St Giles Leper Hospital

A leper hospital once stood on Spital Road near the centre of Maldon. The remains of St Giles Hospital are thought to be what was once the hospital’s chapel and can be visited by special arrangement with Maldon Council. One of ten such hospitals that originally existed in Essex, it’s the only one with anything left to see.

Entrance gate on Spital Road across from St Giles Crescent; if the gate is locked you can see through the hedge along the adjacent footpath
Entrance gate on Spital Road across from St Giles Crescent; if the gate is locked you can see through the hedge along the adjacent footpath

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It’s thought that the hospital was founded in 1164 with a grant from Henry II. It was designed to keep sufferers isolated from their community so that the disease would not spread. Leprosy was at those times a common disease throughout England and Maldon was no exception. In 1481, it was granted to Beeleigh Abbey by Edward IV but was closed with the dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII. The buildings found a new use as part of the barns at Spital Farm. These in turn fell into disrepair before being pulled down in 1913 to reveal the ruins of the hospital that had been hidden underneath. Restoration was completed by 1927.

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Nearby lie the remains of an early 20th century home also used for treating leprosy sufferers. Also named after St Giles, it was run as a charity by monks and nuns from the Franciscan Order between 1914 and 1947 on a site at Moor Hall Lane in Bicknacre. The bungalows that were built weren’t anything special architecturally, but the establishment of a 20th century leper hospital is thought to be unique and thus the site has significant historical importance.

There may also be a “leper stone” in the north of the county by the roadside in the village of Newport. A sarsen stone with an indentation in the top was supposedly the place where people would leave money or food for lepers being treated at the nearby St Mary and St Leonard Hospital. The jury’s out on this one as there’s no written evidence of that hospital being a leper facility. Human remains have been found nearby, thought to be those of patients at the hospital, but there was no sign of leprosy in their bones.

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