40. THE HOSPITAL OF ST. LEONARD, THRAPSTON
The existence of a lazar-house at Thrapston
was unknown to Dugdale and Tanner, as well
as to the county historians. The knowledge of
it comes solely from the forest pleas and other
forest documents of the Public Record Office.
It was part of the old Norman forest law that
an inquest should be held on any unauthorized
slain deer or venison that might be found, and
the flesh sent to the nearest hospital for lepers, a
proof in itself of the common character of the
disease, and of the multiplicity of lazar-houses.
On the morning of the Sunday after the Epiphany, 1246, one Maurice de Meht was passing
through Sudborough with Sir Robert Passelewe, (fn. 1)
justice of the forest, when he saw three men
carrying a sack. Suspecting them, he followed
with his bow stretched, when the men threw away
the sack and fled. In the sack was a flayed doe
and the snare with which it had been caught.
Maurice went into the church of Sudborough
and made known what had happened to the
whole township. On the morrow an inquest
was held before the verderers and foresters of
Rockingham, with the result, inter alia, 'that
the flesh of the doe was given to the lepers of
Thrapston.' (fn. 2) Again, in 1248, four limbs of a
deer were found in a ditch near Boughton by a
forester, and as a result of the inquest all this
venison was sent to the lepers of Thrapston. (fn. 3) In
a third case, in 1305, when a freshly-killed deer
was found by the roadside, pierced with two
arrows, in the township of Wadenhoe, the flesh
was sent 'to the lepers of St. Leonard's, Thrapston,
being the nearest Spital.' (fn. 4)
||The clerk whom the king in vain tried to force
Bishop Grossetête to institute to the rectory of St.
||Turner, Select Pleas of the Forest (1899), 84.
||Forest Proc. Tr. of Rec. No. 79.