The Bones of Lepers at Freeford

There may be a deserted medieval village at Freeford, (Fraiforde in the Domesday Book).  Evidence consists of surface finds of pottery ranging from 12th – 16th century together with some documentary references in 1334 and 1377 in the form of taxation records.

By the mid 13th century, there was a lepers hospital at Freeford on the site of the present day Freeford House (on the Tamworth Rd, before the junction with Ryknild St). Some of the exisiting masonry on the site is thought to part of the hospital chapel’s foundations. According to Thomas Harwood,  ‘A corner of the field, north-east of the present house yet bears the name ‘Chapel Yard’ and human bones are frequently cast up in this spot by the plough’.  The hospital was united with St John’s Hospital in Lichfield in 1496   Apparently institutions relating to lepers were often dedicated to either St John or St Leonard. 

English Heritage report that some 80 human skeletons were discovered near to the site during excavations for a road widening scheme in December 1917. These remains were buried around 3ft deep, all without coffins and on the whole, in a Christian orientation. A chalice and paten (small plate) were found in the the hands of one of the skeltons.  I understand that it was the custom to bury these items with a priest. The chalice and paten are thought to be from around the 12th or 13th centuries, if not earlier. More bones were discovered in 1969, during the construction of another road.

I wonder what happened to the skeletons – have they been reburied elsewhere?  Are there anymore under the fields of Freeford? 

The Hisotry & Antiquities of the Church & City of Lichfield – Rev Thomas Harwood (1806)

English Heritage Pastscape Record 306532

4 thoughts on “The Bones of Lepers at Freeford

  1. Pingback: Elegy Written in a Lichfield Churchyard | Lichfield Lore

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  3. I am the Environment Director of the Lichfield And Hatherton Canals Restoration Trust.

    I frequently walk the Freeford section of the Canal, currently under restoration.

    Together with Trust members of our ‘Green Team’, I plant the towpath margins with wild flowers and bulbs to enhance the enjoyment of the many regular walkers (with their pets, friends, or alone). Many will stop for a chat; which often means little work is achieved on occasions!

    So far our engineering works in the Freeford area have not ‘turned up’ any further historic remains, human or otherwise. Perhaps when the Trust has sufficient funds to ‘drill’ under the A51 linking to the Boley Park works to the north, more items might come to light.

    Mike Battisson 06/112015


  4. Pingback: St Giles and St Michael | Lichfield Lore

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