Four statues at Sir William Turner's Hospital
Four life-size lead statues decorate the Grade 1 listed building. The hospital forms three sides of a quadrangle of which the main structure is a north-facing chapel designed by James Gibb in 1742. The remainder of the building was largely rebuilt in 1720-50.(1)
Two figures of a girl and a boy stand atop the corners of the chapel's pediment. Each holds a book, possibly a bible, in one hand and a hat or scroll of paper in the other. They overlook a central courtyard. On the east and west wings, in niches above the first floor, two elderly figures face each other across the courtyard. The 'sister' holds a walking stick, the 'brother' a staff. The figures were repainted in 1986.
The lead figures represent inhabitants of the hospital and probably date from the first half of the eighteenth century. Founded in 1676 by Sir William Turner (1615-1692), a native of Cleveland and one time Lord Mayor of London, the almshouses and school at Kirkleatham was established 'for the relief of ten poor aged men and ten poor aged women and for the relief and bringing up of ten poor boys and ten poor girls'.
For over two hundred and fifty years, up until the 1930s when the school closed, the residents of Turner's Hospital followed the same rules as those set down at its establishment. Only those baptised in the Church of England were eligible for accomodation and schooling. Elderly residents must be either single or widowed and over the age of 63 and children were not admitted unless they were aged 10 or less.
Men and women, or the brethren and sisters as they were known, occupied single accomodation in the west and east wings respectively with the children in single sex dormitories on the first floor. Children were schooled there and assisted their elders with household tasks. All residents were obliged to attend chapel, wear an institutional blue gown and keep their rooms and person tidy; swearing and drinking were forbidden and permission had to sought prior to leaving the premises.(2)
Sir William Turner's Hospital still exists, providing sheltered accomodation for elderly single people aged 63 or above.(3)
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