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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This copy shows the entry on 20-Oct-2019 at 05:05:10.
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
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