St Nicholas Hospital, Salisbury  Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope was a prolific author of the Victorian period and famously wrote the book called The Warden which was inspired from his time in Salisbury and in particular by his views of St. Nicholas Hospital.
Born on 24th April 1815 in London, Trollope had a troubled upbringing. He was educated at some of the country's finest schools but was unpopular and bullied which led to a miserable time.
On leaving education he took up a position with the Post Office but developed a reputation for lateness and insubordination. He ran into debt and hated his work.
His first real opportunity presented itself when he accepted a post as a postal surveyor's clerk in central Ireland. The work largely consisted of conducting inspections around the region. He settled well into the new role, gained a good reputation and prospered. He enjoyed being amongst the Irish people, met Rose Heseltine and married in 1844. Moving shortly after to Southern Ireland.
He had completed little writing before his marriage but within a year of marriage he finished The Macdermots of Ballycloran. His work with the Post Office involved long trips by train around Ireland and he used these as an opportunity to write. Trollope wrote extensively and crafted many works.

In 1851, Trollope was sent to England to investigate and reorganise rural mail delivery. During the next two years, he travelled extensively around the the country, including Salisbury. It was whilst in Salisbury that he (according to his autobiography) got inspiration for the The Warden, the first of the six Barsetshire novels. The Warden was published in 1855 and received positive reviews.

Trollope returned to England in 1859 after accepting a post outside London. By the middle of the 1860's, Trollope had been promoted to a senior position within the Post Office. It was Trollope that introduced the ubiquitous red postal box in the UK.

Trollope retired from the Postal Service in 1867, had a brief spell as a political candidate before concentrating on his writing. He died on 6th December 1882. His strict writing regime of rising at five each morning to write for three hours, being the source of his prodigious literary output; completing forty-seven novels as well as large numbers of short stories and several books on travel.

The Warden

Published in 1855, The Warden was Trollopes first, great success and it went on to form the first of the six great Barchester Chronicles.
The book creates a fictional tale about an alms house called Hiram's Hospital which is managed by a warden by the name of Mr Harding. The Diocese of Barchester provide an income to the alms house which Mr Harding administers to ensure that the property is maintained, the twelve bedesmen are provided for, as well as providing an income and abode for himself. Mr Harding performs his duties consceinciously. The story expands when John Bold, a young reformer, launches a campaign to have the alms house reformed. He describes how the Warden appears to take a large proportion of the income for himself and gives less for the bedesmen that the alms house is intended for. John Bold uses the press to highlight his cause but although the paper supports the cause for reform, it presents Mr Harding as a selfish man who fails in his duty. This leads to the resignation of Mr Harding.

Anthony Trollope himself declares in his autobiography that he drew inspiration for this novel from his time in Salisbury in 1852. Trollope writes he "stood for an hour on the little bridge in Salisbury, and made out to my own satisfaction the spot on which Hiram's Hospital should stand". The bridge that Trollope refers to is in fact the Harnham bridge and the hospital he looked at was St. Nicholas's. During the 1850's, similar alm houses were being criticised in the press. Alms houses were set up as charities or trusts to support the deserving locals, using an income obtained from land or property. The original intention of the alms house to support the poor, give them food, shelter & a daily income was being corrupted as unscrupulous people took more from the income than was reasonable, leaving the poor with little support.
There has been some debate about whether the hospital is based on St. Nicholas or some other. Trollope himself had previously stated that it was based in Winchester (probably St. Cross in Winchester, which in the 1850's received press coverage about its alleged abuse of resources) but when Trollope later describes his inspiration and the setting of Hiram's, it is evident that the base is Salisbury's St. Nicholas and not Winchester's St. Cross.
Anthony Trollope leaves us with a delightful novel working both as a fictional tale and a statement on the fortunes of the alm house.