Over the years, in the course of going through books and journals in libraries, I have amassed a small stockpile of juicy historical morsels but, being completely unrelated to the project in hand, they remain squirrelled away. Thus it’s always gratifying to be able to retrieve a barely-remembered reference, dust it off and deploy it in a piece for wider consumption and appreciation. So it was that a recent article on Guildford’s medieval leper hospital printed in the Surrey Archaeological Society’s bi-monthly Bulletin afforded me the opportunity to share an incidental reference to the institution that is much earlier than any cited in published works. This was duly printed in issue 437 of the Bulletin (pages 5-6 – link to follow as soon as it is added to the SyAS website). The version below contains a handful of alterations and additions to the published note, in particular as a result of the assistance of Giles Graham-Brown, for whose insightful emails I am most grateful.
I came across the reference during a visit to the John Rylands Library on Deansgate in central Manchester to use its unsurpassed collection of early published editions of medieval rolls (I seem to recall having to impersonate my housemate in order to get around the library’s three-free-visits-then-you-pay rule). I thoroughly recommend visiting the library if you ever find yourself in Manchester, if only to see the wonderful neo-Gothic building and the ever-fascinating series of temporary exhibitions mounted in the old main reading room.