Topics > Healthcare > Infectious Diseases > Leprosy and medieval leper colonies in Northern England

Leprosy and medieval leper colonies in Northern England


Leprosy (now known as Hansen's disease), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis which can lead to damage of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. The nerve damage can result in a lack of ability to feel pain, potentially leading to the loss of parts of a person's extremities from repeated injuries or infection. The disease is pread by contact and is associated with povery. Effective treatments and control have seen the number of cases significantly reduced. In 2018, there were 209,000 leprosy cases world-wide, down from 5.2 million in the 1980s. Most new cases occur in 14 countries.[1]

Leprosy in Medieval England

Click for image detailsThere was a rise in leprosy in Europe during the Middle Ages, it had entered England by the 4th century and was a regular feature of life by the 11th century. At that time the social perception of leprosy often one of fear, and people infected with the disease were thought to be 'unclean' or morally corrupt. However, beliefs about the disease were complicated. Some believed leprosy was a punishment for sin, but others saw the suffering of lepers as similar to the suffering of Christ, bringing them closer to God than other people. Care in religious leper hospitals focussed as much on spiritual needs as on the physical symtoms of the disease.[2]

Leper colonies segregated sufferes from mainstream society and people with leprosy were often required to wear clothing that identified them as lepers, or carry a bell to warn of their presence. Many leper or 'lazar' houses were established in England between the 11th and 14th centuries. Thes were often located on the edge of towns or near crossroads or major travel routes (lepers would beg alms, trade, and pray for the souls of benefactors). Leper hospitals were established by religius orders.

Some medieval churches had a leper's squint (aka 'leper windows' or lychnoscopes), a small window or opening, through which lepers could view the service from a distance.

Infectious Diseases Sherburn House, 1848 Friarside Chapel, nr Burnopfield Witton Gilbert Parish, 1848 St. Leonard's Hospital Harehope Hutton Lowcross, 1848 Bolton
from https://commons.wikimedia.o...
14th century painting - Two lepers are denied entry into the city. One has crutches; the other is wearing Lazarus dress, handbag and rattle, to announce his coming.
- Two lepers are denied entry into the city. One has crutches; the other is wearing Lazarus dress, handbag and rattle, to announce his coming. 14th century painting, Vinzenz von Beauvais ...

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from https://commons.wikimedia.o...
Medieval leper bell at the museum Ribes Vikinger, Ribe, Denmark
- Public Domain image c/o Wikimedia Commons

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from https://historicengland.org...
The Time of Leprosy: 11th Century to 14th Century
- "....Leprosy had entered England by the 4th century and was a regular feature of life by 1050. Known today as Hansen's disease, in its extreme form it could cause ...

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from Youtube (youtube)
Disability History: The time of leprosy - 11th-14th century

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Harehope
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Harehope
- Overview Map Street View Harehope is a hamlet in Northumberland located about 7 miles north-west of Alnwick, and just under a mile north-west of the village of Eglingham. Today the settlement ...
from http://www.keystothepast.in...
St John the Baptist's Leper Hospital (Adderstone with Lucker)
- "A leper hospital was founded at Warenford before 1253. However, by 1399 it was deserted and had become a hermitage. It is thought the hospital was dedicated to St John ...

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from http://www.keystothepast.in...
Harehope leper hospital
- "Burton Lazars is the site of a medieval leper hospital. It was founded before 1230 and dissolved before 1350, possibly coinciding with the onset of the Black Death in 1348 ...

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from Geograph (geograph)
St. Cuthbert's Church, Beltingham - grated squint

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St. Peter's Church, Kirkbampton - lepers' squint and aumbry

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from Geograph (geograph)
Sherburn Hospital, Sherburn House, Durham

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from http://www.keystothepast.in...
Warenford shrunken village (Adderstone with Lucker)
- "The village of Warenford has been settled since medieval times. There are documentary references from 1296 onwards which show that as well as dwellings the medieval village contained a leper ...

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St. Leonard's Hospital
- St. Leonard’s Hospital was built during the 13th Century and the earliest documentary evidence is an assize roll of 1293 which mentions “the bridge of the hospital of Saint Leonard”. ...
from http://www.keystothepast.in...
Friarside Hospice and Chapel (Burnopfield)
- "This is the site of a medieval leper hospital. It was founded in 1312, but was gone by the fifteenth century. The remains of the hospital chapel can still be ...

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Hutton Lowcross, 1848
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Hutton Lowcross, 1848
- HUTTON-LOCRAS, a township, in the parish and union of Guisborough, E. division of the liberty of Langbaurgh, N. riding of York, 1½ mile (S.W. by S.) from Guisborough; containing 57 ...
Friarside Chapel, nr Burnopfield
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Friarside Chapel, nr Burnopfield
- Overview Map High Friarside Hospice was a Medieval leper hospital, located just south of the River Derwent, north of Burnopfield and south of Rowlands Gill, in County Durham. The hospital was founded ...
Witton Gilbert Parish, 1848
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Witton Gilbert Parish, 1848
- Extract from: A Topographical Dictionary of England comprising the several counties, cities, boroughs, corporate and market towns, parishes, and townships..... 7th Edition, by Samuel Lewis, London, 1848. WITTON-GILBERT (St. Michael), ...
Bolton
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Bolton
- BOLTON, a chapelry, in the parish of Edlingham, union of Alnwick, N. division of Coquetdale ward and of Northumberland, 6½ miles (W.) from Alnwick; containing 128 inhabitants. It is memorable ...
Sherburn House, 1848
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Sherburn House, 1848
- SHERBURN HOUSE or HOSPITAL, an extraparochial liberty, in the S. division of Easington ward, union, and N. division of the county, of Durham, 2½ miles (E. by S.) from Durham; ...
from https://sitelines.newcastle...
Tyne and Wear HER(522): Ryton, leper hospital
- "This entry is based on a single documentary reference supposedly to a leper hospital in Ryton, founded before 1242. Its exact location and date of dissolution are unknown...."

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Church windows+

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from https://ora.ox.ac.uk/object...
HAREHOPE HOSPITAL AND THE ARRIVAL OF THE ORDER OF ST LAZARUS IN ENGLAND
- Paper by David X. Carpenter, Oxford University, December 2016. "The Knights of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, though less well known than the Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller, developed a ...

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from https://commons.wikimedia.o...
Clerics with leprosy receiving instruction from a bishop
- A bishop instructing clerics suffering from leprosy from Omne Bonum by 14th-century clerk James le Palmer (British Library, MS Royal 6 E VI, vol. 2, fol. 301ra). Medieval depictions of ...

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from https://en.wikipedia.org/wi...
Leprosy
- "Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease (HD), is a long-term infection by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Infection can lead to damage of the nerves, respiratory tract ...

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from https://wellcomecollection....
Elephantiasis graecorum, True Leprosy. Chromolithograph.
- Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) 'Elephantiasis Graecorum, true leprosy or Hansen's disease is a chronic bacterial infection. It is caused by the bacteria ...

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from https://wellcomecollection....
13 year old girl with leprosy.
- 13 year old girl with leprosy. From the title "Om spedalskhed ... Atlas / udgivet efter foranstaltning of den Kongelige Norske Regjerings Department for det Indre. Tegningerne udförte af J.L. Losting ...

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from Youtube (youtube)
The Stigma of Leprosy in Medieval Europe

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from Youtube (youtube)
On leprosy (1987)

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from Youtube (youtube)
GCSE History: Hospitals in the Middle Ages

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