THE LORD Leycester Hospital in Warwick has secured a £1.4million lottery grant.
The historic landmark – founded as almshouses for ex-servicemen by Robert Dudley, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I – has received £1.42 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for a four-year renovation and income generating project.
The grant, announced today on Armistice Day, will be used to transform it into a modern visitor attraction telling both the story of the heritage buildings and of the residents past and present.
One of the finest authentic examples of a medieval timber-framed building in the UK, the Lord Leycester is of hugely significant heritage value. The funding will be used to restore the collection of grade I and II listed buildings.
New interpretation throughout the buildings, garden and online, will enable visitors to explore the heritage through guided tours, trails and displays.
Heritage treasures on display will include medals from the Crimean War and Battle of Waterloo, a helmet worn at the 1854 battle of Balaclava, and a custom-built chair made for King James I when he visited Warwick in 1617.
Celebrating its 450th anniversary next month, seven armed forces veterans known as the Brethren, currently live there.
Between them they have served with the Grenadier Guards, Royal Air Force, Royal Ordnance Corps, Royal Navy and Irish Guards. Their ages range from 33 to 84 years of age and the countries where they have seen military action include Egypt, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, the Falklands and Afghanistan.
Also, as part of the Heritage Fund project, a calendar of community activities and events are planned to make the Lord Leycester Hospital a hub for local people.
Dr Heidi Meyer, who is the Lord Leycester’s first female Master, said: “The Lord Leycester was founded in the reign of Elizabeth 1, exists still in the reign of Elizabeth II with the same core task to provide a home to deserving veterans.
“The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will ensure this philanthropic legacy continues and that our beautiful medieval buildings are resilient enough to provide a home for our military men and women long into the future.”
The heritage site is still patronised by the descendants of the founder, and the current patron is an ancestor.
Lord De L’Isle Philip Sidney and Patron of the Lord Leycester said: “This substantial grant to the Lord Leycester Hospital comes in the 450th anniversary year of the Hospital’s founding by my ancestor Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.
“The grant will enable us to restore the fabric of our beautiful mediaeval buildings and revitalise the interior to help tell the stories of the Masters and Brethren who have been at the heart of the Hospital for the past four centuries, as well as enabling us to continue to provide homes and community for ex-servicemen in the centuries to come.”
National Lottery Heritage Fund Director Anne Jenkins was delighted to announce the funding on Armistice Day as the country remembered those who fought in and had been affected by wars across the world.
She added: “Thanks to National Lottery players, the magnificent and historic Lord Leycester Hospital will begin a sustainable new chapter, enabling it to continue caring for ex-servicemen and women, and sharing the stories of Brethren past and present, long into the future.”
On Remembrance Sunday, the Brethren who are a much-loved part of the town’s heritage and tradition, will wear the current uniforms that consist of 100-year-old blue frock coats and hats, to take part in Warwick’s Remembrance Day service.
Gordon Hill, 84, who was in the Royal Air Force and is the oldest of the Brethen said: “I joined the RAF at 18 years of age and was stationed all over the world. I was lucky to get a place at the Lord Leycester Hospital and have lived here for the past five years. We are one big happy family. We give each other companionship, support, shared experiences and laughter. The Lord Leycester Hospital is a unique place to call home and we are all very proud to be this generation of Brethen and become a part of its rich historic legacy. Long may it continue.”
Brethren past and present.
Current Lord Leycester Brethren and Master Dr Heidi Meyer with Remembrance Day wreaths. (Picture by Kevin Fern).
Brethren pictured in 1903.