St. Peter’s Hospital

St. Peter’s Hospital. Source: “Bristol Illustrated” in The Graphic of 14 September 1878, p. 77. Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary from The Graphic

The architectural history and vicissitudes of the picturesque old mansion known as St. Peter's Hospital, in St. Peter's Street, might worthily form the subject of a paper at the approaching Congress of the Gloucestershire Archeological Society, which is to be held at Bristol. The original mansion was erected by the family of Norton, one of whom, Thomas, flourished about A.D. 1477, resided in the eastern part of the building, and his brother in the western. According to Bishop Bale and other biographers “Thomas Norton, of Bristow,” was the most skilful alchemist of his time. Here, close to the historical bulwark, of the Castle, and beneath the shadow of the dark grey Norman church, we may picture the old enthusiast, with long beard and eager glittering lire, and assaying with crucible over his beach coal fire, and assaying with crucible and alembic, sulphur and quick silver, to “hatch gold in the furnace as they do eggs in Egypt.” Instead, however, of being at last able to exclaim, like the of Ben Jonson’s Alchemist:

This is the day wherein, to all my friends,
I will pronounce the happy words, BE RICH.
                        Here's Peru;
And there within, sirs, are the golden mines,
Great Solomon's Ophir:

he is declared to have impoverished both himself and those of his friends who were so credulous as to entrust money to him in order to help his researches. He wrote several learned works on the Philosopher's Stone and kindred subjects. It is remarkable that so enlightened a genius of later days as Sir Isaac Newton was a believer in alchemy, and among his manuscripts are extracts in his own handwriting from Norton’s “Ordinal,” which was the great philosophical poem of the author’s era. The street frontage of the mansion, with its succession of gables and large boards, and its profuse arabesque enrichments, evidently belongs to the Renaissance period, ND is a part of the house reconstructed in 1612, which date, with some grotesque sculpture, is to be seen about the porch of the river façade. We are indebted to the intelligence of John Reynolds, Esq., of Redland, for the recent discovery that immediately over the handsome Jacobcan ceiling of the chief apartment of the house there exists a line open-timbered Gothic roof of 15th century date ; no doubt constructed by one of the Nortons/ [71, 74]

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“Bristol Illustrated.” The Graphic (20 July 1878): 60-77. Internet Archive online version of a copy in the University of Illinois Library. Web. 16 August 2018.

Last modified 16 August 2018