Part of the Hospital of St Mary Magdalene, Magdalene Street


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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

Mendip (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
ST 49885 38659

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.

The hospital or infirmary of St Mary Magdalene survives well with its original ground plan nearly intact and its chapel, although repaired in later periods, surviving and incorporating medieval masonry. The monument serves to illustrate the way in which the lay poor and sick were aided by the Church in the medieval period and the way in which a continuity of use was found by the conversion of the building to almshouses following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. The monument will retain archaeological information which will illustrate the design and purpose of medieval hospitals and late medieval almshouses.


The monument includes below ground remains relating to the Hospital of St Mary Magdalene, and the foundations of a row of medieval almshouses, now removed. Both the chapel and the standing almshouses present on the site are Listed Grade II*. The site is located opposite the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey on the west side of the road behind Number 38 Magdalene Street. The monument was formerly part of a single building known as the Hospital of St Mary Magdalene, the design of which is believed to be the same as that of the surviving medieval hospital of St Mary at Chichester. This building comprised an infirmary hall with an attached chapel. Founded by the Abbots of Glastonbury to house `ten poor men', the hospital stood outside, and to the west of the abbey's precinct wall. Documentary records show that this foundation had taken place by 1322. The chapel, which stood at the eastern end of the infirmary building and once opened out onto it, comprises a single room almost square in shape and mostly of 15th century date with a single blocked lancet window in the east wall, a pointed west arch, and a bellcote which may be later in date. St Margaret is depicted in the bellcote and it is she to whom the chapel was later dedicated. The hall itself was flanked with cubicles on either side of a central passageway leading to the chapel at its eastern end, and an entrance to the west. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539 the roof of the infirmary hall was removed leaving the chapel isolated. The remaining shell of the building was left standing, including the medieval western entrance arch and gable which still stood at the beginning of the 21st century. Built within the shell of the building during the 16th century were two rows of almshouses each of five cells flanking the original central passageway. This arrangement for almshouses was common in the Middle Ages and in this case mirrored the infirmary arrangement of the earlier building. All of the ten houses were provided with chimneys but by the 19th century a certain amount of conversion took place which reduced the number of separate dwellings; one was converted into a communal wash house. In 1958 the southern row of almshouses was demolished although its footings still survive. The northern row still stands and in 2002 it comprised five individual but near-identical houses with two of the external doorways blocked; the flooring of the upper floors had been removed and some connecting doorways inserted between the cells. The standing building of the chapel of St Margaret, which is a place of regular worship, and the standing row of former almshouses are excluded from the scheduling, although the foundations of the chapel and medieval almshouses and the ground beneath the buildings is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Aston, M, Leech, R, Historic Towns in Somerset, (1977), 61


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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