St John’s Hospital Educational Foundation is one of Exeter’s oldest religious charities with roots going back to well before 1220. Around 1238, the Long Brothers, who are remembered through the naming of the Longbrook, endowed a hospital dedicated to St John the Baptist, inside the city wall, by the East Gate.
The main function of medieval hospitals was to worship God. As was common at that time, the hospital was a religious foundation, housing five priests, six singing boys and twelve poor people who were expected to help with prayer. The sick could receive care and even some primitive form of treatment.
After the Reformation of the 1530s, the hospital was shut and the buildings used for among other things, a gunpowder store, a workhouse, and a woollen fleece market.
Education formed part of the care given to the “deserving” poor, in addition to the pursuit of religion; it became the sole reason for the existence of the charity.
The fortunes of the foundation have fluctuated over the centuries often relying on generous benefactors to provide funds to accommodate the changing needs of the people of Exeter and its environs. It is today solely an educational charity providing funds to Exeter School, The Maynard School, Exeter’s Church of England Schools and small grants to local individual students.