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Title: The Leper in England: with some account of English lazar-houses

Author: Robert Charles Hope

Release Date: August 19, 2009 [EBook #29737]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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English Lazar Houses.




[2]Peterhouse, Cambridge, and Lincoln’s Inn.
Member of the Royal Archæological Institute of Great Britain.

Editor of Barnabe Googe’s “Popish Kingdome.”
Author of “Glossary of Dialectal Place-Nomenclature.”
“An Inventory of the Church Plate in Rutland.”
“English Goldsmiths,” &c., &c.


[3] Dedicated
The Ven. R. Frederick L. Blunt, A.K.C., M.A., D.D.,
Archdeacon of the East Riding; Canon Residentiary of York;
Vicar of Scarborough;
Chaplain-in-Ordinary to the Queen; Surrogate;
Fellow of King’s College, London;
Chaplain to the Royal Northern Sea-Bathing Infirmary, Scarborough,
Who occupied the Chair on the occasion, and at whose request,
the Lecture was delivered.



The Leprosy of Scripture9
The Leprosy of the Middle Ages13
Lazar Houses16
Status of Lepers26
Appendix A.—Notes39
"B.—English Lazar Houses43[6]


The subject matter embraced within these covers, consists chiefly of notes, made for a lecture delivered in Christ Church Schoolroom, Scarborough, on Thursday, March 5th, 1891, and is published by special request.

No claim for originality is made. The works of the late Sir James Y. Simpson, Professor of Medicine in the University of Edinburgh, (Archæological Essays, Vol. II.); Sir Risdon Bennett, M.D., LL.D., F.B.S., “Diseases of the Bible”; Dr. Greenhill, in “Bible Educator”; Leland’s “Itinerary”; Dugdale’s “Monasticon,” &c., &c., have been freely drawn upon, and to these writers, therefore, it is the desire here to acknowledge the indebtedness which is due.

Various Notes will be found in the Appendix, which it is hoped will prove of interest.[8]


There is perhaps no subject of greater interest, nor one which awakens more sympathy, than that of the Leper; it affords a most curious, though painful topic of enquiry, particularly in the present day, when so much has been said and written, as to the probability and possibility of the loathsome scourge again obtaining a hold in this, our own country.

Much confusion and ignorance exists, as to what true Leprosy really is. I do not pretend, nor do I assume, to be in any way an authority on the disease, nor to be at all deeply versed in the matter; my remarks will consist chiefly in retailing to you, some of the many and curious circumstances connected with the malady, with which I have become acquainted in studying the various Lazar Houses and Leper Wells, once so liberally scattered all over the country, from an antiquary’s point of view, and in examining the writings of those competent to express an opinion, from personal and other observations. Your kind indulgence is, therefore, asked for any shortcomings on my part.


It is necessary at the outset, to state clearly, that the disease known as Leprosy in Holy Scripture, was an entirely and altogether different disorder, to that, which, in the Middle Ages, was so terribly prevalent, not in this country only, but over the whole Continent of Europe.[10]

Sir Risdon Bennett tells us the Leprosy of Scripture was a skin disease known to the medical faculty as Psoriasis. The use of the Greek and Latin word Lepra, to signify both kinds of Leprosy, has no doubt contributed largely to the confusion existing as to these two disorders. The Leprosy of the Bible was Psoriasis, that of the Middle Ages Elephantiasis Græcorum.

There are six cases only, which include nine instances of Leprosy, recorded in the Old Testament:—

Moses—Exodus, iv., 6.Miraculously afflicted.
Miriam—Numbers, xii., 10.
Gehazi—2 Kings, v., 27.
Uzziah—2 Chronicles, xxvi., 19.
Naaman—2 Kings, v., 1.  
Four Lepers—2 Kings, vii., 3.  

In the New Testament we have but three cases, involving twelve persons, viz.:—

The first account or mention of the disorder in the Bible, is to be found in Leviticus; nearly three chapters, xiii., xiv., xv., being devoted to the examination and cleansing of the afflicted, with the minutest detail.

In chapter xiii., we are told that “if a man has a bright spot deeper than the skin of the flesh, the hair on which has turned white, or the white spot has a raw in it, and the scab be spread in the skin—then shall the priest pronounce him unclean.” But, if he have all the above symptoms, and “the scabs do not spread, or, if he be covered from head to foot—as white as snow—with the disease, then shall the priest pronounce him clean.[11]” It should be observed, that whereas the “unclean” Leper “shall dwell alone,” no such restriction was placed upon the “clean or White Leper,” who was free to go about as he desired, and also to mingle with his fellow-men. This is clear from the accounts given us of Gehazi conversing with the King; of Naaman performing his ordinary duties as captain of the host of the King of Syria; we are told he was “a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given victory unto Syria; he was also a mighty man of valour,” and also, from the instance of our Blessed Lord being entertained in the house of Simon the “Leper.” On no other ground than this assumption, can these instances be reconciled with the Levitical Law.

In the Levitical, and in every other account of the disease, it is significant that there is no mention, or hint, of any loss of sensation in connection with the disorder, of any affection of the nerves, nor of any deformity of the body; no provision is made for those who were unable to take care of themselves, nor is there a tittle of evidence, or the barest hint given, that the disease was either contagious or dangerous. Only two persons in the whole of the Bible are stated to have died from the disease, and in each of these cases, it was specially so ordained by the Almighty, as a specific punishment for a particular sin. Cures were not only possible, and common, but they were the rule. Josephus speaks of Leprosy in a man as but “a misfortune in the colour of his skin.” S. Augustine said that when Lepers were restored to health, “they were mundati, not sanati, because Leprosy is an ailment affecting merely the colour,[12] not the health, or the soundness of the senses, and the limbs.”

It is a most curious, and interesting problem which has yet to be solved, why a man should be “unclean” when he was but partially covered by the disease, and yet, when he was wholly covered with it, he should be “clean.”

That no argument in support of contagion can be drawn simply from the sentence of expulsion from the camp, is evident from Numbers v., 2-4; for Lepers, and non-Lepers, are equally excluded on the ground of “uncleanness.” The laws of seclusion applied as rigorously to the uncleanness induced by touching a leper, or even a dead body, as well as in other cases, where no question of contagion could exist. It appears more than probable that the “cleansing” was merely a ceremonial, ordained for those attacked by the disease at a certain stage, implying some deeper meaning, than I for one, am able to discern. I therefore leave it to the theologian to whom it appertains, rather than to a humble and enquiring layman as myself.

That the descriptions of the various forms of skin disease were intended, not to denote differences in their nature or pathology, but to enable the priests to discriminate between the “clean” and “unclean” forms, is manifest. They were intended purely for practical use.

The first allusion—the only one in the Bible—we have to a Lazar, or Leper house, occurs in 2 Kings, xv., 5, “And the Lord smote the King so that he was a Leper unto the day of his death, and dwelt in a ‘several’ house.[13]


The Leprosy of the Middle Ages known as Elephantiasis Græcorum, Lepra Arabum, and Lepra tuberculosis, is not yet extinct. It is very curious that whilst Lepra Arabum is the same as Elephantiasis Græcorum or true Leprosy, the Elephantiasis Arabum is a totally distinct disease. The former is the most loathsome and revolting of the many awful and terrible scourges, with which the Almighty, in his wisdom, has seen fit, from time to time, to visit mankind.

It is, I believe, a singular fact, that the Jews, “the chosen people of God,” have a special immunity from the disease, being less predisposed than other races. Dr. V. Carter says that during a period of seventeen years, out of a very large number of cases in Bombay, he had seen only four cases, and but one death among Jews, that is of Elephantiasis Græcorum.

Belcher on “Our Lord’s Miracles,” says that in Tangiers at the present day, the two diseases are found, the Lepra Hebræorum prevailing chiefly among the Jewish residents, and presenting exactly the symptoms as described in Leviticus. On the other hand, in Syria, Elephantiasis Græcorum is unknown among the Jews.

