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Chapel of St James' Leper Hospital, Dunwich

A Scheduled Monument in Dunwich, Suffolk

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Latitude: 52.2776 / 52°16'39"N

Longitude: 1.6267 / 1°37'36"E

OS Eastings: 647493.574353

OS Northings: 270583.449226

OS Grid: TM474705

Mapcode National: GBR YXX.436

Mapcode Global: VHM7K.40TS

Entry Name: Chapel of St James' Leper Hospital, Dunwich

Scheduled Date: 2 May 1955

Last Amended: 2 November 2015

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1006032

English Heritage Legacy ID: SF 76

County: Suffolk

Civil Parish: Dunwich

Traditional County: Suffolk

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Suffolk

Church of England Parish: Dunwich St James

Church of England Diocese: St.Edmundsbury and Ipswich


The upstanding and buried remains of a chapel of the medieval leper hospital of St James.

Source: Historic England


The chapel of St James’ Hospital is situated on a north-facing slope within the churchyard of St James Church. The upstanding remains comprise part of the east end of the infirmary hall, the chancel and the eastern apse, all of which are now roofless. Originally the hall was 18.3m long by 7.5 wide, the chancel is 6.6m long by 6.2m wide and the apse is 5.5m wide by 4m deep. It is built of Caen stone and septaria with a part-exposed random-rubble core, and C19 repairs in random-rubble, including limestone, brick, flint and beach cobbles.

EXTERNAL WALLS: From north to south, anticlockwise. The north wall survives up to 4.5m high and includes a 3m length of the eastern end of the infirmary hall and the 6m long chancel. It is obscured at the east end by a 1.85m wide C20 concrete buttress, erected to support the north-east corner of the infirmary hall. The original fabric includes a basal plinth and a facing of Caen stone ashlar or squared septaria blocks. However parts of the wall, particular to the east, include C19 patching in random rubble. Near the upper centre of the elevation is a round-headed C12 window of two moulded orders; the first plain and continuous but the second order resting on square imposts supported by nook-shafts with cushion capitals and cushion bases. The moulded cill of the window is continuous with a string course that originally ran around the apse and the east part of the chancel. The apse (east) wall has lost most of its original facing, exposing the random rubble wall core. There were originally three round-headed windows in the apse but only the north window opening survives. It has lost its original facing, leaving only the exposed relieving arch. Set into the wall are the scars of three pilasters, the base for a shaft and part of a blind window or niche. Several put-log holes are set into the north and east walls of the chapel. The south wall stands to 3.5m high externally and 4.5m high internally, due to the building being terraced into the slope. It has largely been rebuilt in random rubble but appears to rest upon the original wall footings.

INTERNAL WALLS: From north to south, anticlockwise. The north wall includes the stubs of two 1m thick cross walls that originally supported arches dividing the infirmary hall and chancel and the chancel and apse. At the west is a 3m length of the infirmary hall wall, which stands to 4.5m high. It has largely been re-faced in random rubble but a lower 2m high section includes the original coursing. Beyond the cross wall is the internal face of the chancel wall. It retains the cushion base, shaft, cushion capital, impost block and three voussoirs of a round-headed arch that once formed the western end of an interlaced blind arcade extending along the full length of the chancel. The lower parts of the wall are largely of Caen stone ashlar with a basal plinth. However there are two areas of rebuilt or patched wall at the east and west. Near the upper centre is the north window; a round-headed arch of two orders, which has lost its supporting nook-shafts and bases but retains a cushion capital. The internal wall of the apse includes the remains of a twelve bay arcade of round-headed arches, surviving 2m high from the foot of the wall. Ten arches survive, together with eight cushion capitals and impost blocks, eight bases and two shafts at each end of the arcade. At the south end is a rectangular niche, which has been inserted into the original fabric. Above the arcade is a string-course and the surviving north window of an original three. It is a round-headed arch of two orders, which retains the imposts, capitals, bases and one nook-shaft. The first order of the arch is constructed of chalk rather than Caen stone. There are two large V-shaped gaps in the apse wall, which appear to have been in-filled in random rubble in the C19. Most of the south chancel and south infirmary hall wall is a C19 random-rubble rebuild. However at the east end of the chancel it retains the shaft, capital with fishscale ornament, and impost block of what was probably an interlaced arcade, matching that to the opposite wall. It also retains the wall stubs of the arches that separated the three cells of the building.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The chapel of St James’ Hospital, dating from the C12, is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: as a rare surviving example of a medieval leper hospital chapel;

* Survival: the leper chapel includes a significant proportion of upstanding fabric with well preserved architectural details and evidence for phases of later alteration;

* Documentation: St James is well documented in historical and archaeological terms, which provide a valuable contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the site;

* Group value: the chapel holds group value with Greyfriars, the Pales Dyke and the west side of medieval Dunwich, as surviving remains of the medieval town and its associated monuments.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Chant, K, The History of Dunwich, (1986)
Godfrey, W, The English Almshouse, (1955)
Parker, R, Men of Dunwich: The story of a vanished town, (1979), 48-52
Wilkins, W, 'An Essay towards a History of the Venta Icenorum of the Romans, and of Norwich Castle; with Remarks on the Architecture of the Anglo-Saxons and Normans' in Archaeologia, or, Miscellaneous Tracts Relating to Antiquity, , Vol. 12, (1796), 166-167
British History Online – Victoria County History: A History of the County of Suffolk Volume 2 (edited by William Page) – Hospitals: St James, Dunwich, accessed 10th April 2015 from
The Corpus of Romanesque Sculpture in Britain and Ireland: St James's Hospital Chapel, Dunwich, Suffolk, accessed 10th April 2015 from
Boulter, S, Suffolk Councty Council Archaeological Service Report: St. James Leper Hospital, Dunwich (DUN 005) Building Recording Report (2008)

Source: Historic England

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