Explore the three distinct parts of the Eastbridge, The Eastbridge Hospital, The Franciscan Gardens and the Franciscan Chapel.

Eastbridge Hospital, or more fully, The Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr upon Eastbridge was created in 1180 by a merchant, Edward FitzObold, to provide accommodation for the influx of pilgrims who came to visit the tomb of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered in the Cathedral in 1170.

The Hospital is entered through a low Gothic door from the High Street. There is a vaulted vestibule with the Undercroft down a small flight of stairs. The Undercroft would appear to have been built at the time of the foundation of the hospital and is an example of the Transitional Gothic period. The area is divided into cubicles where the pilgrims slept.
Over the Undercroft is the Refectory, built in the 12th century. It has a medieval roof and the north wall has a mural dating from the early 13th century. Another small staircase at the end of the refectory leads up to the Chapel which has a splendid roof structure including a “bell cage” in which hangs a bell.

The chapel has had many uses over the centuries including as a schoolroom where it is believed Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright, was educated before going to the Kings’ School and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

In other parts of the building are the apartments of the 8 Indwellers of the Almshouse, elderly people chosen to live there based on need.

Leaving the Eastbridge Hospital through the main door and turning right onto the High Street and then right again along Stour Street will take you to the back of the Eastbridge and the Franciscan Gardens. These are open during the summer months and provide a quiet oasis for strolling and contemplation. In the corner of the gardens is the Franciscan Chapel. The gardens formed the site of a large friary which extended up to 18 acres. The only original building that survives is the Chapel which dates from 1267 and was probably used as the guest house.