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Bolton leper hospital

A Scheduled Monument in Hedgeley, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.4194 / 55°25'9"N

Longitude: -1.8336 / 1°50'1"W

OS Eastings: 410629.072052

OS Northings: 613952.310673

OS Grid: NU106139

Mapcode National: GBR H5MS.T3

Mapcode Global: WHC1H.T11R

Entry Name: Bolton leper hospital

Scheduled Date: 29 October 1975

Last Amended: 22 November 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1008838

English Heritage Legacy ID: 21048

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Hedgeley

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Church of England Parish: Whittingham and Edlingham with Bolton Chapel

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The remains of Bolton leper hospital are situated on an area of raised, dry
land surrounded on all sides by marshy ground. The exact layout of the
hospital buildings, which include a detached chapel, a group of individual
cells for inmates, a well and a perimeter wall and drainage ditch are
difficult to determine precisely as the remains are grassed over and parts of
the monument have been levelled and obscured by later rig and furrow
cultivation. The main area of above-ground remains lies in the north west
corner of the monument where the lower courses of masonry walls are visible.
They appear as grassy mounds on average 2m high which conceal the sites of
hospital buildings; the exact nature and function of these buildings is not
yet fully understood. On one mound there is a stone trough 0.7m square and
0.1m deep with a hole in the bottom 0.15m square; the purpose of this feature
is, as yet, unknown. An aerial photograph taken in 1989 shows more detail and
at least one small rectangular building platform is visible with an entrance
in its south wall. Across the rest of the hospital site the remains of stone
walls and building foundations are visible where the later medieval
cultivation earthworks either cut through them or swing to avoid them; further
remains will survive beneath the cultivation rigs. The northern boundary of
the monument is marked by a broad ditch 7m wide and 1.5m deep below the top of
a low bank on its outside. This is interpreted as the perimeter wall and
drainage ditch of the hospital and traces of it can be detected on other
sides. The hospital at Bolton was founded as a religious institution in AD
1225 for a master, three chaplains and 13 leper brethren, and for the relief
of the poor and strangers. It was dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr and was
under the supervision of the Yorkshire monasteries of Kirkham and Rievaulx.The
brethren were under a religious rule. Licence to build a chapel was granted
during the Priorate of Ralph Kerneth (1216-1233). In 1335/6 licence to
crenellate (fortify) the "dwelling place of Boulton Hospital" was granted.
Lepers do not appear to be mentioned after c.1338 and then it seems to have
become more like a monastery. The hospital was dissolved c.1547. In 1575 the
site of the hospital with a garden, about 6 acres of meadow and a croft were
granted to John Sonkye and Percival Gunson.

The fence line which crosses the southern edge of the area is excluded from
the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

A medieval hospital is a group of buildings housing a religious or secular
institution which provided spiritual and medical care. The idea for such
institutions originated in the Anglo-Saxon period although the first definite
foundations were created by Anglo-Norman bishops and queens in the 11th
century. Documentary sources indicate that by the mid 16th century there were
around 800 hospitals. A further 300 are also thought to have existed but had
fallen out of use by this date. Half of the hospitals were suppressed by 1539
as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Some smaller institutions
survived until 1547 when they were dissolved by Edward VI. Many of these
smaller hospitals survived as almshouses, some up to the present day. Despite
the large number of hospitals known from documentary sources to have existed,
generally only the larger religious ones have been exactly located. Few
hospitals retain upstanding remains and very few have been examined by
excavation. In view of these factors all positively identified hospitals are
nationally important. A small number of hospitals were established solely for
the treatment of leprosy. These leper houses differ from other hospitals in
that they were specifically located and arranged to deal with contagious
disease. Their main aim was to provide the sufferer with permanent isolation
from society. In contrast to other hospitals they were normally located away
from population foci.

Despite the fact that the leper hospital at Bolton has been partially levelled
and obscured by medieval cultivation, substantial and significant
archaeological deposits survive. This monument is of particular importance as
it is well documented and is a rare survival of a medieval hospital in

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Knowles, , Haddock, , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1953), 256
Rigold, S E, 'Archaeol Cantiana 79' in Two Kentish Hospitals Re-examined, (1964), 31-69
Gates, T, NU 1014 K, (1989)

Source: Historic England

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