'Lovely building, best kept secret in Canterbury!'
The medieval Poor Priests Hospital, which houses Canterbury Heritage Museum, was built on the site of Lambin Frese's coin mint, and below that were Roman streets. Foundations of an early medieval stone house, with well-preserved cellar and fireplaces, were discovered during building restoration. Lambin Frese is recorded as building a stone house here in 1174. His original mint was located near Canterbury Cathedral but he was forced to move, probably because sparks from his workshop caused the disastrous cathedral fire of 1174. Medieval Canterbury had eight mints, more than anywhere in England except London. Lambin's house was acquired by Adam of Charing about 1180. When Adam died in 1207, Lambin's son Roger moved back in. Roger in turn sold the site to Alexander of Gloucester, who established an almshouse, or home for elderly, sick and poor priests, around the year 1200.
Remarkable features of the Poor Priests Hospital include:
- massive walls built of local chalk and flint
- splendid oak-beam roofs constructed during rebuilding in 1373 and some of the best-preserved medieval roofs in existence
- crown posts carrying roof weight to cross beams, known as tie-beams
- Great-hall, where the Master and priests dined
- central hearth in the Great Hall and smoke-blackened timbers above: there was no chimney so smoke from the open fire was left to escape through the roof
- Solar or private room of the Master (Syndic) of the Poor Priests Hospital, surviving much as it was in 1373
- stone basin or piscina where the priest washed his hands and communion vessels in what was the Chapel of St Mary, where the Master and priests of the Hospital worshipped.
There are reconstruction views on display of how the rooms looked when the Poor Priests lived here, based on historical evidence.