The legend of Prince Bladud, the mythical founder of Bath whose leprosy was cured by bathing in the springs, provided hope to all those wanting to be made clean. People with chronic skin disease frequently came to Bath to take the waters for this purpose.
The early records of the hospital include many admissions for "leprosy". Like this boy, most so-called lepers, suffered from some quite different complaint - in this case probably scabies or psoriasis. Leprosy, as we know it today, certainly existed in Europe during the Middle Ages but it seems to have disappeared from this country by the time of the Tudors. Despite this, the word which is derived from the Greek lepra meaning scaly continued to be used well into the nineteenth century to describe any chronic rash on the skin in which scaling or thickening was a prominent feature. 
Patients with skin diseases represent between 10% and 15% of admissions to the Mineral Water Hospital during the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Between 1752 and 1764, 241 “lepers” were admitted of whom 122 were “perfectly cleansed” (blue) and 85 “much benefitted.” (maroon) Only sixteen received no benefit (yellow), and four of these died in hospital (green). The remainder (dark purple) were discharged because they misbehaved or were unable to take the waters.






Return to the complete picture      Return to Gazetteer