St Mary Magdalen Hospital Alms-houses
Historic Building in Winchester
Similar in its charitable mission to St Cross, this Hospital was established in 1180 by Bishop Toclyve (1173-88) to provide shelter for nine lepers. It was situated in the downs along the Alresford Road, near the first milestone. The site was excavated by the TV Archaeological program ‘Time Team’.
Throughout its tumultuous history, the Hospital experienced the loss of much of its property and funds. It was utilized as a barracks and a prison on various occasions. Unfortunately, neglect and misuse resulted in significant damage to the structure. In 1788, this remarkable example of Transitional architecture was demolished.
Some portions of the building were incorporated into the construction of St Peter’s Church in St Peter’s Street, notably an exquisite early Norman gateway. Additionally, some materials were used in the creation of six alms-houses in Water Lane.
Originally, these alms-houses accommodated four men and four women, each receiving a weekly pension of two shillings. In the 1920s, they were converted into two dwellings and eventually sold into private ownership in the late 1960s after falling into a state of disrepair.
During the construction of these dwellings, ancient burials were disturbed. A Roman sepulchre was discovered on the site of the lower cottages, which is part of an ancient cemetery area. The builders reinterred some of the disrupted burials, only for them to be rediscovered in 1993 during the construction of a new retaining wall. The site also revealed evidence of medieval occupation, with a medieval rubbish pit found beneath the rear garden boundary wall.
In 1929, the Charity erected new alms-houses between Mants Lane and Wolvesey Slips, now referred to as ‘The Wiers.’ A tablet at the rear of these houses commemorates the stone-laying ceremony on St John’s Day in 1929 by the Lord Bishop of Winchester, The Right Reverend Frank Theodore Woods. It also mentions that these new alms-houses replaced the six alms-houses built in 1788 in Water Lane.
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