Anglo-Saxon Hospitals? Who Knew?

Apparently no one did until the recent discovery of certain burials underneath the former Leper Hospital of St. Mary Magdalen in Winchester, Hampshire. The site is no stranger to burials — excavation crews and archeologists have unearthed a motley collection of corpses since the 1960’s. The difference this time is that the corpses ap between 960-1030 A.D.

As far as anyone knew, St. Mary’s was not founded until 1180 and was torn down in 1788. This fits in with the traditional view that hospitals were not built in England until after the Norman Conquest of 1066. But with the burials located beneath St. Mary’s medieval infirmary, that view is changing.

The link to the article is here.
This Hospital was similar in its charitable objects to St Cross. Founded in 1180 by Bishop Toclyve (1173-88) for the reception of nine lepers, it stood in the downs along the Alresford Road, by the first milestone. The site was excavated by the TV Archaeological programme ‘Time Team’.
During a chequered history the Hospital lost much of it´s property and funds, and was at times used as a barracks and a prison. Considerable damage  was caused to the structure by neglect and misuse.  In 1788 this fine example of Transitional architecture was pulled down.

Parts of the building were used in the construction of St Peters Church in St Peter’s Street, most notably a fine early Norman gateway, and some in the construction of six alms houses in Water Lane.

These were occupied by four men and four women, who each received a pension of two shillings a week. Sometime in the 1920´s they were converted into two dwellings, and were eventually sold into private ownership in the late 60´s, after they had become somewhat dilapidated.

Some ancient burials were disturbed during the excavation for their construction.  A Roman sepulchre was discovered on the site of the lower cottages. (The whole area is the site of an ancient cemetery). The builders reburied some parts of the disturbed burials, only to have them rediscovered in 1993 during the construction of a new retaining wall.  The site was occupied during Medieval times, as a Medieval rubbish pit was found under the rear garden boundary wall.

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