It appears to have been very prevalent in this country; but when, and how it was introduced, is not known. Some certify it was brought back by the Crusaders, being the only thing they ever did bring back. But it existed here long anterior to the days of the first crusade. The City of Bath is said to have originated from an old British King afflicted with Leprosy, who being obliged, in consequence, to wander far from the habitation of[14] men, and being finally reduced to the condition of a swineherd, discovered the medicinal virtues of the hot springs of Bath, while noticing that his pigs which bathed therein were cured of sundry diseases prevailing among them.

The following epigram on King Bladud, who was killed 844, B.C.,—father of King Leir, or Leal, d. 799, B.C.,—was written by a clergyman of the name of Groves, of Claverton:—

“When Bladud once espied some hogs
Lie wallowing in the steaming bogs,
Where issue forth those sulphurous springs,
Since honour’d by more potent kings,
Vex’d at the brutes alone possessing
What ought t’ have been a common blessing,
He drove them, thence in mighty wrath,
And built the mighty town of Bath.
The hogs thus banished by their prince,
Have lived in Bristol ever since.”

Many Lazar or Leper Houses were built in England during the early part of the reign of William the Norman, who founded several.

The medical writers of the 13th and 14th centuries, which include the names of Theodoric, the monk, a distinguished surgeon of Bologna; the celebrated Lanfranc, of Milan and afterwards of Paris; Professor Arnold Bachuone, of Barcelona, reputed in his day the greatest physician in Spain; the famous French surgeon Guy de Chauliac; Bernhard Gordon; and our own countrymen Gilbert, c. 1270; John of Gaddesden, Professor of Medicine in Merton College, Oxford, and Court Physician to Edward II., minutely describe the disease.[15]

It was the custom in those affected days, when a medical man or anyone wrote a book on medicine or a medicinal subject, to call it either a “rose” or a “lily,” as “Rosa Angelica,” “Lilium medecinæ.”

The following description of the malady is from the Lilium medecinæ, by Bernhard Gordon, written about 1305 or 1309. He gives three stages or classes of the disease, viz., the (1) occult, (2) the infallible, and (3) the last, or terminating signs. None of these indications are laid down in Leviticus for the guidance of the Jewish Priests.

(i.) “The occult premonitory signs of Leprosy are, a reddish colour of the face, verging to duskiness; the expiration begins to be changed, the voice grows hoarse, the hairs become thinned and weaker, and the perspiration and breath incline to fœtidity; the mind is melancholic with frightful dreams and nightmare; in some cases scabs, pustules, and eruptions break out over the whole body; disposition of the body begins to become loathsome, but still, while the form and figure are not corrupted, the patient is not to be adjudged for separation; but is to be most strictly watched.”

(ii.) “The infallible signs, are, enlargement of the eyebrows, with loss of their hair; rotundity of the eyes; swelling of the nostrils externally, and contraction of them within; voice nasal; colour of the face glossy, verging to a darkish hue; aspect of the face terrible, and with a fixed look; with acumination or pointing and contraction of the pulps of the ear. And there are many other signs, as pustules and excrescences, atrophy of the muscles, and particularly of those between the thumb and forefinger; insensibility of the extremities;[16] fissures, and infections of the skin; the blood, when drawn and washed, containing black, earthy, rough, sandy matter. The above are those evident and manifest signs, which, when they do appear, the patient ought to be separated from the people, or, in other words, secluded in a Lazar House.”

(iii.) “The signs of the last stage and breaking-up of the disease, are, corrosion and falling-in of the cartilage forming the septum of the nose; fissure and division of the feet and hands; enlargement of the lips, and a disposition to glandular swelling; dyspnœa and difficulty of breathing; the voice hoarse and barking; the aspect of the face frightful, and of a dark colour; the pulse small, almost imperceptible.” Sometimes the limbs drop off, piecemeal or in their entirety.

All the writers agree in urging most earnestly that no one ought to be adjudged a Leper, unless there manifestly appears a corruption of the figure, or, that state indicated as signa infallibilia.


The period from its introduction into this country, as far as we know, to its final or nearly final extinction, may be embraced within the 10th and 16th centuries. It was at the zenith of its height during the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. As early as A.D. 948 laws were enacted with regard to Lepers in Wales by Howel Dda, the Good—the great Welsh King, who died 948.

The enormous extent to which it prevailed during that period may be gauged from the fact, that there were above 200 Lazar Houses in England alone, probably[17] providing accommodation for 4,000 at least, and this, at a time when the whole population of England was only between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 of persons; being something like two in every thousand.

I have been enabled to compile the following English Lazar Houses, which is however far from being a complete one. These Lazar Houses were founded by the charitably disposed, and were usually under ecclesiastical rule:—

1 Berkshire.1 Herefordshire4 Oxfordshire.
2 Buckinghamshire.6 Hertfordshire.2 Shropshire.
2 Cambridgeshire.1 Huntingdonshire.6 Somersetshire.
3 Cornwall.15 Kent.3 Staffordshire.
1 Cumberland.1 Lancashire.10 Suffolk.
4 Derbyshire.2 Lincolnshire.1 Surrey.
6 Devonshire.4 Leicestershire.6 Sussex.
3 Dorsetshire.7 Middlesex.3 Warwickshire.
2 Durham.22 Norfolk.4 Westmoreland.
4 Essex.5 Northamptonshire.7 Wiltshire.
6 Gloucestershire.3 Northumberland.1 Worcester.
2 Hampshire.3 Nottinghamshire.20 Yorkshire.

They were presumably under the rule of S. Austin or Augustine.

Chalmers’ Caledonia states 9 hospitals existed in the County of Berwick alone.

It is said that, by a Bull of Alexander III., exemption from the payment of tithes was granted to all the possessions of the Lazar Houses; this, however, does not appear to have always been acted upon, at least in this country, as at Canterbury, etc.

A Prior—usually a Leper—and a number of Priests were attached to each house.[18]

Where a chapel was not attached, the inmates appear to have attended the parish church for service.

There was a special order of Knights founded very early, in Jerusalem, united to the general order of the Knights Hospitallers, whose especial province was to look after the sick, particularly Lepers. They seem to have separated from the Knights Hospitallers at the end of the 11th, or beginning of the 12th centuries. They were at first designated Knights of S. Lazarus, or, of SS. Lazarus and Mary of Jerusalem, from the locality of their original establishment, and from their central preceptory being near Jerusalem. The Master or Prior of the Superior Order was a Leper, that he might be more in sympathy with his afflicted brethren. They were afterwards united by different European princes, with the Military Orders of Notre Dame and Mount Carmel, and, in 1572 with that of S. Maurice. We first hear of them in England, in the reign of King Stephen, when they seem to have made their headquarters at Burton-Lazars, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, where a rich and famous Lazar House was built by a general subscription throughout the country, and greatly aided by the munificence of Robert de Mowbray. The Lazar-houses of S. Leonard’s, Sheffield; Tilton, in Leicestershire; Holy Innocents’, Lincoln; S. Giles’, London; SS. Mary and Erkemould, Ilford, Essex; and the preceptory of Chosely, in Norfolk, besides many others, were annexed to it, as cells containing fratres leprosos de Sancto Lazaro de Jerusalem. The house received at least 35 different charters, confirmed by various sovereigns. Camden in his Britannia, p. 447, says that “The masters[19] of all the smaller Lazar-houses in England, were in some sort subject to the Master of Burton Lazars, as he himself was, to the Master of the Lazars in Jerusalem.”

The rules of these Lazar-houses were very strict. The inmates were allowed to walk within certain prescribed limits only, generally a mile from the house. They were forbidden to stay out all night, and were not on any account permitted to enter the bakehouse, brewhouse, and granary, excepting the brother in charge, and he was not to dare to touch the bread and beer, since it was “most unfitting that persons with such a malady, should handle things appointed for the common use of men.” A gallows was sometimes erected in front of the houses, on which offenders were summarily despatched from this world, for breach of the rules.

