Eastbridge Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr is a 12th-century almshouse that was originally built to accommodate pilgrims visiting Canterbury to see St Thomas Becket’s shrine. It is also known as the Canterbury Pilgrim’s Hospital of St Thomas.
Eastbridge Hospital is not what we would think of as a hospital today but uses the original sense of the word, meaning a place of hospitality.
The Grade I listed building is believed to have been built as early as 1176 to provide accommodation for pilgrims visiting Thomas Becket’s shrine in Canterbury Cathedral. After the pilgrimages stopped following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, Eastbridge Hospital was used as an almshouse and also as a school.
Restoration of the complex took place in the 20th century and again between 2014 and 2019 and it is now used as an almshouse with elderly residents living in eight of the apartments that are not accessible to the public and the remainder of the complex is accessible to visitors.
What to see at Eastbridge Hospital
Although Eastbridge Hospital continues to be used as an almshouse, parts of the historic complex are open to visitors.
Visitors are able to learn about the building’s rich history and can see the interiors and architectural features typical of buildings from the Middle Ages including a 13th-century mural and Gothic arches.
The Eastbridge Hospital complex also includes the Franciscan Gardens, which reflect 13th-century gardens whilst providing a peaceful haven from the bustling streets outside.
Visiting Eastbridge Hospital
Eastbridge Hospital is located right in the heart of the city centre and most points of interest are no more than a 10-minute walk from here. It is only a one-minute walk to the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, a three-minute walk to the main entrance to the cathedral precinct, a four-minute walk to Westgate Tower and a 12-minute walk to St Augustine’s Abbey.
Admission is only available as part of a guided tour with an entrance fee of £4 (£3 for children).
Although it is a fairly interesting place to visit, it is also fairly small and you only need to allow around half an hour for your visit.