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St Mary Magdalen Leprosaria

In the civil parish of Chilcomb.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Hampshire (City of Winchester).
1974 county of Hampshire.
Medieval County of Hampshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU50572961
Latitude 51.06361° Longitude -1.27971°

St Mary Magdalen Leprosaria has been described as a Uncertain although is doubtful that it was such.

There are earthwork remains.


The site of an early leprosaria outside Winchester is being excavated and investigated by a team from the University of Winchester lead by Dr Simon Roffey and Dr Phil Marter.

It appeared that this primary phase of hospital development was interrupted sometime in the first part of the 12th century. Evidence for this was represented by a large 'cellared' or sunken-featured structure underlying the later twelfth-century medieval infirmary. It is not yet clear whether or not this was a feature of the early Norman hospital or represented a change in site use. At present the evidence indicates that it functioned for only a relatively short period of time and had certainly gone out of use by the time a new, masonry, hospital infirmary was built in the 1150s. Current thinking is that it may be part of a fortification dating to period of the Anarchy (Civil War) of 1139-53. If this was the case it purpose might have been built to defend the eastern entry to the city. These features will form the subject of continued excavations in 2013. (Simon Roffey and Phil Marter 2012)

The leprosaria may date from 1070 and may be the first such foundation in England. It was replaced by a more institutional Leper Hospital in 1150. As a leprosaria this site is outside the scope of the Gatehouse website. Although called a 'cellared' feature this was almost 5m deep with a floor surface and possibly timber lined. Dr Roffey writes "The sides of the feature are straight- our assumption is that this would enable a timber frame/foundation to be placed in it to support an upstanding structure ie like a deep foundation (no evidence for superstructure around it)" (pers corr 23-9-2013). The feature seems rare and Dr Roffey welcome any information of idea regarding this feature (Contact Gatehouse). Gatehouse can only add that although this is securely dated, on stratigraphical and ceramic grounds, to the Anarchy normal life did continue during this period and the feature need not necessarily be military.
However, if this cellared feature is a fortification of the Anarchy then it may be speculated as to whom occupied the site. It is important to note leprosy was not seen as a contagious disease at this time and that in the C12 attitudes of revulsion toward victims of the disease were not common, profound or an encultured norm. The site, on a hill, close to a major road is of tactical military value. Was the site occupied by troops paid for and owing direct allegiance to Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester? In this case, with a site so close to Winchester, this seems probable. However the Anarchy was period when small groups of basically unaligned armed men did occupy existing sites (cf. Church of St Mary at Lower Slaughter) but if they did so here it must have been with at least some tacit approval from Henry de Blois.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:07

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