The comforts in these houses varied greatly as the house was richly, or poorly endowed. At some of the smaller ones, the inmates would seem to have depended almost, if not entirely, on the precarious contributions of the charitably disposed for their very sustenance. At Beccles, in Suffolk, one of the Lepers of S. Mary Magdalene’s, was by a royal grant empowered to beg on behalf of himself and his brethren. Sometimes, these poor and wretched outcasts would sit by the roadside, with a dish placed on the opposite side, to receive the alms of the good Samaritans that passed by, who would give them as wide a berth as possible. The Lepers were not allowed to speak to a stranger, lest they should contaminate him with their breath. To attract attention, they would clash their wooden clappers together.

In the larger and richer houses, the inmates were[20] well provided for. The account of the food supplied to the inmates of the Lazar House of S. Julian, at S. Albans, c. 1335-1349, is very curious:—“Let every Leprous brother receive from the property of the Hospital for his living and all necessaries, whatever he has been accustomed to receive by the custom observed of old, in the said Hospital, namely—Every week seven loaves, five white, and two brown made from the grain as thrashed. Every seventh month, fourteen gallons of beer, or 8d. for the same. Let him have in addition, on the feasts of All Saints, Holy Trinity, S. Julian, S. John the Baptist, S. Albans, The Annunciation, Purification, Assumption, and Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for each feast, one loaf, one jar of beer, or 1d. for the same, and one obolus[a] which is called the charity of the said Hospital; also, let every Leprous brother receive, at the feast of Christmas, forty gallons of good beer, or 40d. for the same; two qrs. of pure and clean corn—which is called the great charity; also at the Feast of S. Martin, each Leper shall receive one pig from the common stall, or the value in money, if he prefer it.” The pigs were selected by each leper according to his seniority in having become an inmate; also, each Leper shall receive on the Feast of S. Valentine, for the whole of the ensuing year, one quarter of oats; also, about the feast of S. John the Baptist, two bushels of salt, or the current price; also, on the feast of S. Julian, and at the feast of S. Alban, one penny for the accustomed pittance; also, at Easter, one penny, which is called by them ‘Flavvones-peni’; also, on Ascension Day, one obolus for buying pot herbs; also, on each Wednesday in Lent, bolted corn[b] of[21] the weight of one of their loaves; also, on the feast of S. John the Baptist, 4s. for clothes; also, at Christmas, let there be distributed in equal portions, amongst the Leprous brethren, 14s. for their fuel through the year, as has been ordained of old, for the sake of peace and concord; also, by the bounty of Our Lord the King, 30s. 5d. have been assigned for ever for the use of the Lepers, which sum, the Viscount of Hertford has to pay them annually, at the feasts of Easter and Michaelmas.

At the Lazar House, dedicated in honour of “The Blessed Virgin, Lazarus, and his two sisters Mary and Martha,” at Sherburn, Durham, which accommodated no less than 65 Lepers, a more varied, and at the same time less complex dietary was in vogue. The daily allowance was a loaf of bread weighing 5 marks[c] and a gallon of ale to each; and betwixt every two, one mess[d] or commons of flesh, three days in the week, and of fish, cheese, and butter, on the remaining four. On high festivals, a double mess, and in particular on the Feast of S. Cuthbert. In Lent, fresh salmon, if it could be had, if not, other fresh fish; and on Michaelmas Day, four messed on one goose[e]. With fresh flesh, fish, or eggs, a measure of salt was delivered. When fresh fish could not be had, red herrings were served, three to a single mess; or cheese and butter by weight; or three eggs. During Lent, each had a razer of wheat to make furmenty[f], and two razers of beans to boil; sometimes greens or onions; and every day, except Sunday, the seventh part of a razer of bean meal; but on Sundays, a measure-and-a-half of pulse to make gruel. Red herrings were prohibited from Pentecost to Michaelmas, and at the latter, each received[22] two razers of apples. They had a kitchen and cook in common, with utensils for cooking, etc.:—A lead, two brazen pots, a table, a large wooden vessel for washing, or making wine, a laver, two ale[g] and two bathing vats. The sick had fire and candles, and all necessaries, until they became convalescent or died.

Each Leper received an annual allowance for his clothing, three yards of woollen cloth, white or russet, six yards of linen, and six of canvas. Four fires were allowed for the whole community. From Michaelmas to All Saints, they had two baskets of peat, on double mess days; and four baskets daily, from All Saints to Easter. On Christmas Day, they had four Yule logs each a cartload, with four trusses of straw; four trusses of straw on All Saints’ Eve, and Easter Eve; and four bundles of rushes, on the Eves of Pentecost, S. John the Baptist, and S. Mary Magdalene; and on the anniversary of Martin de Sancta Cruce, every Leper received 5s. 5d. in money.

This luxurious living was not without its leaven. The rules of the House were strict, and enforced religious duties on its inmates, of a most severe and austere nature. All the Leprous brethren, whose health permitted, were required daily to attend Matins, Nones, Vespers, and Compline[h].

The bed-ridden sick were enjoined to raise themselves, and say Matins in their bed; and for those who were still weaker, “let them rest in peace.” During Lent and Advent, all the brethren were required to receive corporal discipline three days in the week, and the sisters in like manner.[23]

From the rules of the Lazar House of SS. Mary and Erkemould, at Ilford in Essex, which accommodated 13 Lepers—we learn, in 1336, that the inmates were ordered “to preserve silence, and, if able, to hear Mass and Matins throughout, and whilst there, to be intent on prayer and devotion. In the hospital, every day, each shall say for morning duty a Pater-noster and Ave Maria[i] thirteen times; and for the other hours of the day—1st, 3rd, and 6th of Vespers; and again, at the hour of concluding service, a Pater-noster and Ave Maria seven times; besides the aforesaid prayers each Leper shall say a Pater-noster and Ave Maria thirty times every day, for the founder of the Hospital—the Abbess of Barking, 1190—the Bishop of the place, all his benefactors, and all other true believers, living or dead; and on the day on which any one of their number departs from life, let each Leprous brother say in addition, fifty Paters and Aves three times, for the soul of the departed, and the souls of all diseased believers.” Punishment was meted out to any who neglected or shirked these duties.

Some of the Leper Houses in France excited the jealousy and avarice of Phillip V., who caused many of the inmates to be burned alive, in order that the fire might purify at one and the same time, the infection of the body and that of the soul, giving as an ostensible reason for his fiendish barbarity, the absurd and baseless allegation, that the Lepers had been bribed to commit the detestable sin and horrible crime of poisoning the wells, waters, etc., used by the Christians. The real cause being a desire, through this flimsy excuse, to rob the richer hospitals of their funds and possessions, this is[24] clearly manifest in the special wording of his own edict, “that all the goods of the Lepers be lodged and held for himself.” A similar persecution was renewed about 60 years afterwards, in 1388, under Charles VI. of France.

As soon as a man became a prey to the disease, his doom on earth was finally and irrevocably sealed. The laws, both civil and ecclesiastical, were awful in their severity to the poor Leper; not only was he cut off from the society of his fellow-men, and all family ties severed, but, he was dead to the law, he could not inherit property, or be a witness to any deed. According to English law Lepers were classed with idiots, madmen, outlaws, etc.

The Church provided a service to be said over the Leper on his entering a Lazar House[j]. The Priest duly vested preceded by a cross, went to the abode of the victim. He there began to exhort him to suffer with a patient and penitent spirit the incurable plague with which God had stricken him. Having sprinkled the unfortunate Leper with Holy Water, he conducted him to the Church, the while reading aloud the beginning of the Burial Service. On his arrival there, he was stripped of his clothes and enveloped in a pall, and then placed between two trestles—like a corpse—before the Altar, when the Libera was sung and the Mass for the Dead celebrated over him.

