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Guisborough Hospital: The successor to Gisborough Priory?

 

In 1561, Robert Pursglove founded the Hospital of Jesus in Gisburne. A question that doesn’t often come up is why?

Pursglove was rich. He had several estates in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, plus a handsome pension. And yet he chose to come back to Guisborough, where he’d spent less than five years of his life, and devote considerable money and resources to founding a free grammar school and almshouses.

A clue to his motives may be found in ‘King Henry the Eighth's Scheme of Bishopricks’ (see pages 42-43). He planned to found a college of canons governed by a dean, and included for twenty pounds per annum for a ‘Master of Grammer [sic]’ and ten pounds for a ‘master of Choristers’.

This would have replaced the long-established school at Gisborough Priory, but Henry VIII’s scheme never materialised. Instead, Guisborough was left with a gap in its charitable provision: there was no grammar school, free or otherwise, and no almonry for the relief of the poor. 

As the last Prior at Gisburne, and a friend of Henry VIII’s administration, it is likely that Pursglove knew about the plan for Guisborough. We can only speculate about what he thought of it, and whether or not he had ever hoped to be installed as dean, but it seems likely that Pursglove would have been in favour of the scheme.

As the agent of the priory’s dissolution, perhaps Pursglove felt that it would be replaced with something better, a foundation similar to the progressive humanist St Paul’s Cathedral School where he himself had studied. When the college never came about, perhaps he was disappointed.

If so, he may have felt an obligation to tackle Guisborough’s gap in charitable and educational provision. Even his fortune could not have established a college of canons, but a far more modest provision was well within his means.

Even if Pursglove never knew about Henry VIII’s plans, Guisborough Hospital can still be seen as the successor to Gisborough Priory. It restored learning to the town after a gap of twenty two years, and a measure of relief to the local destitute poor.

 

 

 

Text by M. F. Prior, with thanks to Megan Smith.

 

 

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