The Wayfarer’s Dole is the almost 900 year old tradition of The Hospital of St Cross
. Located near Winchester
in the county of Hampshire
and founded in 1136
by Bishop Henri de Blois
, it is the oldest charitable institution
. The full name of the monastery is The Hospital of St Cross and Almshouse of Noble Poverty
The Wayfarer’s Dole consists of two gallons of beer shared among the first 32 visitors to arrive on foot each day, along with a slice of bread. It does not seem like a lot for 32 people, but consider that this beer and bread have been doled out 365 days a year for the last 865 years. This comes to almost 640,000 gallons.
The Monastery founded by Henri de Blois is a gray stone building that lies along the river Itchem. Bishop Henri De Blois was the grandson of William the Conqueror, he founded the Hospital to shelter “13 poor men, feeble and so reduced in strength that they can hardly or with difficulty support themselves without another’s aid.” They were to be provided “with garments and beds suitable to their infirmities, good wheaten bread daily of the weight of five marks, and three dishes at dinner and one at supper suitable to the day, and drink of good stuff.” In addition the hospice was to give food and drink to anyone who comes to the Porter’s gate. Other refreshments can be enjoyed in the Hundred Men's Hall.
The monastery is also immortalized in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as the place that pilgrims started their journey to Canterbury.
The Hospital of St Cross still attracts thousands of tourists each year to this corner of the city or partake of the Wayfarer's Dole. Many of the pilgrims who turn up at the gates are unaware that they are entitled to the Wayfarer's Dole
There are two orders of monks at the monastery those in black are supported by the foundation created by Bishop Henri de Blois in 1136, while their red brethren, who date their origins to 1446, owe their existence to the beneficence of Cardinal Henry Beaufort, second son of John of Gaunt, Shakespeare's "time-honour'd Lancaster".
If you would care to visit the address is:
St Cross Hospital
St Cross Road
Also an album by the Clef Hangers:
Impression That I Get
Time of the Season
Just My Imagination
She's Got a Way
Jesus on the Main Line
Carolina in My Mind
Let's Get it On
A Parting Blessing