After the service he was again sprinkled with Holy Water, and led from thence to the Lazar House, destined for his future, and final abode, here on earth.

A pair of clappers, a stick, a barrel, and a distinctive dress were given to him. The costume comprised a russet tunic[k], and upper tunic with hood cut from it,[25] so that the sleeves of the tunic were closed as far as the hand, but not laced with knots or thread after the secular fashion of the day. The upper tunic was to be closed down to the ankles, and a close cape of black cloth of the same length as the hood, for outside use.

A particular form of boot or shoe, laced high, was also enjoined, and if these orders were disobeyed the culprit was condemned to walk bare-footed, until the Master, considering his humility said to him “enough.” An oath of obedience and a promise to lead a moral and abstemious life was required of every Leper on admission. The Bishops of Rome from time to time issued Bulls, with regard to the ecclesiastical separation and rights of the afflicted.

Lepers were excluded from the city of London by Act 20 Edward the III., 1346[l].

The Magistrates of Glasgow, in 1573, appeared to have exercised some right of searching for Lepers.

Piers, the ploughman, makes frequent allusions to “Lepers under the hedges.”

The Lazar Houses were often under the authority of some neighbouring Abbey, or Monastery. Semler quotes a Bull, issued by one of the Bishops of Rome, appointing every Leper House to be provided with its own burial ground and chapel; as also ecclesiastics; these in the middle ages were probably the only physicians of the body, as well as of the soul—some appear to have devoted themselves as much to the study of medicine as to that of theology.

It was customary in the mediæval times to address the secular clergy as “Sir.[26]


The rank and status of any one, was no guarantee against attacks from this dire disorder, with its fearful ravages. Had the victims been confined, as it is generally thought, to those who dwelt amid squalor, dirt and vice, in close and confined dens, veritable hot beds for rearing and propagating disease of every kind; we should not be surprised, but should be entitled to assume, that to such circumstances, in a very great measure might the origin be expected to be found; but, when we find, that not only was the scourge a visitant here, but, that it numbered amongst the afflicted, members of some of the most illustrious households in this kingdom, aye, even the august monarchs themselves, the source from whence Elephantiasis Græcorum—the malady not being contagious—first originated must be sought for elsewhere.

First amongst our ancient and illustrious families, we find—if he may be so classed—the case of S. Finian, who died 675 or 695[m].

A nobleman of the South of England, whose name unfortunately is not recorded, is reputed to have been miraculously cured at the tomb of S. Cuthbert, at Durham, 1080[n].

A daughter of Mannasseh Bysset, a rich Wiltshire gentleman, sewer[o] to Henry II., being a Leper, founded the Lazar House at Maiden Bradley, dedicated to the honour of the Blessed Virgin, “for poore leprous women” and gave to it her share of the town of Kidderminster, c. 1160. Mannasseh Bysset founded the Lazar House dedicated in honour of S. James, Doncaster, for women, c. 1160.[27]

The celebrated Constance, Duchess of Brittany, who was allied to the royal families of both England and Scotland, being a grand-daughter of Malcolm III. of Scotland, and the English Princess Margaret Atheling, and also a descendant of a natural daughter of Henry I. She died of Leprosy in the year 1201[p].

In 1203 in the King’s Court, a dispute was heard respecting a piece of land in Sudton, Kent, between two kinswomen—Mabel, daughter of William Fitz-Fulke, and Alicia, the widow of Warine Fitz-Fulke. Among the pleas, it was urged by Alicia, that Mabel had a brother, and that his right to the land must exclude her claim, whereupon Mabel answered that her brother was a Leper[q].

It was certified to King Edward I. in 1280, that Adam of Gangy, deceased, of the county of Northumberland, holding land of the King in chief, was unable to repair to the King’s presence to do homage, being struck with the Leprosy[r].

In the reign of Richard II. c. 1380, William, son of Robert Blanchmains, being a Leper, founded the Lazar House, dedicated in honour of S. Leonard, outside the town of Leicester, to the north[s].

Richard Orange, a gentleman of noble parentage, and Mayor of Exeter in 1454, was a Leper. In spite of his great wealth he submitted himself to a residence in the Lazar House of S. Mary Magdalene in that city, where he died, and was buried in the chapel attached. A mutilated inscription still remains over the spot where he is interred[t].

Some of the Lazar Houses were specially endowed for persons above the lower ranks who happened to[28] become affected with the disease. In 1491, Robert Pigot gave by will to the Leper House of Walsingham, in the Archdeaconry of Norwich, a house in, or near that town, for the use of two Leprous persons “of good families.”

Before considering the Royal Lepers, it will not be out of place to mention the death of S. Fiacre from Leprosy, in 665. He was the reputed son of Eugenius IV., King of Scotland, and is canonised in the Roman branch of the Church Catholic[u].

Amongst Royal Lepers, the case of Adelicia or Adelais, daughter of Godfrey, Duke of Louraine, and niece of Calextus II., Bishop of Rome, 1118; the second Queen of Henry I. of England, and afterwards wife of William de Albion, to whom she was tenderly attached; stands first in order of state. Being stricken with leprosy, she left him and entered a convent, where she died of the disease, 1151. This reputed instance, it is right to mention, requires confirmation. The above is mentioned by a contributor to Notes and Queries, 7, S. viii., 174, but no authority is given.

Baldwin IV., King of Jerusalem, a direct descendant like the Royal Plantagenets of England, from Fulk, Count of Anjou and Touraine, died of Leprosy in 1186, leaving a child nephew to succeed him; the consequence being, the loss of the Holy Land, and the triumph of Saladin after eighty-eight years of the Christian kingdom[v].

Henry III. is said to have been a Leper.

Edward the Black Prince, used to bathe in the Holy Well at Harbledon, near Canterbury, for his[29] Leprosy, and Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, had a licence at one time from the King of England to bathe in the waters of S. Lazarus’ Well on Muswell Hill, near where now stands the Alexandra Palace. The well belonged to the Order of S. John, Clerkenwell, a hospital order for Lepers. Three years before his death, he was unable to undertake the command of the army in its descent upon the northern counties of England, by reason of his Leprosy, of which he died in 1329, at the age of 55[w].

Henry IV. King of England, was a Leper without doubt[x].

Margaret of Anjou, Queen of Henry VI. of England, is reputed, like her ancestor Baldwin IV., to have died a Leper[y].

Louis the XIV., is said to have died of the disease in 1715. It is also recorded, that in order to effect a cure, recourse was had to a barbarous superstitious custom, once unhappily common in Brazil, that of killing several fine healthy children, eating their hearts, livers, &c.; then washing in their blood, and annointing the body with grease made from the remains. Let us at least hope this impious and inhuman act is but “legend[z]”.


It is trusted that the fact has been established that the Leprosy of the Bible, and of the Middle Ages, were entirely different diseases. The only essential characteristics in common being that both were cutaneous and neither was contagious, excepting by innoculation by a wound or a cut. Both were possibly hereditary, though this is denied by some.[30]

The Biblical Leprosy never ended in death, whereas that of the Middle Ages always did. In one case there was little suffering, in the other usually a great deal.

In one the isolation was temporary only, in the other permanent.

The origin of the Mediæval Scourge is enshrouded in impenetrable mystery. The cure is as enigmatical.

The late Father Damian, who gave his life to ministration and alleviation of the sufferings of the 2,000 Lepers of Hawaii, in the island of Molakai, no doubt caught the disease of which he died, owing to the fact, that Lepers only handled and cooked the food, kneaded and baked the bread, washed the clothes, etc. The whole surroundings being Leprous, it is difficult to see how the good Father could well have avoided contamination. Still, the disease is not contagious if reasonable precautions are taken.

