with power to possess lands of the value of £100. This patent was confirmed by Elizabeth, in the 24th of her reign; over the entrance of the hospital is a tablet recording its foundation in 1545, and its repair and enlargement in 1741 and 1743.

The master has for several years been appointed by the corporation, in concurrence with the descendants of the Walsh family, who reside at Cratava, one of the Canary islands; the inmates are at present all women and of the R. C. religion. The building has a modern front erected against the ancient monastery, and on each side of the entrance is a flight of steps leading to the apartments, which are over the cemetery, and consist of a long narrow room or gallery lighted from above, and partitioned off for beds on one side throughout the whole length; and an inner chamber, forming the whole of one wing: these rooms are terminated by the upper portions of two pointed arches, and contain some curious ancient sculpture and a font. The other wing of the hospital contains the chapel, a long gallery like the former, with an altar decorated with some curious ancient sculptured figures: divine service is regularly performed here, in compliance with the direction of the founder: there are at present 50 females in the institution.

The property of the hospital consists of several houses and plots of ground in Factory-lane, the Mall, Colebeck-street, the Quay, and Lombard-street; the lands of Priors Knock, in the liberties of Waterford, containing 31 acres; certain tithes of the parish of Kilmocahill, in the county of Kilkenny; the tithes of Kilmaguage, in the county of Waterford; and a house and garden in Broad-street, Bristol, now the White Lion Inn, which, though a valuable property, produces only a rent of £6. 10., having been let on lease in the reign of Elizabeth, renewable for ever, and for the renewal of which it does not appear that any fine has been exacted. The present income from all these sources does not exceed £385.

The Fever Hospital was established in 1799 and was the first institution of the kind in Ireland, and the second in the united empire: it arose from very small beginnings, but progressively increased, and the present building is capable of admitting 150 patients, for whose accommodation it possesses every requisite convenience: there are two attending physicians, with salaries of £40 each, and one resident apothecary, with a salary of £84; it is supported by subscription and local assessments. A Dispensary, established in 1786, is supported by subscription and city and Grand Jury presentments; about 5500 patients are annually relieved at the. trifling expense of about £250.

A Lying-in Charity has been established, but its funds are not extensive and its usefulness is consequently limited. There are almshouses for Roman Catholics. A Charitable Loan Fund was established by Archdeacon Fleury and Mr. Hobbs, in 1768, since which period more than £33,000 has been lent to more than 14,000 persons, free of interest; but its funds are at present very limited. The House of Industry, with which is connected a Lunatic Asylum, was erected in 1779, at an expense of £1500, and is under the direction of a general board of governors, incorporated by acts of the 11th and 12th of George III., under the title of "the President and Assistants instituted for the relief of the poor, and for punishing vagabonds and sturdy beggars for the county and county of the city of Waterford."

A general meeting of the governors is held on the first Thursday in every month, and oftener if necessary; subordinate to which is a regulating committee of ten governors, or members of the corporation, appointed for one year, who meet weekly, and to whom is confided the whole management. Two physicians and a Protestant and a R. C. clergyman attend gratuitously, and there are a stipendiary apothecary, a superintendent, and two housekeepers. On an average, from 200 to 300 persons are annually received into the house; they are generally employed in domestic offices and in various trades; there is a school for the instruction of females.

The income of the institution, amounting on an average to £3000 per ann., is derived from local assessments, donations, and subscription. There are two associations for the relief of destitute orphan children, one for Protestants, and one for Roman Catholics. The Protestant orphan house was established in 1818, and a school-house for 40 children was subsequently erected; it is situated within a quarter of a mile of the city, at a place called Gaul's Rock, on ground presented by John Fitzgerald, Esq.; the late Sir Francis Hassard gave £100 towards its support; there are at present only 28 children in the house. A Mendicity Society was established in 1820, since which period the number of beggars with which the streets of the city were infested has been very much reduced.

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