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Piece of wall belonging to the original St Nicholas's Hospital

A Grade II Listed Building in Harbledown and Rough Common, Kent

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Latitude: 51.2828 / 51°16'57"N

Longitude: 1.0535 / 1°3'12"E

OS Eastings: 613035

OS Northings: 158164

OS Grid: TR130581

Mapcode National: GBR TY1.H53

Mapcode Global: VHLGM.60SY

Entry Name: Piece of wall belonging to the original St Nicholas's Hospital

Listing Date: 14 March 1980

Last Amended: 6 June 2014

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1336556

English Heritage Legacy ID: 171164

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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Stone wall, possibly late C11.


Stone wall, possibly late C11, of ragstone rubble with later red-brick infilling.


This fragment of wall is all that remains of the domestic buildings of St Nicholas's Hospital – 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. After c.1400 the hospital became an almshouse for the poor; it was recorded to have had sixty places for poor men and women in 1562. The foundation was reconstituted in 1565, and the domestic ranges 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

This piece of medieval wall at St Nicholas's Hospital is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: part of the original St Nicholas's Hospital, England's earliest leper hospital founded by Archbishop Lanfranc c.1084;
* Early date: a well-preserved section of medieval stone walling, possibly of late-C11 date;
* Group value: with the other listed structures belonging to St Nicholas's Hospital.

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