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.
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.
There are five surviving pest houses in England, none of them still used for their original purpose:
- Odiham Pest House, now a mini Heritage Centre.
- Findon Pest House, now a private home.
- Grantham Pest House, now a Grade II listed private home.
- Great Chart Pest House, now used as a library, museum and meeting house.
- Cranbrook Pest House, now a private home.
- Plague stonesHollowed out stones or boulders containing vinegar to disinfect coins, usually placed at or near parish boundaries, relics of medieval plagues.