Bolton leper hospital


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008838

Date first listed: 29-Oct-1975

Date of most recent amendment: 22-Nov-1994


Ordnance survey map of Bolton leper hospital
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This copy shows the entry on 16-Dec-2018 at 18:34:41.


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

District: Northumberland (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Hedgeley

National Grid Reference: NU 10632 13948


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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 are nationally important. A small number of hospitals were established solely for the treatment of leprosy. These leper houses differ from other hospitals in that they were specifically located and arranged to deal with contagious disease. Their main aim was to provide the sufferer with permanent isolation from society. In contrast to other hospitals they were normally located away from population foci.

Despite the fact that the leper hospital at Bolton has been partially levelled and obscured by medieval cultivation, substantial and significant archaeological deposits survive. This monument is of particular importance as it is well documented and is a rare survival of a medieval hospital in Northumberland.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The remains of Bolton leper hospital are situated on an area of raised, dry land surrounded on all sides by marshy ground. The exact layout of the hospital buildings, which include a detached chapel, a group of individual cells for inmates, a well and a perimeter wall and drainage ditch are difficult to determine precisely as the remains are grassed over and parts of the monument have been levelled and obscured by later rig and furrow cultivation. The main area of above-ground remains lies in the north west corner of the monument where the lower courses of masonry walls are visible. They appear as grassy mounds on average 2m high which conceal the sites of hospital buildings; the exact nature and function of these buildings is not yet fully understood. On one mound there is a stone trough 0.7m square and 0.1m deep with a hole in the bottom 0.15m square; the purpose of this feature is, as yet, unknown. An aerial photograph taken in 1989 shows more detail and at least one small rectangular building platform is visible with an entrance in its south wall. Across the rest of the hospital site the remains of stone walls and building foundations are visible where the later medieval cultivation earthworks either cut through them or swing to avoid them; further remains will survive beneath the cultivation rigs. The northern boundary of the monument is marked by a broad ditch 7m wide and 1.5m deep below the top of a low bank on its outside. This is interpreted as the perimeter wall and drainage ditch of the hospital and traces of it can be detected on other sides. The hospital at Bolton was founded as a religious institution in AD 1225 for a master, three chaplains and 13 leper brethren, and for the relief of the poor and strangers. It was dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr and was under the supervision of the Yorkshire monasteries of Kirkham and Rievaulx.The brethren were under a religious rule. Licence to build a chapel was granted during the Priorate of Ralph Kerneth (1216-1233). In 1335/6 licence to crenellate (fortify) the "dwelling place of Boulton Hospital" was granted. Lepers do not appear to be mentioned after c.1338 and then it seems to have become more like a monastery. The hospital was dissolved c.1547. In 1575 the site of the hospital with a garden, about 6 acres of meadow and a croft were granted to John Sonkye and Percival Gunson.

The fence line which crosses the southern edge of the area is excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath it is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


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

Legacy System number: 21048

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Knowles, , Haddock, , Medieval Religious Houses: England and Wales, (1953), 256
Rigold, S E, 'Archaeol Cantiana 79' in Two Kentish Hospitals Re-examined, (1964), 31-69
Gates, T, NU 1014 K, (1989)

End of official listing