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Sherburn Hospital, chapel f.70

Sherburn Hospital was founded to the east of Durham city by Bishop Hugh le Puiset in 1181. The hospital housed sixty-five lepers, both men and women. By the 15th century, leprosy – as term then used to cover a number of skin diseases – was clearly becoming more rare: a constitution of 1434 refers to the care of only two lepers “if they can be found” in addition to thirteen poor men.

The institution has survived a long and chequered history, characteristic of such ancient establishments, including periods of mismanagement and the fortuitous loss of legal documents. This south-west view shows the medieval Master’s House, an embattled tower-like block that survived until 1832 when it was replaced by the present plain Georgian-style building. On the left is the chapel. The chapel, dating back to the 12th century, had a troubled time during the 19th century. A north aisle was added as part of its refurbishment in 1836. Less than a year later, the master banked up the fire on a Saturday night to warm the chapel for the service next morning. A heating flue became blocked and the wooden panelling caught fire in the early hours. The building was gutted and five years passed before repairs could be carried out.

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