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The gateway of St Nicholas's Hospital and St Nicholas's Farmhouse

A Grade II Listed Building in Canterbury, Kent

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.2831 / 51°16'59"N

Longitude: 1.0534 / 1°3'12"E

OS Eastings: 613031

OS Northings: 158199

OS Grid: TR130581

Mapcode National: GBR TY1.H4Z

Mapcode Global: VHLGM.60RQ

Entry Name: The gateway of St Nicholas's Hospital and St Nicholas's Farmhouse

Listing Date: 29 September 1952

Last Amended: 6 June 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1085633

English Heritage Legacy ID: 171165

Location: Harbledown and Rough Common, Canterbury, Kent, CT2

County: Kent

District: Canterbury

Civil Parish: Harbledown and Rough Common

Built-Up Area: Canterbury

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

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Summary

Farmhouse, originally a chantry house; C16 or earlier, remodelled in 1685.

Description

Farmhouse, originally chantry house; C16 or earlier, remodelled in 1685.

MATERIALS: timber-framed building, partly rebuilt in brick, with plaster and brick infill and some tile-hanging; tiled roof.

EXTERIOR: the gateway is at the south-east end of the range and consists of a pedestrian archway on the ground floor, flanked by heavy timber posts with a half-hipped gable over containing an attic window. This gable is plastered on the north-east front and tile-hung on the south-west, both oversailing on a bressumer. The farmhouse, originally the chantry house, has some exposed timber framing with plaster and red-brick infill. The south front, of two storeys with three casement windows, is tile-hung. The north-east front has been mainly rebuilt in red brick and has a stone inscribed "WPO 1685" - the date the rest of the hospital was rebuilt.

INTERIOR: not inspected.

History

The site is that of a leper hospital, probably the first in England, founded c.1084 by Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury 1070-89, and in operation until the end of the C14. Henry II visited St Nicholas's on his penitential journey to Canterbury in 1174, when he donated to the leprous brethren and submitted to a flogging. After c.1400 the hospital became an almshouse for the poor. The present building is believed to have originated as a chantry house, providing accommodation for priests employed to say Mass for the souls of benefactors and their families. The hospital was recorded to have had sixty places for poor men and women in 1562; it was reconstituted in 1565, and the domestic quarters were rebuilt in 1685 and again in 1840. It is still an almshouse today, for retired people.

At least 350 religious houses and hospitals for the care of lepers (known as leper or lazar houses) were established In England between the close of the C11 and 1350. Many have disappeared, destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s or simply decayed. Some remain, however – including this one, the oldest; St Mary Magdalen at Stourbridge near Cambridge; St Mary Magdalen in Sprowston, Norwich; and the hospital of St Mary the Virgin, IIford. Others survive as ruins or archaeological sites.

Leprosy, known today as Hansen's disease, had entered England by the C4 and was endemic by 1050. Leper houses were usually built on the edge of towns and cities or, if they were in rural areas, near to crossroads or major travel routes – such as this one, on the Canterbury-London road. They needed to retain contact with society to beg alms, trade and offer services such as prayers for the souls of benefactors. There was high demand for places and 'leprous brothers and sisters' were often accepted fully into the monastic order of the house. Most houses had their own chapel and rituals for prayer and singing went on throughout the day.

Many lepers retained contact with their family and friends, being allowed to make visits home and to receive visitors. Attitudes began to change in the C14, particularly after the horrors of the Black Death (1347-1350), as fear of contagion led to greater restriction and isolation. However by this time leprosy was in retreat – possibly due to greater immunity in the population – and many houses fell into disuse or were put to new uses, often becoming almshouses for the sick and disabled poor.

Reasons for Listing

The gateway of St Nicholas's Hospital and St Nicholas's Farmhouse, a building of the C16 or earlier remodelled in 1685, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: a former chantry house belonging to St Nicholas's Hospital, England's earliest leper hospital founded by Archbishop Lanfranc c.1084;
* Architectural interest: a timber-framed building retaining substantial early fabric and evidence of a dated late-C17 remodelling;
* Group value: with the other listed structures belonging to St Nicholas's Hospital.

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