One of the oldest institutions operating in Bath and North East Somerset is St John’s Hospital in Bath. It was established in 1174 during the reign of Henry II to provide food and shelter for the poor of the locality. Its founder was Bishop Reginald Fitzjocelyn, the Bishop of Bath - before it was united with Wells in 1245 - who subsequently became Archbishop-Elect of Canterbury but died before his installation. It is dedicated to St. John the Baptist who is often the patron saint of hospitaller organisations such as St. John’s Ambulance.
In its modern incarnation the Hospital does a variety of good work for people both in Bath and North East Somerset. In 2015, it had ninety-eight arms house residents all of whom are housed in either the historic buildings which have been successfully adapted or in purpose-built accommodation. Not surprisingly, there is a long waiting list as the central location and beautiful surroundings make it an ideal place to live with the addition of special facilities to help people in their advancing years. This has been the charity’s core activity for a long time.
More recently it has looked at different methods of helping distressed individuals. It gave away £191,000 in grants to help with necessities or debts and to provide counselling for over 500 people. It gave an additional £398,000 in grants to community groups for young and old alike and it is anticipated to be awarding £1 million a year over all its activities.
The history of our nation and county is long and varied but it is not only relevant to the past. Without a long-dead bishop’s vision 21st Century help could not be provided. Let us hope that the hospital can prosper for another 842 years.