The Palmers Guild of Ludlow

Hosyer’s Almshouses were founded by John Hosyer, a wealthy Ludlow merchant, who purchased the present site on 22 April 1462. But the early history of the foundation is closely linked with that of the Palmers Guild, a local religious guild the origins of which go back to the mid-13th century.

The Palmers Guild began as a mutual benefit society, one of the purposes of which was to provide relief to members reduced to poverty. Assistance was to be given during sickness, with particular care to lepers and the blind. Priests were employed to say masses on behalf of members, both before and after death, and in due course the religious functions of the Guild were predominant. The Guild was dedicated to St Mary and later to St John the Evangelist also; and the word 'Palmer' was synonymous with pilgrim, as pilgrims to the Holy Land brought back palm branches as a proof of their journey. Not all Guild members went on geographical pilgrimages but they all aspired to a spiritual pilgrimage, which is why the title Palmers Guild became popular.

The Guild expanded greatly in the late 14th and in the 15th centuries. It owned a great deal of property, both in Ludlow itself and in the surrounding parishes, and in some more distant places, e.g. at Marlborough in Wiltshire. Members came from all over the Midlands, the west of England and Wales and from London, including members of the court. In 1394 the Guild 'built a new College for its priests on a site immediately north of that later occupied by the Almshouses. The name College Street is a permanent reminder of the building, substantial parts of which survive in College Court and in No. 2 College Street.

The Guild performed many good works in Ludlow. Their priests were closely involved in the running of the parish church. They provided its first organ and paid the salaries of the organist and choristers. From the early 15th century or earlier the Guild was responsible for the Grammar School and a Guild priest served as Schoolmaster. When John Hosyer, himself a Guild member, was mindful to endow a charitable institution, it was therefore natural that he should choose a cause consistent with the Guild's purposes, and that he should lodge the administration of his endowment in the hands of the Guild's Council.

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