Simon Roffey
Search for other papers by Simon Roffey in
Current site
Google Scholar
Saint Mary Magdalen, Winchester
The archaeology and history of an English leprosarium and almshouse
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

Leprosy hospitals have received considerable attention from historians in recent years, but there is still comparatively little archaeological research concerning their origins, early form and development over time. There has also been very little work towards synthesising historical data with archaeological evidence. This chapter discusses the origins and development of English leprosy hospitals with reference to the important excavations at Saint Mary Magdalen, Winchester, England, one of the earliest and most comprehensively excavated examples. Research at Winchester, involving the excavation of both building structures and cemeteries, as well as the study of related historical materials, provides an important insight into the development of a particular form of medieval institution, and the identities of those who lived there. Saint Mary Magdalen had relatively humble beginnings as a small hospital for leprosy sufferers, but later developed into a much larger hospital with wider functions, and subsequently became an almshouse. Particular emphasis is placed on the early phases of the site, where analysis of the early cemetery (late eleventh–early twelfth century) indicates skeletal evidence for leprosy in over 85 per cent of excavated examples, a much larger percentage than has previously been recorded at any British site. The graves were anthropomorphic in shape and contained men, women and children, including a medieval pilgrim. This cemetery, together with evidence for associated timber buildings and a chapel, suggests a small, relatively high-status, religious community of leprosy sufferers.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

All of MUP's digital content including Open Access books and journals is now available on manchesterhive.


Leprosy and identity in the Middle Ages

From England to the Mediterranean


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 331 108 19
Full Text Views 16 9 2
PDF Downloads 21 11 3