William of Wigston (Wyggeston) (1467-1536)

William Wyggeston was a wealthy wool merchant who was born in Leicester. He exported wool to the Flemish weavers through the port of Calais and was four times Mayor of the Staple of Calais, in addition to being Mayor of Leicester twice (1499 and 1510). Wyggeston married twice but neither marriage produced any children and he decided to devote his money to charitable works and became a notable local benefactor. His statue is one of the four on the corners of the Clock Tower in the centre of the city

He founded a hospital in 1513 for twelve poor men and twelve poor women who were to be ‘blind, lame, decrepit, paralytic or maimed of their limbs, or idiots wanting their natural senses, so that they may be peaceable, not disturbing the hospital’. They were to be unmarried and without friends or relations to support them. The first inmates were admitted in 1521. The hospital was originally sited in the centre of Leicester near St Martin's Church (now the cathedral) and then moved to new buildings on the corner of Fosse Road South and Hinckley Road in 1869. The second Hospital building gradually became unsuitable for purpose in the late 1950s and was replaced in the 1960s with the present building which now offers Sheltered Housing in the Almshouse known as William House or Residential Care in Agnes House.

William Wyggeston was also responsible for the founding of a chantry chapel which was founded in 1512 and was connected with the Collegiate church in the Newarke. The Chantry House was built for two priests to say masses and prayers for the King and Queen and also ‘where mass might for ever be said for the good estate of William Wigston’. The building had two floors, with a spiral staircase at the back and a latrine on each floor. The arms of William Wigston were displayed over the front door. The College was dissolved in 1547 and the priests were pensioned off. The chantry house has now been incorporated as part of the Newarke Houses Museum.

William Wyggeston died in 1536 and in 1573 his brother, Thomas Wyggeston, as a trustee of his brother’s estate, used part of the endowment to establish a grammar school in Leicester. The site of the original hospital was incorporated in the playground of the newly founded Wyggeston Boys School, which later became Aldermen Newton Boys School.  Wyggeston Girls School was also established, originally in Humberstone Gate before moving to Regent Road in Leicester.