Two remarkable meetings were held in London in 1889, under the presidency of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. At the first one, held in Marlborough House, June 17th, the Prince of Wales made the startling and unwelcome announcement of the case of Edward Yoxall, aged 64, who was carrying on his trade as butcher, in the Metropolitan Meat Market, from whence he was subsequently removed.

At the second meeting held in the rooms of the Medical Society, Chandos Street, Cavendish Square, two Lepers were exhibited. The verdict of the medical men present was, “There is no curative treatment of Leprosy.” Dr. Thornton, of the Leper Hospital of Madras, said:—That his experience showed him[31] that Leprosy was contagious, and that it was likely to spread to this country; that the disease, however, could rarely, if ever, be communicated, except in the case of a healthy person by an abraded skin, coming in contact with a Leper. “The sufferings of the afflicted can be alleviated by (1) a liberal diet; (2) oleaginous anointings, by which the loss of sleep, one of the most distressing symptoms of the disease, can be prevented.”

The Rev. Father Ignatius Grant called my attention to the use of “simples” in England, as elsewhere, for the alleviation of the suffering. He says, “Les Capitulaires, Legislatio domestica, of Charlemagne, contains the enumeration of the sorts of fruit trees and plants to be grown in the Imperial gardens, as a guide to monastic establishments throughout his empire. The list is entirely of culinary and medicinal herbs, simples and vegetables. As to flowers, only the lily and the rose are permitted for agrément; whilst all the rest are for food or medicinal remedies. All the common simples are specified.

“Herein is a mine of information, which I only allude to, but it was doubtless the plan followed by most religious houses. For one thing is clear, that as the monastic gardens were all arranged on a certain and utilitarian method, there is an antecedent probability of a consequent fact. That fact is, that we shall find out if we examine the purlieus of our own ruined abbeys, many a plant medicinal or culinary which has reset itself and persisted in its original locale for four centuries, though its original native earth and climate was not that of England.

“Such herbs proper for making salves and lotions[32] are plentifully mentioned in part i. 301-455 of Ducange, v. areola florarium, lilietum, &c., and there is a catalogue of des plus excellentes fruits qui se cultivent chez les Chartreux (Paris, 1752.) Also, as a specimen of this sort of “find,” the Woolhope Natural Club found the valuable medicinal plant asarabica (asarum Europeum) in the forest of Deerfold, having wandered from the old abbey garden, and perpetuated itself for ages. This one instance shows how the old gardeners had introduced foreign plants into their wort-beds.

“Many writers have told me, he goes on to observe, but especially a Franciscan Father of the Holy Land and two Franciscan Sisters from a hospital at Vialas (Lazére) par Génalhac, that—

“1. They use elm bark for cutaneous eruptions, herpes, and lepra. Four ounces of the bark boiled in decoction in two quarts of water down to one quart. That half a pint given twice a day has made inveterate eruptions of lepra, both dry and humid, to disappear.

“2. The rose burdock—lappa rosea—they give in cases of lepra icthyosis, and it has succeeded where other remedies had failed.

“3. They have used also the root of the mulberry-tree. Half a dram of the powder to a dose.

“4. Lapathum bononicense, or fiddle-dock, and also the dwarf trefoil—trefolium pusillum.

“The following is the list of simples which I obtained from the Lazar-house still existing in Provence, les Alpes Maritimes, and from that in Cyprus, and especially Nicosia, as also from the well-known Leper hospital in Provence:[33]

“Food, baths, and oleaginous applications stand first. Then some preparation of the following ordinary simples, which were most known among our own common people, and which are still used in various parts of England by simple folk for skin diseases and sores. You will see how they entered into the monastic pharmacopœia of the middle ages, how they were at their doors, and especially cultivated in monastery gardens.

“1. Plantain—plantago major. Qualities: alterative, diuretic, antiseptic. For scrofulous and cutaneous affections. It has also the property of destroying living microscopical matter in or on the human body. The Negro Casta, who discovered this herb, afterwards, as a remedy against the deadly bite of the rattlesnake, received a considerable reward from the Assembly of South Carolina. It is a native of most parts of Europe and Asia, as also of Japan. Plantain stands in the forefront of all the cartels des hospitalières.

“2. Yellow dock—rumex. Alterative, tonic, astringent, detergent, and anti-scorbutic. Employed in scrofula, Leprosy, cutaneous diseases, and purigo, and that with much effect.

“3. Sorrel—rumex ascetocella. Employed locally to cancers, tumours, and the open wounds of the Leper.

“4. Burdock—arctenus lappa. Aperient, sudorific, and diuretic. Employed in venereal and Leprous disorders, scrofula, and scurvy. Fluid extract of lappa is exhibited even now to lepers. Dose, ½ to 1 dram.

“5. Monk’s rhubarb—rumex alpinus. Used for the same purposes as true rhubarb.

“6. Lily roots. This ancient remedy is in all the[34] books to which the Franciscan Fathers of the Holy Land have access, and comes down from Pliny and Dioscorides. “Effugant lepras lilium radices.” (Plin.)

“7. Common wormwood—absinthium vulgare, artemisia.

“8. Daffodil—narcissus purpurens et narcissus croceus, called so from torpor. The oleum narcissenum et unguentum is found in all hospital books, and comes down from Pliny, 2, 19: “Narcissi duogenera medici usu recipiunt.” For Leprosy and cutaneous eruptions called mala scabies. This was what Canon Bethune calls les calmantes. Of this flower, I may say that eight out of ten monastic ruins in England abound with it, to such a degree that one cannot but conclude that it was set there of old, that it was cultivated for some purpose, and has reset and reproduced itself for centuries. Father Birch, S.J., confirms this in regard to Roche Abbey—de Rocca—an old Premonstratensian house, in Derbyshire, to which people come from afar to see the daffodils, which make of the purlieus of the abbey one great tapis jaune (sic.), but a carpet varied by every sort of English spring flowers.

“9. Scurvy grass—cochlearia officinalis—has long been considered, at Nicosia, Cyprus, and elsewhere, as the most effectual of all the anti-scorbutic plants. It grows in high latitudes, where scurvy is most obnoxious. Not only religious (sic.) and physicians, but sailors speak highly of it.

“10. The sedum acre—wall stone-crop. Used by nuns in Provence for ulcers and leprous eruptions. It is boiled in six pints of milk until reduced to three or[35] four pints. For fungous flesh, it promotes discharge, and destroys both gangrenes and carbuncles. This is found in abundance on the cottage roofs about Melton Mowbray and Burton-Lazars.

“11. Celandine—chelidonium. Tintern Abbey, about Whitsuntide, is one large white tapestry of celandine. When I visited Tintern, I was struck by the lush clustering growth of this flower in 1885. An old legend says that it is so called because the swallow cures the eyes of its young of blindness by application of this herb. “Certainly,” says P. Xavier, Franciscan of the Holy Land, “it makes a good lotion for the eyes of the Leper, and is often used by us in France.”

“If I were to add here the history of the quinquina, or Jesuit’s bark—is it not told us that the lions drank of a well into which chincona had fallen, and thus suggested the useful Jesuits’ bark, or quinine?—it would take me into the seventeenth century, and be a little out of my track; but one word must be added on the girjan oil, the dipterocarpus of quite modern days, which seems to have great vogue in Barbadoes. This I do because it is the product of a magnificent tropical tree, and the hospitals did not forget in the treatment of Leprosy the use of common trees.”

Isolation is the only known effectual way of stamping out the disease, by its means was the great diminution in the numbers of victims affected here, by the end of the 14th century, and the almost total and complete extinction of it in the middle of the 16th century, 1560.

In 1350 at S. Julian’s Lazar House, S. Alban’s it is recorded that “the number of Lepers had so diminished,[36] their maintenance was below the revenue of the institution; there are not now above three, sometimes only two, occasionally only one.”

