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Huge archaeological dig resumes on former lepper hospital near Winchester
THE secrets of one of the country’s first hospitals are again being slowly revealed in Hampshire.
For the fourth year archaeologists have opened up the remains of the leper hospital in a field just outside Winchester.
Students from Winchester University as well as scholars from the Netherlands and Germany are delving among the remains of the St Mary Magdalen Hospital that stood on the site off Alresford Road from the mid-13th century until its ruins were swept away in the late 18th century.
Nothing survives above ground.
Dr Simon Roffey, senior lecturer at the university, said the site is an unusually complete hospital with an infirmary, chapel and cemetery.
The dig gives a rare opportunity to research what are little-known institutions and gain insights into the lives of the leprosy sufferers and the people who cared for them.
The excavations are showing that the patients were well cared for. The Victorian historians’ view that lepers have always been outcasts may be wrong.
Dr Roffey said: “The building was well-constructed and well-appointed and the chapel was richly decorated.
We are starting to believe that in the 12th and 13th centuries lepers weren’t such outcasts and Victorian scholars have created a myth.”
The fear of lepers developed later in the Middle Ages, suggests Dr Roffey.
An open day is being held this Saturday from 10am to 3pm. Rather than park in the field, visitors are invited to use a minibus service that will leave hourly from the university reception on Sparkford Road.
The five-year archaeological project is due to end in 2012, although there is a chance it may carry on, said Dr Roffey.
This year’s dig is due to finish on September 16.
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