Grant awarded for new project “Medical heritage, green infrastructure and community wellbeing”

29 November 2021

Johanna Dale, Antonio Sennis and Carla Washbourne have been awarded a small grant from UCL Grand Challenges for their project “Medical heritage, green infrastructure and community wellbeing”.

Grand Challenges

This cross faculty collaboration between the History Department and the Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy brings together Johanna Dale’s and Antonio Sennis’s expertise in medieval history and heritage with Carla Washbourne’s in public policy and green infrastructure. They will work with Maldon Town Council and community groups in Maldon, Essex, to explore how to collaboratively transform the site of the ruins of a medieval leper hospital chapel from being a drain on local government resources into a community asset by engaging with the stories, spaces and practices of medical heritage and using opportunities for being active in green space to further promote community health and wellbeing.

Working with the Maldon Town Council and the community group Maldon in Bloom they will research, design and install raised medicinal herb beds within the ruins site accompanied by an interpretation board explaining the use of medicinal herbs in medieval medicine. Medieval hospitals all had herb gardens to provide a ready supply of materials for medicines and cooking. Particularly vital at leper hospitals were herbs used to make ointments and used in baths, which were both crucial in the treatment of the painful skin lesions caused by leprosy. The therapeutic benefits of time spent outside in gardens were also recognised in the medieval period and hospital gardens thus provided a space for mental wellbeing as well as the production of ingredients needed for medicines and cooking. The project will reactivate the site’s medieval medical heritage and, at the same time, will create a space of public wellbeing. As a result, while providing visitors with a new and enriching sensory experience, it will enable a better understanding of the community’s heritage.

This pilot project is anticipated as the beginning of both a longer-term relationship with the town council and community groups in Maldon and also as the initial stage of a wider cross faculty research collaboration involving other medieval medical heritage sites.

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Images: Visitors viewing a pop-up exhibition at the ruins designed by Dale, Sennis & Washbourne.