In 1520 the Lazar House of S. Mary Magdalene, Ripon, founded in 1139, by Archbishop Thurstan, for the relief of the Lepers of the whole district, contained only two priests and five poor people to pray for all “Christen sowlez.” Some parts of this Hospital, including the chapel and its altar in situ, remain.

In 1553 at the Lazar House of SS. Mary and Erkemould, Ilford, Essex, founded by the Abbess of Barking, c. 1190, it is recorded that “instead of 13 pore men beying Lepers, two pryest, and one clerke thereof there is at this day but one pryest and two pore men.”

In Scotland the disease lingered till the middle of last century. A day for public thanksgiving for the supposed total deliverance of that country from the scourge of Leprosy, was enjoined, in 1742. The disease however was not quite extinct there; it may be now.

We are told at the present day, there are 123,924 Lepers in Hawaii; and in India not less than 250,000, or a quarter of a million. There are also large numbers in Barbadoes, and in the Sandwich Islands.

A striking and recent proof of the efficacy of isolation is seen in the fact, that in Norway there were 2,000 Lepers in 1867. That number has now been reduced to 700.

There are probably not more than 20 Lepers in England at the present day.

In the February number of the Monthly Record of[37] the Association in aid of the Bishop of Capetown, is a short account of the Lepers on Robben Island, to whom Her gracious Majesty the Queen has graciously sent two photographs of herself, which we are informed will be much appreciated, probably a great deal more, than the superabundance of scientific literature which is sent for their delectation, not a word of which can they read, much less understand. They are also surfeited, we are told, by no small numbers of copies of that book, so dear and so well known, to all Cambridge undergraduates, Paleys’ Evidences of Christianity. It would have been more considerate had the munificent benefactors sent the lighter edition of the writer’s great work, familiarly known as Paley’s Ghost.

There is just one other subject to mention, namely the common error that the low narrow windows often seen in our older parish churches, were to enable the Leper to hear the service, and to receive the Eucharist, said to have been handed out to him. In support of this we have but guess-work; of proof, there is none.

In concluding, it will not fail to be interesting, to quote a few words from so eminent an authority as Sir Risdon Bennett, M.D., LL.D., F.R.C.S., ex-President of the Royal College of Physicians:—“If we adopt the view that Leprosy is another instance of disease induced by the presence of a particular microbe or bacillus, as in so many other diseases now the subject of absorbing interest to both the professional and the non-professional public, we may account for most of the facts adduced in support of the various theories; especially if we admit that there is reason to believe that such microbes, or[38] self-propagating infecting agents, vary greatly in the rapidity with which they permeate the body. For all observers allow, that as a rule true leprosy is a disease of very slow development. In the Middle Ages it is certain that the belief in the contagion of the true leprosy was very general, both among physicians and the common people; but it is also true that as medical science advanced, and the diagnosis of disease became more definite and reliable, this opinion lost ground, and was at length abandoned.”

The efforts being made by the “Missions to Lepers in India” cannot be too strongly commended to the benevolently inclined. The Asylums or Lazar Houses at Almora, Dara, and elsewhere, in India, are entirely supported by this society, which has under its care above 100 Lepers, at the cost of only about £6 per annum for each adult.

If I have awakened an interest in this remarkable and unique subject, and at the same time, above all, excited a stronger feeling of sympathy for our brothers and sisters suffering at the present time from the disease—a living death—in various portions of the globe, my humble efforts will not have been in vain.



[a] An obolus = a halfpenny.

[b] Bolted Corn was so-called from it being “boulted” or sifted in a bulter or bolter; this was a special cloth for the purpose of separating the fine flour from the bran, after the manner of a modern sieve. Bread made from un-bolted flour was known as “Tourte bread,” bakers of such were not permitted by law to have a bolter, nor were they allowed to make white bread; nor were bakers of white bread to make “Tourte.” The best kind of white bread was called Simnel, manchet, Pain demaign or payman, so-called from having an impress of our Lord upon it, the next best was the Wastell or Puff, the third and inferior sort was called Cocket or Light bread.

Black bread was known as “All Sorts.”

Bakers might only make certain kinds of bread. A table called the Assize of Bread was set up in every city and town, showing the weight of each kind of loaf according to the law, according as the price of wheat varied from one shilling to twenty shillings per quarter. The weight of the loaves was ‘set’ each year by the Mayors or Bailiffs.

[c] The weight of bread is given as five marks, that is £3 6s. 8d., at one time pounds, shillings, and pence, took the place of our weights—pounds, ounces, and pennyweights, hence these loaves would weigh 3 pounds 6 ounces and 8 pennyweights. The price of bread never varied, but the weight did; contrary to the modern custom.

[d] Mess—a particular number or set who eat together. At the Inns of Court at the present day, a mess consists of four persons.

[e] This rather upsets the theory as to the origin of eating a goose at Michaelmas, connected with Queen Elizabeth and the news of the English victory over the Spanish Armada.

[f] Furmenty or Frumenty was made of new wheat boiled in milk and seasoned with sugar and spices.

[g] Ale, anciently was made of wheat, barley, and honey, the term was then applied exclusively to malt liquor. Hops are supposed to have been introduced into this country in 1524 from Flanders, and the term “Beer” was used to describe liquors brewed with an infusion of hops. The two terms are now generally used synonymously.

[h] The seven Canonical hours of the Church were:—

(1){ Mattins or Nocturns, usually sung between midnight and daybreak.
Lauds, a service at daybreak following closely on and sometimes joined to mattins.
(2) Prime, a later morning service, about six o’clock.
(3) Tierce, a service at nine o’clock.
(4) Sexts, a service at noon.
[40](5) Nones, a service at three in the afternoon.
(6) Vespers, a service at six in the evening.
(7) Compline, a service at eight or nine in the evening, being the last of the seven hours.

These seven offices were condensed in 1519 into two, our present Mattins and Evensong.

[i] A Paternoster is a chaplet of beads.

A Rosary comprises 15 Paternosters and Glorias, and 150 Ave Marias, divided into three parts, each of which contains five decades consisting of one paternoster, ten Ave Marias, and one Gloria, each preceded by the Creed.

[j] Similar Services and Masses for the Dead were sung over Monks and Nuns on retiring from the world to a Monastery or Nunnery. See Manuale ad usum Sarum.

[k] Russet was a coarse cloth of a reddish brown or grey colour, said by Henry de Knyghton c. 1380, to have been introduced into England by the Lollards.

Hall in his “Satires” says, “Russet clothes in the 16th century are indicative of countryfolk.”

The tunic is a very ancient garment, it is found on the sculptures and paintings of Early Egypt; it was in constant use by the Greeks, and was ultimately adopted by the Romans. It was worn in this country, in a variety of forms and lengths until the end of the fifteenth century. (Costumes in England, by Fairholt, ed. by Hon. H. Dillon, Vol. II.)

[l] Royal Mandate, enjoining the exclusion of Leprous persons front the City.

