Hospital of St Mary in the Peak

The true location of the medieval hospital on the outskirts of Castleton has been under investigation by CHS members and archaeologists from Sheffield University and elsewhere since 2007 when the Society was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Documentary evidence supported the existence of the hospital (see the details in Documentary Evidence for the Medieval Hospital)  and an area of land had been scheduled as the site but the archaeological evidence was initially hard to find.


Read the story so far

A breakthrough in 2012 – 2013 provided exciting finds and since then, over successive years a clearer view of the Hospital of Blessed May in the Peak has emerged.

Medieval Hospitals

Nearly 500 hospitals and almshouses were founded in England before 1300, many of them for the poor and infirm of the parish. While larger hospitals in the cities probably had access to medical care, the sick poor in small rural hospitals were mainly provided with “bed rest, cleanliness and an adequate diet”. Needy travellers were often welcomed to stay for a night or two. Hospital inmates would have been required to participate in the daily round of religious services and prayers and the care of the soul was at least as important as the care of the body. (See also Hospital of the Blessed Mary of Castleton in the Peak).

The background to the Castleton Medieval Hospital Project

The hospital in Castleton was probably founded before 1150 for the sick and poor, reputedly by the wife of one of the William Peverils and it was still in existence at the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1540s.  Some earthworks in Spital Field opposite the entrance to Losehill Hall were scheduled as the site of the hospital in 1999.
In 2007 Castleton Historical Society was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a community project to locate the hospital.

2007 – 2010

In order to locate the hospital, to begin with non-intrusive methods were used to gather evidence. Resistivity across the Spital Field showed no really significant features; a few high resistance areas were followed up with trenches and test pits but these were devoid of artefacts or features. Magnetometry simply showed a pipeline crossing the field and a few man hole covers. A topographical survey was also undertaken to examine surface features. This confirmed earlier surveys of the visible features.

November – December 2007: Local volunteers perform resistivity on the Spital Field and explain to interested onlookers….

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However, geophysics and test pitting around the area of the scheduled monument provided no evidence whatsoever of any human habitation, let alone medieval – up until the final day of the dig in 2010 when a short section of wall was uncovered on the scheduled monument itself.

2011 to the present

Click on the links at the top right of this page to follow the progress of subsequent archaeological digs as more of Spital Fields history has been gradually revealed.


Castleton Historical Society is very grateful to Mrs Sidebottom and family for continued access to Spital Field, and to the YHA for access to Losehill Hall grounds and for allowing parking at the main entrance during the dig and, of course, to the Heritage Lottery Fund without whom this work would not have been possible.