The LORIC Building, a Grade II listed building formally known as St Hugh’s Newport House, was built in 1798 and has seen many changes throughout the years. Formerly the site of a monastery and a home for waifs and strays, the structure now houses the Lincolnshire Open Research and Innovation Centre, a project jointly funded by the ERDF and Bishop Grosseteste University. The aim of the building is to provide a space to encourage and facilitate collaboration, research and innovation, and to provide data-related support to local SMEs, with a strong focus on the use of open data.
As part of the building’s renovation in 2018, the Bishop Grosseteste Archaeology Field School excavated the front garden of St Hugh’s. They uncovered history from the Roman and mediaeval eras, most of which was previously unknown.
During Roman times, the area the LORIC building is now situated on was most likely home to a trader specialising in metalwork, as the site is adjacent to Newport road, a northern extension of Ermine Street at that time. The structure of the building excavated suggests that it was a trader’s tenant, which most likely had a shop front going off into the street. The workshop and domestic space would have been in the middle of the site, with a garden at the rear end. The trader’s “eaves-drop” location (a part of the roof that helps water/rain drip off into the gutter or either side of the building), had a burial underneath which the team believed to be a sign of good luck or protection for the building.
The BGU archeology team also found reason to believe that, in the medieval era, the back end of the LORIC building was part of a friary, a home for those in a mendicant order. Mendicant orders are groups of traveling preachers under some variety of Christian sect. They lived a poor lifestyle in urban areas and preached Evangelism, particularly to poor people, and baptised members of the church to spread the teachings of Christ. The reason evangelists mainly targeted the poor was that this group were most likely to have “fallen from the faith.” This Friary was home to an Augustinian Order devoted to spreading the message of the Roman Catholic Church and described themselves as professors of philosophy and theology. Their motto was “Anima una et cor unum in Deum” which means “one heart and soul in God.”
Bishop Oliver Sutton (Bishop of Lincoln from 1280-1299) declared the land sacred in 1291 and let around thirty friars live there until 1530. In 1538 the current bishop of Dover, Richard Yngworth (1536-1545), had to surrender the friars under the order of Thomas Cromwell who disposed of all the monasteries. The Chief Minister and staunch protestant felt that the monasteries represented the power the Catholic Church once had in Britain. The building was destroyed, with hardly anything left on the site. In 1540 Robert Dighton, a member of parliament representing Lincoln, rented the site for 12 shillings a year as he “became a considerable dealer in monastic lands.” During the five years after they were bought, Dighton acquired licenses (www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1509-1558/member/dighton-robert-1491-1546) to transfer ownership of the building.
In 1643, the four acres of land were stripped of any buildings to prevent Royalists from using the location as cover during the civil war between the Parliamentarians and Royalists. The bloody war lasted 4 years from 1642 to 1646, and the bricks and remains of the building were used to fortify city walls.
The earliest mention of Newport House as it currently stands is in 1798, and can be found in parish records of St. Nicholas Church which is situated only 100 yards from the site. From 1830 to 1840 Reverend George Rigg lived in the house and used it for running a school that prepared young men for university, learned professions and commercial pursuits. The three main learned professions that the boys went onto pursue were divinity (a job involving the study of Christian or other theology), medicine or law. In 1892 Reverend Nelson bought Newport House and became the first principal of The Diocesan Training School of Lincoln (a Catholic School), which later developed into Bishop Grosseteste University.
The Waifs and Strays Society (www.childrenshomes.org.uk/LincolnWS), now known as the “Church of England’s Children Society,” established itself at Newport House as St Hugh’s Home for Boys in 1869. The organisation was named after St. Hugh of Lincoln, the patron saint of sick children and of swans. The Home accepted boys aged 7-12 years for lodging and boarding education and remained open until 1972.
When renovating the building to become LORIC, a secret attic door was discovered at the side of what would become the collaborative space. The room was where the boys used to sleep, and the walls still display remnants of the gas lamps. The old banister also remains, although it has been slightly modified for health and safety reasons – the railing was slightly lower down at that time to suit the average height of the Victorian period.
St Hugh’s was bought by Bishop Grosseteste University and renovated under the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in 2017, and was officially opened on 25th of September 2018 as The Lincolnshire Open Research and Innovation Centre. Nine months since LORIC first launched, and the centre has used technology and insight to help several small businesses to grow, taking historical St Hugh’s into the future.