20 Edward III. A.D. 1346. Letter-Book F. fol. cxvi. (Latin.)

Edward, by the grace of God, etc. Forasmuch as we have been given to understand, that many persons, as well of the city aforesaid, as others coming to the said city, being smitten with the blemish of leprosy, do publicly dwell among the other citizens and sound persons, and there continually abide; and do not hesitate to communicate with them, as well in public places as in private; and that some of them, endeavouring to contaminate others with that abominable blemish, (that so, to their own wretched solace, they may have the more fellows in suffering,) as well in the way of mutual communications, and by the contagion of their polluted breath, do so taint persons who are sound, both male and female, to the great injury of the people dwelling in the city, aforesaid, and the manifest peril of other persons to the same city resorting;—We, wishing in every way to provide against the evils and perils which from the cause aforesaid may unto the said city, and the whole of our realm, arise, do command you, strictly enjoining, that immediately on seeing these presents, you will cause it to be publicly proclaimed on our behalf in every Ward of the city aforesaid, and in the suburbs thereof, where you shall deem it expedient, that all persons who have such blemish, shall, within fifteen days from the date of these presents, quit the city and the suburbs aforesaid, on the peril which is thereunto attached, and betake themselves to places in the country, solitary, and notably distant from the said city and suburbs, and take up their dwelling there; seeking their victuals, through such sound persons as may think proper to attend thereto, wheresoever they may deem it expedient. And that no persons shall permit such leprous people to dwell within their houses and buildings in the City, and in the suburbs aforesaid, on pain of forfeiture of their said houses and buildings, and more grievous punishment on them by us to be inflicted, if they shall contravene[41] the same. And further, taking with you certain discreet and lawful men who have the best knowledge of this disease, all those persons, as well as citizens as others, of whatever sex or condition they may be, whom, upon diligent examination in this behalf to be made, within the city and suburbs aforesaid you shall find to be smitten with the aforesaid blemish of leprosy, you are to cause to be removed from the communion of sound citizens and persons without delay, and taken to solitary places in the country, there, as above stated, to abide. And this, as you shall wish to keep yourself scatheless, and to avoid our heavy indignation, you are not to delay doing; and as to that which you shall have done herein, you are distinctly and openly to certify us in our Chancery under your seals, within the fifteen days next ensuing herefrom. Witness myself, at Westminster, the 15th day of March, in the 20th year of our reign in England, and of our reign in France the 7th.”

Proclamation of this writ was made on the Wednesday next after the Feast of St. Gregory the Pope [12 March], in the 20th year aforesaid.

The Porters of the City Gates sworn that they will prevent Lepers from entering the City.

49 Edward III. A.D. 1375. Letter-Book H. fol. xx. (Latin)

William Duerhirst, barbir, porter of Algate, and the several porters of Bisshopesgate, Crepulgate, Aldrichesgate, Neugate, Ludgate, Bridge Gate, and the [1]Postern,—were sworn before the Mayor and Recorder, on the Monday next after the Feast of St. Bartholomew the Apostle [24 August], in the 49th year etc., that they will well and trustily keep the Gates and Postern aforesaid, each in his own office and bailiwick; and will not allow lepers to enter the City, or to stay in the same, or in the suburbs thereof; and if anyone shall bring any leprous person to any such Gate, or to the Postern aforesaid, or if any lepers or leper shall come there, and wish to enter, such persons or person shall be prohibited by the porter from entering; and if, such prohibition notwithstanding, such persons or person shall attempt to enter, then they or he shall be distrained by their or his horses or horse, if they or he shall have any such, and by their outer garment; the which such persons or person are not to have back, without leave of the Mayor, for the time being. And if even then such persons or person shall attempt to enter, they or he shall be attached by their bodies or body, and in safe custody be kept, until as to such persons or person it shall by the Mayor, for the time being, have been otherwise ordained.

And further, the same porters were told, on pain of the pillory, that they must well and trustily observe and keep this Ordinance, as aforesaid.

William Cook, [2]forman at [3]Le Loke, and William Walssheman, forman at Hakeney, were sworn that they will not bring lepers, or know of their being brought, into the City aforesaid; but that they will inform the said porters, and prevent the said lepers from entering, as far as they may.

Memorials of London and London Life, XIII, XIV, and XV centuries, Riley.

In the Liber Albus p. 273, is a regulation that no Leper is to be found in the city, night or day, on pain of imprisonment; alms were, however, to be collected[42] for them on Sundays. Again on p. 590, are further regulations that Jews, Lepers, and Swine are to be driven out of the city.

[1] Near the Tower.

[2] Foreman, or manager.

[3] The Lock, adjacent to Southwark; these were Lazar-houses for Lepers.

[m] See Dr. Lanigan’s Eccles. Hist. of Ireland vol. III. p. 83-88, Dublin 1822, quoted by Dr. Stewart in “Arch. Essays” 1872, ii.

[n] See vol. I. Surtees soc: pp. 37,41.

[o] A Sewer was an Usher. Vide Catholicon Anglicum.

[p] See authorities quoted by Simpson in Arch. Essays, (ed. Stewart) ii. 115.

[q] See p. 179, ii. Arch. Essays, Simpson ed: ed Stewart.

[r] See Rot: Orig: in Curia Scacecrie Abbrev: i. 33, London 1805.

[s] See Dugdale’s Mon: Angl: vi. 687. Cheon Hencia Knyghton, Bod: Lib: ii. cap. 2. quoted by the late Sir J. G. Simpson, Bt. in Arch. Essays, ii.

[t] See Alex. Jenkin’s, H. and Discrip: of the City of Exeter, etc. (1806) p. 384 quoted by Simpson.

[u] Simpson quotes Bellenden’s Transl. of Boece, Chronikles of Scotland, ii. 102, ed. of 1821. Dempter’s Hist. Eccles Gentis Scotorum (1627) p. 278, etc.

[v] See Fuller’s Hist. of the Holy Warre (3rd ed. 1647) p. 94, quoted by Simpson. Notes and Queries 7th S viii. 218.


[y] Notes and Queries 7th S viii. 277.

[z] Notes and Queries 7th S viii. 363.

Leprosy was sometimes called Meselrie and Spiteluvel in the Middle Ages, see Catholicon Anglicum, a Leper, elefancia, missella, mesel. ibid. also Promptorium Parvulorum.



