John Darrell,

The Actual Founder.

John Darell, youngest son of Edward and Barbara, was born in Lincolnshire, at Horkstow, 1621, and there baptised June 26th, some 14 years after his eldest brother Thomas. He matriculated at Lincoln College, Oxford, 24th November, 1637, aged 16; took B.A. degree 3rd July, 1641, tempo Charles I.; and later, the degree of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.). Only 6 years old at his father's death, he probably, after taking his professional degrees, "practiced"—possibly in Lincoln, for in that City, the then Sub-Dean of Lincoln Cathedral was his personal friend, and he had some personal interest also in Gainsborough. In 1659, as sole survivor of the Darell family, he was in possession of the West Retford Estate, "Being seized in his demesne as of fee of and in divers messuages, lands, commons, et cetera, of the value of seven score pounds per annum, which descended to him . . . . in the lineal stemm."

In 1660, he witnessed the restoration of his King: the return from Holland of his exiled cousins Sir Edward and Lady Hyde, and of his aunt Lady Aylesbury, and no doubt took his part in the rejoicings in Notts, and Lincolnshire, and his local position as a squire and magistrate; but soon an event took place which turned the whole current of his life. The plague broke out in England, and soon assumed an awful possession of London, and in due course broke out in Retford. Local accounts state that the victims in the town were numerous, and were buried in deep pits on the north side of East Retford Church. The Retford markets were closed, and temporary markets were held outside the town, that the country people might escape fear of infection: one for East Retford at the cross in the road still named "Dominie Cross," the base of which cross was by the writer of this (when a member of the Town Council) acquired from the garden of the late John Gylby, Esq., and it was then— on a stone base with descriptive inscription—erected in front of the new Town Hall, where it still remains : the market for West Retford was held at the Parish Boundary Cross, near Pond Houses, on the North Road, the base of which is now removed to the north-west corner of West Retford Churchyard: bowls of vinegar were provided in which the town infected money might be placed, for the country people to take up. 66deaths are recorded in West Retford Parish alone.

John Darrel was seized with a serious attack of illness, but he recovered: he decided on the deposition of his estate, made his Will (now in oak muniment chest at Trinity Hospital) on 11th Nov., 1664, and died 8th March, 1665— the last survivor of the Denman-Darrel family.

By his Will he carried out the before-mentioned desire of his father, Edward, by directing his executors to convert his residence—Old Hall, West Retford—into a Mease-de-dieu, or Hospice for aged men of good repute: twelve, as directed by his father " in expiatione peccibus suis"; and he moreover added four more on his own account, making sixteen; and, not wishing to publish his father's misfortune, in inadvertently killing a man, he had given out that, being childless, he founded the Hospice of the Holy and Undivided Trinity in West Retford as a thank-offering for his own recovery from a mortal sickness, thus founding that noble Institution which is at once an ornament and a benefaction to Retford, not to be matched in all Nottinghamshire.

Yet, bethink thee, that the spirit whence these princely bounties flowed,
To the source of private feeling all its force and being owed,
Severed from the bonds of kinsmen, taught his lonely heart to school
By his father's chastening kindness, or his church's sterner rule.
Oft to spots by memory cherished—where his earliest youth began,
In his age's desolation fondly turned the childless man,
Then the quickening drops of kindness, through his drooping soul were felt,
From the home his youth that cherished, from the church where first he knelt,
Then the long neglected feelings claimed at length their moving part,
And the pent-up tide of bounty forced its passage through his heart.
(Commemoration of FoundersOxford, June, 1852.)

John Darrel is buried in the "South Quire" of West Retford Church, in vault under the seats occupied by the Hospital Brothers. This aisle was originally divided from the nave by an oak screen—had its own altar under the east window (now the Founder's memorial window), and the piscina, in wall, still exists: it was called the quire, or mediety, of St. Oswald, the Saxon King and Saint, whose stone effigy adorns the eastern pillar.

At the restoration of West Retford Church in 1864, the Master and Brethren gave £200; and also placed a stained glass window above the Darrel vault, in the mediety of St. Oswald, to the Founder's memory; which represents Our Lord as the Good Physician, healing the blind: a scroll on one side has legend "Is there no balm in Gilead," and on other side "He hath sent me to the broken hearted," with inscription below:—

"To the Glory of God, and in Remembrance of
John Darrel, M.D., obit March 8, 1665.
He was the Founder of the Hospital of the Holy
and Undivided Trinity in West  Retford: also of a
Scholarship in Exeter College, Oxford."

The Founder's Will and Testament.

