A Lazar House in Thrapston
Lost in the mists of time, it wasn’t until the forest records became available at the Public Records Office during the late 19th century that local historians realised that a lazar-house (leper hospital) had been established in Thrapston.
Recent archaeological research now suggests that it may have been situated alongside the River Nene, a few hundred yards south of the Nine Arches Bridge.
St James’ Church Thrapston
It is thought that a window in the church that was replaced in the 14th century by a placque was once a “leper” window.
Old Norman Forest Law
Historians knew that part of the old Norman forest law required an inquest to be held on any unauthorized slain deer or venison that might be found.
Similarly they knew that the flesh also had to be sent to the nearest hospital for lepers. The fact that legislation had been enacted suggests that the disease was common and that there were a significant number of lazar-houses around the country.
1246, After Epiphany
The account we have found tells us about the local connection with Thrapston:
Sunday morning after Epiphany, in the year 1246
Three men were spotted by forest officials carrying a sack and were thought to be poachers. The men ran away leaving the sack which contained a doe and a snare. An inquest was held the next day at Sudborough, the nearest village, and outcome was recorded as ‘that the flesh of the doe was to be given to the lepers of the Hospital of St. Leonard, Thrapston.
(Source reference: Victoria County History – Northamptonshire)
1. Leprosy sufferers (lepers) had to wear special clothing and ring bells to warn others that they were close.