Elsyng Spital

Yesterday as I wandered about old London town, I came across a forlorn set of ruins, which appeared to have once been an ancient tower. It was from the medieval hospital of Elsyng Spital. William Elsyng, a London merchant, founded the hospital in 1330 to provide shelter, spiritual and physical care for London's homeless blind people. It was probably more like an alms-house than a modern hospital, as treatment for that condition was, and is, limited, but it provided a permanent home for poor people who could not look after themselves.

Master Elsyng died in the Black Death in 1349 and was buried in the church. His hospital remained part of an Augustinian priory until it was closed at the commencement of the Reformation in 1536. Most of the hospital buildings were then made into a private house which in 1541 belonged to the Master of the King's Jewels, Baron Williams of Thame.

It seems sad that a building originally dedicated to the care of the poor should become the home of a rich man with houses enough. The Reformation brought about a freer environment for the dissemination of gospel truth, but it also unleashed social injustice and fanned aristocratic greed. The King’s jewels might have been diamonds and emeralds, but the previous denizens of the house were of far greater value to the King of heaven- the blind, the poor and the lame. They were God’s jewels, for He has a special compassion on those who are physically restricted.

Behold, I will bring them from the north country,

And gather them from the ends of the earth,

Among them the blind and the lame,

The woman with child

And the one who labours with child, together;

A great throng shall return there.

They shall come with weeping,

And with supplications I will lead them.

I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters,

In a straight way in which they shall not stumble;

For I am a Father to Israel,

And Ephraim is My firstborn.

Jeremiah 31:8-9

Never value money over people; neve take what was intended to help the weak and divert it to strengthen the strong.