Ancient Monuments

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The medieval leper hospital of St Giles

A Scheduled Monument in Maldon, Essex

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Latitude: 51.7267 / 51°43'36"N

Longitude: 0.6676 / 0°40'3"E

OS Eastings: 584330.361775

OS Northings: 206479.156035

OS Grid: TL843064

Mapcode National: GBR QM4.MM9

Mapcode Global: VHJK5.JV9N

Entry Name: The medieval leper hospital of St Giles

Scheduled Date: 1 June 1923

Last Amended: 15 July 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020915

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32463

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Maldon

Built-Up Area: Maldon

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Maldon All Saints with St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes the buried and standing remains of St Giles' Hospital,
located on Spital Road on the outskirts of the town of Maldon.

Contemporary documents outline the early history of the site. The hospital was
founded in 1164 by Henry II for the relief of leprous burgesses of the town.
It had a prior/master and a chaplain to say divine service daily in the
chapel. During the course of the 13th and 14th centuries, with the numbers
afflicted with leprosy decreasing, St Giles' became a general hospital for the
poor, aged and infirm. In 1401 the hospital became a free chapel, independent
of the control of the parish priest. In 1481 the hospital was conveyed to
Beeleigh Abbey, a move approved by Bishop Kemp subject to the Abbott
undertaking all burdens of the hospital and undertaking to say Mass at least
once a week in the chapel.

With the dissolution of Beeleigh Abbey in 1538 the hospital closed. In 1547
Henry VII granted the land and the hospital buildings to Thomas Dyer and his
wife for domestic use. By 1763 the hospital was owned by Lieutenant General
Montolieu and was in use as a barn. In 1899 a local historian described the
`barn' at Spital Farm as ruinous and delapidated and by 1910 the roof had
collapsed. Subsequently taken into the care of Maldon District Council, a
town guide dating to 1951 describes the hospital as `now well cared for after
years of neglect and used as a farm building.'

The plan of the surviving above ground structure is cruciform: four arms
projecting from a central crossing. The northern and southern arms
(interpreted as transepts) are both 6 sq m. The eastern arm (the chancel) is
slightly longer (7m in length) and the western arm was as much as 10m in
length (based on limited archaeological excavations). It is possible that the
western arm served as the hall for the hospital inmates, providing both living
and sleeping accommodation, whilst the rest of the building served as the
hospital chapel.

The structure is roofless. The surviving walls, of flint rubble with reused
Roman brick, are predominantly of 12th century date with some 13th and 14th
century alterations. Limestone is used for door and window dressings. The
walls maintain a height of approximately 3.5m along most of their course,
except for the southernmost wall of the southern arm which is 7m at its apex.

The southern arm of the hospital contains a 12th century round arch with plain
responds of Roman brick in its east wall. The west wall has part of a round
arch of 12th century date and the southern wall has a 13th century graduated
triplet of lancet windows.

The northern arm has, in its west wall, a 12th century round-headed window and
a doorway with segmental-pointed rear-arch of the 14th century, together with
a few courses of surviving 14th century mouldings. The eastern wall retains
the remains of Roman brick arch responds and is pierced by a 17th or 18th
century doorway.

The western arm of the hospital has been almost completely removed above
ground (except for the very beginnings of the side walls). Wall foundations
will survive below ground however, and consequently this area is included in
the scheduling.

The eastern arm has only its northern wall and foundations of its southern
wall visible, the upstanding wall including a moulded internal string-course
dating from the late 12th century and below this a rough relieving arch of
Roman bricks. The hospital is Listed Grade I.

The scheduling includes the grassed over area surrounding the monument and
enclosed by fencing. This area will contain below ground remains of the
monument and associated archaeological features, possibly including burials
associated with the hospital.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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.

The medieval leper hospital of St Giles is a unique survival within Essex and
one of a small number of medieval hospitals to survive nationally. Documentary
evidence points to the existence of ten medieval hospitals in Essex, most
founded by the mid-13th century; St Giles' is the only one to survive.

The surviving above ground structure probably represents the chapel of the
hospital; the demolished western wing providing the living quarters or hall.
Here the foundations will survive enabling a full picture of the plan of the
hospital to be reconstructed. Sealed archaeological deposits will contain
artefactual and environmental evidence, the study of which will increase our
knowledge of material aspects of the life of the hospital.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Knowles, D , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1971), 327, 76
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex: Volume II Central and South-West Essex, (1921), 177-8
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex: Volume II Central and South-West Essex, (1921), 177-8
Maldon Archaeological Group, , 'Hist. Research incl. Dowsing Survey' in St. Giles' Leper Hospital, Maldon, (1983)
Maldon Archaeological Group, , 'Hist. Research incl. Dowsing Survey' in St. Giles' Leper Hospital, Maldon, (1983)
Archaeology Section, Essex County Council Planning, Maldon Historic Towns Project Assessment Report, (1999)
Includes Historical Notes, Laws, FH, Report to Maldon Society on proposed Investigation of St Giles', (1958)
Includes Historical Notes, Laws, FH, Report to Maldon Society on proposed Investigation of St Giles', (1958)
Ordnance Survey, Ordnance Survey Card TL80 NW12, (1949)

Source: Historic England

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