Tudor Hackney had its own hospital, but not one that served
as a hospital for local people.
Leprosy had been a scourge of medieval society, peaking in
the 12th and 13th centuries. The afflicted lost their common
law and property rights, were excluded from the majority of
places that people gathered and were sent away to isolated hospitals.
The lepers were expected to live by a Christian rule, so a chapel
was an essential addition to the foundations that were as much
about keeping the lepers away from healthy people as providing
The City of London ultimately established ten leper hospitals
on the main roads out of the capital. Kingsland Leper Hospital
(also known locally as the Lock Hospital) was founded about
1280 at the south end of the hamlet of Kingsland. The hospital
was sited just to the south and west of the junction of Kingsland
Road with Dalston Lane. It was run by men called Guides and
maintained through income from bequests. From 1549, it was run
as an outhouse of St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield.
The last recorded case of leprosy in London was in 1559, and
thereafter patients were sent to Kingsland with a variety of
diseases. By the early 18th century there were patients suffering
from ague, diarrhoea, dropsy, fever and jaundice. In 1633 a
case of venereal disease was recorded - sufferers were to form
the majority of patients by the mid 18th century.
The hospital, whose frontage was on Kingsland Road, had a barn
behind it and in 1603 had 14 new bedsteads bought for the inmates.
It was enlarged by a new “ sweatlie ward” in 1613.
By 1669, there were six wards, (on the ground floor in 1721)
and inmates were supposed to get the best wheaten bread, beef,
soup, beer, cheese or butter and water gruel or milk pottage.
By this stage the hospital was reserved for women only, with
men being sent to the Lock Hospital in Southwark.
St Bartholomew's Chapel
A small chapel, which lay to the north probably dated from
the foundation, though the earliest record of services held
there is in 1638. Although never a parish church, the chapel
became known as St Bartholomew’s from association with
the governing London hospital. By the early 18th century, some
local people attended the church to save themselves the walk
to Hackney parish church and it is possible that this practice
had gone on earlier, but it was not until 1716 that patients
were screened off from the rest of the congregation by curtains.
The hospital was rebuilt in the mid 1720s as the road had been
raised and the wards, being three feet below the road surface,
suffered from damp - so we do not know what the old hospital
looked like. Rising costs forced St Bartholomew’s Hospital
to close the Kingsland Hospital in 1760, ending a five hundred
year history of caring for the sick.
The medieval chapel was never rebuilt and kept its patchwork
stone appearance to the end. After the hospital closed, local
people petitioned that the chapel be kept for worship. The patients’
pew was removed and other seats were raised. In its final form,
it measured only 27 feet by 18 feet and was a mere twenty feet
high - three of which lay below the level of Kingsland Road
on to which it fronted. In poor condition in the 1820s, it lasted
until 1846. The building now on the corner of Balls Pond Road
and Kingsland Road, once the Star and Garter public house, is
supposed to have its north door in the same position as the
north door of the chapel, the last relic of the vanished lepers’
hospital that would have seemed an institution time out of mind
to the people of Tudor Kingsland.