ReadingS. Mary Magdalene. Founded by Auchirius, 2nd Abbot, 1134, for 13 Lepers.
AylesburySS. John & Leonard. Founded by Robert Ilhale and others, temp Henry I. & II. Fell into decay previous to 1360.
High WycombeSS. Giles & Margaret. Founded ante 13 Henry III.
CambridgeSS. Anthony & Eligius. Ante 1397.
StourbridgeS. Mary Magdalene. Suppressed 1497.
BodminS. Laurence, for 19 Lepers.
LauncestonS. Leonard.
LiskeardS. Mary Magdalene.
CarlisleS. Nicholas. Ante 1200, for 13 Lepers.
ChesterfieldS. Leonard. Ante 1195.
DerbyMaison Dieu. Temp Henry II.
"S. Leonard.
LockoS. Mary Magdalene.
ExeterS. Mary Magdalene. In being 1163.
HonitonS. Martin. Founded by Robert Chard, last Abbot of Ford.
PiltonS. Margaret. Exists, though not for Lepers.
PlymouthHoly Trinity & S. Mary Magdalene.
PlymtonS. Mary Magdalene. Founded in Edward II.
TavistockS. Mary Magdalene.
AllingtonS. Mary Magdalene.
Long Blandford 
LymeS. Mary & Holy Spirit. Ante 1336.
Badele, near DarlingtonAnte 1195.
SherburnBlessed Virgin, Lazarus, and his Two Sisters. Still existing. Founded by Hugh Pudsey, Bishop of Durham, 1181, for 65 Lepers.[44]
ColchesterS. Mary Magdalene. Founded by Eudo, Seneschal of Henry I.
IlfordSS. Mary & Erkemould. By Abbess of Barking, c. 1190, for 13 Lepers.
Little MaldonS. Giles.
SouthwealdS. John the Baptist. Still going on as an almshouse.
BristolS. Lawrence.
"S. Mary Magdalene.
"S. John the Baptist. Founded by John Earl of Morton.
GloucesterS. Margaret; or, the Lepers of S. Sepulchre. Ante 1320, for men and women.
S. GeorgeS. Leonard.
Tewkesburyc. John.
SouthamptonS. Mary Magdalene. Founded 1173-4.
HerefordS. Giles.
BaldockTemp Henry III.
BerkhampsteadS. John the Evangelist. For men and women.
HoddesdonSS. Landers & Anthony. Founded 1391.
S. AlbansS. Mary.
"S. John.
"S. Julian. Founded by Geoffrey de Gorham, 16th Abbot of S. Alban’s. Temp Henry I., between 1109 and 1146, for 6 Lepers.
HuntingdonS. Margaret. Founded by Malcolm IV., King of Scotland, who died 1165.
Boughton-under-BleanS. Nicholas.
Buckland-in-DoverS. Bartholomew. Founded 1141.
CanterburyS. Laurence. Founded by Hugh, Abbot of S. Augustine’s in 1137, or ante 1089.
"S. Nicholas.
ChathamS. Bartholomew. Founded by Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester, or by Henry I. Goes on as a hospital. The chapel remains and is still used.
DartfordS. Mary Magdalene. Founded c. 1380.
DartfortHoly Trinity.
DoverS. Bartholomew. Founded c. 1141.[45]
HarbledonS. Nicholas. Founded by Lanfranc in 1084. For men and women. Still used, though not for Lepers.
HytheS. Andrew. Ante 1336.
OlfordTemp Henry III.
Ramsay, OldSS. Stephen and Thomas of Canterbury. Founded by Adam de Charing. Temp Archbishop Baldwin.
RochesterS. Catherine. Founded by Simon Postyn 1316. Still going on, though not for Lepers.
TanningtonS. James. Ante 1189.
LancasterS. Leonard Founded by John White, Earl of Moreton.
Burton LazarsBlessed Virgin and S. Lazarus. Founded chiefly by Roger de Mowbray, temp Stephen.
LeicesterS. Leonard. Founded by William, son of Robert Blanchmains, temp Richard I.
StamfordAnte 1493.
TiltonFounded by Sir Wm. Burdett. Annexed to Burton Lazars temp Henry II.
LincolnHoly Innocents. Founded by Remegius, 1st Bishop, or Henry I. Annexed to Burton Lazars.
BloomsburyS. Giles-in-the-Fields. Founded by Queen Matilda, 1101, for 40 Lepers.
Kingsland (Hackney) 
KnightsbridgeHoly Trinity?
LondonS. James’. Westminster. Founded pre Conquest, for 14 Leprous maids; 8 men added at a later date (site of S. James’ Palace.)
SmithfieldS. John of Jerusalem. Founded by Jordan Bristol and his wife, 1100.
HardwickS. Lawrance.
Little SnoringFounded 1380.
Lynn (6)S. Mary Magdalene. Founded by Peter the Chaplain, 1145, for 1 Prior and 12 brethren; 3 to be Lepers.
 S. Nicholas. Men and women.
 West Lynn[46]
Norwich (6)SS. Mary and Clement. S. Austin’s Gate. (Still existing as the Pest House.)
 S. Mary Magdalene. Founded by Herbert de Lozinga ante 1119.
Without Fibriggate or S. Magdalene Gate.
"Nedham or S. Stephen’s Gate.
"S. Giles’ Gate.
"Westwyk or S. Benet’s Gate.
Racheness-in-SouthacreS. Bartholomew. Ante 1216.
ThetfordS. John. Temp Edward I.
"S. Margaret. C. 1390.
YarmouthOutside North Gate. Ante 1314.
Cotes, near Rockingham.
Cotton FarS. Leonard. Founded by William I.
NorthamptonS. Leonard. Founded by William I. 11th century. Men and women.
PeterboroughS. Leonard. Founded in the reign of Stephen. Ante 1154. Towcester S. Leonard. C. 1200.
BoltonS. Thomas the Martyr or Holy Trinity. Founded by Robert de Ross of Hamlake. Ante 1225, for 13 Lepers.
HexhamS. Giles. C. 1210.
Newcastle-on-TyneS. Mary Magdalene.
BlytheS. John the Evangelist. Founded by William de Cressy.
NottinghamS. John.
"S. Leonard.
BanburyS. John. Temp John.
OxfordS. Bartholomew. Founded by Henry I. Temp Henry I. Ante 1200, for 12 Lepers.
S. Clement’sS. Bartholomew.
BridgenorthS. James.
ShrewsburyS. Giles. Founded by Henry II. Men and women.
BridgewaterS. Giles.
LangportS. Mary Magdalene. Ante 1310.
StaffordS. Leonard.
"Henry II.
BecclesS. Mary Magdalene. C. 1327.
Bury S. EdmundsS. Peter. C. 1327.
DunwichMaison Dieu. (Chancel of Church remains.)
"S. James. Ante 1199.
EyeS. Mary Magdalene. C. 1330.
GorlestonExisting 1372.
IpswichS. James. Temp John.
"S. Mary Magdalene.
SudburyS. Leonard. Founded by John Colnays.
"S. Lazars. Founded by Amicia, Countess of Clare. Temp John.
NewingtonBlessed Mary and S. Catharine.
ArundelFounded by Henry of Arundel. Temp Edward II.
BeddingtonS. Mary Magdalene.
ChichesterSS. John & Mary Magdalene. Temp Richard I.
HertingS. John the Baptist. Ante 1199.
ShorehamS. James?
CoventryS. James.
"S. John.
WarwickS. Michael. Founded c. Henry I. or Stephen.
ApplebyS. Leonard.
"S. Nicholas.
Kirby-in-KendalS. Leonard.
KirkbyBy Henry II.
DevizesFounded ante 1207.
CrickladeS. John the Baptist.
FugglestonSS. Giles and Anthony. Founded by Adelicia, 2nd Queen of Henry I., for men and women.
Maiden BradleyBlessed Virgin. Founded by Manasseh Biset. Temp Stephen or Henry II., c. 1154, for “pore Lepers and women.”
MarlboroughS. John? For Lepers.
WiltonS. John. Founded 1217.
"S. Giles. Founded by Alicia or Adelicia, 2nd Queen of Henry I. 1217.[48]
DroitwichFounded by William de Donére. Edward I.
BawtryS. Mary Magdalene. Founded by Robert Moreton, 1316.
BeverleyS. Nicholas (without Keldgate Bar). Ante 1286.
"" (without North Bar).
BroughS. Giles. Founded by Henry Fitz-Randolph of Ravenswood. Temp Henry III. ? For Lepers.
DoncasterS. James. Founded by Manasseh Biset, c. 1154. For women.
DoncasterS. Nicholas.
HedonHoly Sepulchre. Founded by Alan Fitz-Oubern, for men and women.
HullMaison Dieu?
Hutton Locras, or LowcrossS. Leonard. Founded by William de Bernaldby.
PontefractS. Mary Magdalene. Temp Henry III.
OtleyTemp Henry II., or Edward II.
RiponS. John. Founded by William I. 1068.
"S. Mary Magdalene. Archbishop Thurstan, 1139. Some parts, including chapel with its altar in situ, are left.
"S. Nicholas. Maude the Empress.
SheffieldS. Leonard.
WhitbyS. John the Baptist. Founded by Abbot William de Percy, 1109. For one Leper[A].
YarmS. Nicholas. Founded by Robert de Brus, c. 1180.
York (4)S. Mary Magdalene.
"S. Nicholas. Early c. 1110. For men and women.
"S. Oswald. Founded by Bishop Oswald, 1268.

This is not a complete list of all the Lazar Houses once existing in England, but has been hurriedly compiled from Dugdale’s Mon. Ang. vol. vi.; Lewis’ Top. Dic. of England; Promptorium Parvulorum; Historic Towns—Exeter, by Professor Freeman, and other sources.

[A] Who gave to it the wood and thorny ground adjacent to the spot. The building being for the habitation of one Leper only, one Orme being the first, was necessarily small. Orme was supplied with his provisions daily from the Abbey. After him Geoffrey Mansell, a Leprous monk of Whitby also lived here in solitude. On his death the hospital ceased to be used as a Lazar House, and was enlarged for the reception of several poor people both healthy and sick, Robert de Alnett being appointed master of it.


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