Last summer, twelve students and one professor shared an unforgettable experience called English Gothic Live, a course on medieval and medievalist architecture which we studied on site while based at the University of Warwick. One of the course requirements was for each student to write a blog entry, and we will be posting all of those here over the coming weeks.
Today [August 3] we had the great pleasure of visiting Ford’s Hospital, a retirement home built in 1509. The building is a timber frame structure constructed using close studding and wattle and daub. The Hospital was founded by William Ford to shelter the elderly. The timbers used in the structure are decorated in a way that imitates masonry buildings of the period. The ornamentation in the central courtyard includes bar tracery in the windows, and buttresses and pinnacles carved into the timbers.
Originally it was endowed to house six males and one female, later the endowment was increased to allow the hospital to shelter six couples. On October 14th 1940 during a German Air Raid the house suffered a bomb blast that destroyed one wing of the house and killed the warden, a nurse, and six residents. The wing was rebuilt using materials scavenged from the wreckage and the ruins of Coventry Cathedral. During our visit we had the pleasure of being shown around by one of the couples who currently live in Fords Hospital.
They welcomed us into their home and explained to us how the building has been upgraded for modern living while retaining its original use and character. For example, the building contains two distinct layers in its windows. The first layer is the original glass set in a lead frame and the second is a modern window frame attached to the inside so as to not to interfere with the aesthetic of the original windows. While providing two layers of glass to improve the insulation qualities of the window. The Hospital has also been retrofitted to include all the perks of modern living, such as modern plumbing, electricity, and appliances.