Archaeologists uncover Britain's earliest known hospital

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Archaeologists from the University of Winchester in Hampshire, England have discovered what they believe to be the earliest known hospital in the United Kingdom. Burials at the former leprosy hospital in England's former capital city have been radio carbon dated and are estimated to be from AD 960–1030. Several buildings have been excavated on the site along with the foundations of other structures. Other artifacts were also found on the site.

Prior to this discovery the earliest hospitals in the country were believed to date from the Norman Conquest, which took place in AD 1066. A leading researcher on medieval hospitals, Prof Nicholas Orme, said that the only other evidence for hospital activity prior to 1066 was within the context of monasteries or minsters. The earliest known hospital in England before this discovery was at Harbledown in Canterbury, founded in the 1070's.

The Winchester dig has been taking place in Hospital Field, the location of the former St. Mary Magdalen Hospital which was believed to have been established in AD 1170. The site has subsequently been used as a prison for Dutch prisoners in the 17th century and during the First World War as an army base.