In the Name of God, Amen. I, JOHN DARELL,
of West Retford, in the County of Nottinghamshire, Gentle­man, being now diseased and infirm of body, and languishing and in great infirmities, and indisposition of health, so that by my own judgment I cannot expect to have any long continuance, or abidence in this world, and considering that God Almighty hath invested me with an inheritance of Lands of a good value, which had descended by several degrees from my own natural Brethren upon and unto me, in whom the name and blood of my Ancestors in the lineal stream is like to be spent and fail: believing that God gave me an Estate to that end, I should do some Pious Work, or other good therewith:—I am now willing therefore to dedicate the same to Him, for a perpetual sacrifice to His Glory, in a work of charity to the poor; and to that end and purpose, I am very zealous that 'a Hospital for poor people may be founded and maintained therewith. And, since, by reason of my great infirmities, I cannot expect to see the same effected in my lifetime, I therefore make this, my Last Will and Testament, and hereby make such power and provision for the effecting thereof, as the Laws of this Land do allow: that my Executors and Assessors may after my death Found and Establish the same, and settle such and so much Lands for the maintenance thereof.

I MAKE AND ORDAIN—The Honourable William Pierrepont; the Honourable George Pierrepont; Sir George Savile, Bart.; Sir William Hickman, Bart.; Anthony Eyre, Esquire; Francis Stringer, Esquire; and Francis Sandys, Esquire; Executors of this my Last Will and Testament:— that they shall Found and Establish an Hospital for the sustentation and relief of poor and impotent men, to the number of Sixteen, and the Sub-Dean of the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of Lincoln, and his successors as Master Governors thereof, and that the said Master Governor and Brethren shall have a Common Seal with a Cross graven, and on the circumference "Signum Hospitalis Sanctae Trinitatis de West Retford."

ITEM:—I Give Forty Shillings per annum to the Governor of the Free School of Gainsborough for and towards the settling of the poor people of Gainsborough to work.

ITEM:—For the maintenance of some Ingenious Scholar, whose father hath not above Thirty Pounds per annum in Estate or Lands, to be chosen from Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire by turns, on the Election of the said Master Governor, and  the Archdeacon of Nottingham and their successors; to be admitted and educated in Exeter College, Oxford.


In presence of
Humphrey Hoole,
Edward Haughton,
Friday, 11th November 1664 (old style).

The Foundation: The Hospital Buildings.

From the date of the Founder's death, in 1665, seven years elapsed before his Trustees were in a position to carry out instructions of his Will, and to convert the Old Hall into a Hospice, with separate suites of rooms for each brother: living room, bedroom, back pantry, and coal place. The surviving trustees were:—

The Rt. Honble. George  Savile, Viscount   Halifax, of Rufford Abbey, Notts.

The Honble. William Pierpont, of Thoresby Park, Notts.

Sir William Hickman Bacon, of Thonock Hall, near Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

Francis Stringer and Francis Sandys, Esquires, of Retford.

And they formulated a code of rules and regulations for the management of the Hospital and the Estate, on June 14th, AD. 1672, in accordance with the directions in the Will; appointing as follows:

The Master Governor: to be the Sub-Dean of Lincoln Cathedral (ex-officio).

The Bailyffe: to govern the Hospital and to receive the rents, and to have 20 nobles a year.

The Chaplain: to be the Rector of West Retford.

Thie Nurse: to be a "Grave Ancient Woman."

The Brethren: to be 16 in number.

This was confirmed in the Court of Chancery, but for some years, neither the size of the Old Hall nor the funds in hand, would allow of the appointment of more than ten Brothers, and this was sanctioned by the Lord Chancellor, Sir Orlando Bridgeman.

The Master Governor and the Brethren were legally constituted a Corporation with a corporate seal—of silver, still in use. Should a vacancy occur, the Master Governor must appoint within a date, failing which, the high and low Bailiffs of East Retford (no Mayor then) could appoint, and failing them, then the Archbishop of York. The Brethren were to be strictly members of the Church of England, and only such to be appointed.

Rule IX.—Every Brother is to receive the Sacrament at least three times a year, and to go to Church whenever there is service there.

Rule XVIII.Every Brother to be paid Ten Shillings per week.

Rule XIX.—And to have a gown of broad cloth every two years.

Rule XX.—To have coals, value four pounds, between them yearly.

Rule XXI.—To dine together at the Trinity Feast in the common room (now for three days).

Rule XXII.—A Brother who is a drunkard, or swearer, or blasphemer, or an obstinate refuser to go to Church, .    .    .    .    to be expelled.

And by Rule V.—Such as are of kindred to John Darrell, the founder, shall be preferred. The Brethren are to be selected from the neighbourhood of Retford.

In 1863, it became necessary to revise the statutes, and with sanction of the Charity Commissioners and the Court of Chancery, a revised code was drawn up by Counsel, by which the Brothers were to receive sixteen shillings per week, with gowns, feast, and coals, increased to one ton each, and their rates and taxes to be paid for them by the Bailyffe. The Master Governor to receive definitely £84 per annum, the Bailyffe £50, the Chaplain £25, and the Nurse £20; and, if the Master Governor failed to present, the Mayor of Retford is to present, and failing him, the Bishop of Lincoln.