Community wellbeing and medieval heritage - let's get (geo)physical!
15 July 2022
UCL academics participated in a community engagement project on the site of a medieval hospital in Essex, re-activating its medical heritage.
Earlier this month researchers from three UCL departments joined forces as part of a public open day at the remains of a medieval hospital in Maldon, Essex as part of a community engagement project supported by funding from UCL Grand Challenges.
Medieval historian Johanna Dale (UCL History) and environmental-policy specialist Carla Washbourne (UCL STEaPP) were awarded funding from the UCL Grand Challenge Human Wellbeing stream to work with Maldon Town Council and the community group ‘Maldon in Bloom’ to install raised medicinal herb beds at the site, re-activating its medical heritage and improving it as a community space.
The site comprises the ruins of the chapel of the medieval hospital, which was founded in the reign of Henry II (1154-89) to care for people of the town suffering from leprosy. Once open to the public, recurrent episodes of anti-social behaviour and graffiti have led to the site being off limits.
The project aims to begin the transformation of the site from being a drain on local government resources to a community asset through engaging with the stories, spaces and practices of medical heritage as well as using opportunities for being active in green space to further promote community health and wellbeing.
As the site is a protected scheduled ancient monument, Historic England requested a geophysical survey before works commenced. At this point, Kris Lockyear (UCL Institute of Archaeology), founder of the Community Archaeology Geophysics Group, stepped in to help.
Kris, along with volunteer Mike Smith, travelled to Maldon to undertake the survey over 2 days and on Saturday 9 July the site was open to the public while the survey was taking place.
According to Johanna:
“Around 70 visitors joined us throughout the day and asked lots of questions about the medieval hospital and the geophysical survey techniques and equipment. From speaking to local residents, we also learned lots about former uses of the site and local people’s ideas for how it could be used in the future."
UCL Grand Challenges seek to bring UCL’s academic expertise to bear on pressing societal challenges by integrating knowledge and evidence from across disciplines. The programme brings together researchers from across UCL and beyond - setting the agenda for future research and building bridges with external partners.