Public invited to explore medieval hospital in Winchester


The University of Winchester is holding an Archaeology Open Day for the general public this Saturday (11 September) to view the excavations at the site of a former medieval hospital.

Known by locals as Hospital Field, St Mary Magdalen Hospital is situated about a mile outside the city’s boundaries on the Alresford Road, on the east side of Winchester. The Open Day will give visitors a chance to see current excavation work and view the remains, as well as some of the artefacts unearthed from the last 900 years.

“Every year the University runs a major research and training excavation as part of its ongoing programme of research and practical training,” explained Project Director, Dr Simon Roffey from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Winchester. “In the past, excavations of this twelfth century site have identified the existence of several features including a chapel, infirmary and cemeteries. Aspects from the post-medieval period have also been identified, including the remains of late Tudor almshouses and a First World War base.”

Excavations this year focus on the area of the medieval infirmary, chapel, and associated buildings as well as a First World War theatre and cinema. The cinema provided a source of entertainment for British troops as well as other nations including America, India, Canada, Australia and New Zealand before they left for the battlefields of France and Belgium.

The Open Day runs on 11 September from 10am until 4pm. Regular transport runs to and from the site and the University of Winchester, leaving on the hour from the University Main Reception at the King Alfred Campus on Sparkford Road, with the last bus at 3pm. Parking is a problem at the site so visitors are recommended to take advantage of the pre-arranged transport.

The Magdalen Hill Archaeological Research Project was started in 2007 by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Winchester. Their work builds upon research done by the television show Time Team, which was filmed seven years earlier. The archaeologists located the existence of several structures, which have been identified as the former chapel, almshouse range, master’s lodge and gatehouse, as well as other ancillary structures.

According to the project website, “The first documented use of the site of St Mary Magdalen’s hospital in Winchester was as a leper hospital sometime in the mid-twelfth century. By the fourteenth century the hospital was reformed and partly rebuilt. By the late sixteenth century the masonry hospital was largely demolished to make way for brick-built almshouses (although the medieval chapel survived). These were later used as a base for troops during the Civil War and a prison for Dutch prisoners in the wars of 1660/70. The buildings were ruinous and by the 1780s were demolished by order of the Bishop of Winchester. The site was later used for one of Hampshire’s largest First World War Bases. Today nothing survives above ground.”

Archaeological work continues on the site, and the university also uses it as a training ground for undergraduate and graduate students interested in archaeology.

Click here to go to the Magdalen Hill Archaeological Research Project website

Click here to view the Time Team episode on the St Mary Magdalen Hospital dig from Google video

Source: University of Winchester