Odiham Pest House in Hampshire, built in c. 1622
Wikimedia Commons

A pest house is the post-medieval forerunner of an isolation hospital, managed by a parishSmallest administrative unit in England. and intended as a place of quarantine for those suffering from serious communicable diseases. They were thus often built on the outskirts of towns and villages, away from the local population.[1]

Pest houses were initially used to isolate those with leprosy, and then the plague when it first arrived in England in the mid-14th century, hence their alternative name of plague houses. After the plague subsided, they were used to isolate the victims of smallpox.[2]

There are five surviving pest houses in England,[3] none of them still used for their original purpose:

  • Odiham Pest House, now a mini Heritage Centre.[3]
  • Findon Pest House, now a private home.[2]
  • Grantham Pest House, now a Grade II listed private home.[2]
  • Great Chart Pest House, now used as a library, museum and meeting house.[2]
  • Cranbrook Pest House, now a private home.[2]

See also

  • Plague stonesHollowed out stones or boulders containing vinegar to disinfect coins, usually placed at or near parish boundaries, relics of medieval plagues.