Hospital of St John the Baptist


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Canterbury (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
TR 15182 58350


The Hospital of St John the Baptist 160m WSW of Northgate House.

Reasons for Designation

A medieval hospital is a group of buildings housing a religious or secular institution which provided spiritual and medical care. The idea for such institutions originated in the Anglo-Saxon period although the first definite foundations were created by Anglo-Norman bishops and queens in the 11th century. Documentary sources indicate that by the mid 16th century there were around 800 hospitals. A further 300 are also thought to have existed but had fallen out of use by this date. Half of the hospitals were suppressed by 1539 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Some smaller institutions survived until 1547 when they were dissolved by Edward VI. Many of these smaller hospitals survived as almshouses, some up to the present day. Despite the large number of hospitals known from documentary sources to have existed, generally only the larger religious ones have been exactly located. Few hospitals retain upstanding remains and very few have been examined by excavation. In view of these factors all positively identified hospitals retaining significant medieval remains will be identified as nationally important.

Despite some disturbance and damage in the past, the Hospital of St John the Baptist at Canterbury is an early example of its type which survives well. It contains a significant amount of medieval upstanding remains including some well-preserved details such as the Norman round-headed doorway and window of the dormitory. Documentary sources indicate that the hospital had a considerable influence upon, and made a valuable contribution to, the surrounding community. It is thought to be the oldest surviving hospital in England. Some of the later almshouses are still in use continuing the function of the hospital to the present day. A large part of the site has not been excavated and holds potential for archaeological investigation. It will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the construction, use and history of the hospital.


See Details.


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

The monument includes a medieval hospital surviving as upstanding and below-ground remains. It is situated between St John’s Place and Northgate, south of the River Great Stour in Canterbury.

The hospital largely survives as buried foundations but the north-east end of the dormitory block, part of the chapel, the north reredorter, and a fragment of the south reredorter, are still upstanding. Furthermore upstanding remains of the refectory hall and kitchen are incorporated into a later 19th century building.

The hospital is T-shaped in plan with a double dormitory block, about 61m long, attached to a double chapel at a right angle. The dormitory is a rectangular building orientated north-east to south-west. The double nature of the hospital buildings reflect the original 11th century foundation for 30 men and 30 women. Extending south-east from broadly the centre of the dormitory range is the chapel, although only part of the south aisle is upstanding. To the north-west of each half of the dormitory block are two reredorters. These both have a central doorway in the south-east wall, which aligns with cross-passages through each half of the dormitory.

The upstanding remains of the north-east end of the dormitory block are built of courses of flint and sandstone with Caen stone dressings. It has been roofless since 1684 but the walls stand nearly to roof height. At the east corner is a spiral staircase but it no longer contains the treads. The south-east wall contains a round-headed arched doorway and a round-headed window. The walls also contain joists for a first floor hall. Externally there is a timber lintel on Caen stone jambs, surmounted by a plain tympanum and a semi-circular arch. The upstanding remains of the existing hospital chapel include three bays of the original six bay nave, restored in the 19th century. This chapel building is still in use and is completely excluded from the scheduling. The northern reredorter is a rectangular building constructed of flint with Caen stone quoins. Below the building is a large cess pit and on the north-west side are five round-headed ventilation arches. The main floor was supported on tie-beams above the cess pit and is originally thought to have contained 30 seats. It is lit by five rectangular windows with splayed jambs. Several contain the original timber lintels. Part of the south-east wall of the southern reredorter also survives. This building is thought to have been of similar dimensions to the northern reredorter. The refectory hall and kitchen are incorporated into a restored 19th century building which includes 12th century and 16th century features. It is built of flint with reused masonry and is three storeys high. The roof is of alternate bands of tiles and fishscale tiles. Attached to the south wall is a septagonal turret with blocked slit windows. The building also contains a 12th century arched doorway and a 16th century fireplace.

The Hospital of St John the Baptist was founded by Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury (1070-89), in about 1085 for the poor and infirm. It was part of a twin foundation together with the Hospital of St Nicholas, a leper hospital founded at the church of St Nicholas, Harbledown. St John’s Hospital was sited outside the north gate of the medieval walled city. The hospital precinct is thought to have formed a rectangular plot now broadly bounded by Northgate to the south-east, the River Great-Stour to the north-west, St John’s Place to the south-west and St Elisabeth House to the north-east. The hospital survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries and is recorded in 1674 as accommodating 18 Brothers and 20 Sisters. A large number of the buildings were pulled down in about 1682 and 1744. Several later almshouses attached to the hospital are still in use. It is thought to be the oldest hospital in England.

Partial excavation was carried out on the site in 1984-5, 1990, 1992 and 1996, and identified evidence of Roman occupation, part of the hospital dormitory wall and remains of late medieval properties.

The upstanding remains of the hospital dormitory and No.6 St John’s Hospital are Grade II listed. The refectory hall and kitchen to St John’s Hospital and the chapel are Grade II* listed.

Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity of this site but are not included because they have not been formally assessed.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
KE 382
Legacy System:


Kent Archaeological Society, ‘St John’s Hospital Some Monumental Inscriptions of St John’s Hospital noted by Rev. Bryan Faussett in 1758, accessed 18 May 2010 from
Page, W (ed), 'Hospitals: Hospitals in and around Canterbury', A History of the County of Kent: Volume 2 (1926), 209-216, accessed 18 May 2010 from
Kent HER TR 15 NE 4. NMR TR 15 NE 4. PastScape 464346. LBS 439945, 439946, 439947.
Tatton-Brown, T, ‘The Beginnings of St Gregory’s Priory and St John’s Hospital in Canterbury, In Eales, R and Sharpe, R (eds), Canterbury and the Norman Conquest: Churches, Saints and Scholars 1066-1109 (1995), 41-52


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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