Case study 1: The Leper Hospital, Saltisford

Slumbering on a patch of scrubland surrounded by newer developments, the leper hospital in Saltisford offers few clues to its historic status.

The site is a scheduled ancient monument, and on it are the remains of the country’s last surviving leper hospital.

Lying under plastic sheets is the Master’s House, a timber-framed building with foundations dating back to the 12th century and a structure dating from the 15th century. Nearby is St Michael’s church, a stone chapel built to serve the hospital in the 15th century.

Both are grade II listed buildings, and the Master’s House was listed as a ‘building at risk’ by English Heritage in its 2000 register.

The building is one of those which Warwick Society member and town and district councillor Elizabeth Higgins is anxious to see preserved.

Her fears for the building were raised after residents reported seeing men burning wood taken from inside the Master’s House shortly after Christmas. Fortunately it proved a false alarm - the building’s owner was preparing for a building assessment - but Coun Higgins believes the house is irreplaceable to the town and the country.

She said: “Once the master’s house is gone it is gone. Although you can remake buildings these days, they are only facsimiles.

“People have been concerned about the leper hospital for years. The Earl of Warwick said he would try to rescue and move it into the castle grounds before he sold the castle in 1978, but that did not happen.”

For almost three decades, little has happened to the site while development has continued around it. Plans for offices and housing were turned down in 1999. The land’s present owner Ivor Jones has permission for housing and is believed to want to start work soon.

Warwick District Council head of planning John Archer said his officers inspected the site regularly to ensure it was not damaged. He explained the most recent visit was on December 27, after reports of men seen burning wood.

The department contacted Mr Jones, who told them he had undertaken the work in order to make a building assessment. Mr Archer stressed that no harm had been done to the building and Mr Jones had permission for restoration work and conversion of the master’s house into housing.

He added: “We are undertaking a watching brief on the site to make sure everything is in accordance with regulations.”

Ivor Jones is a property developer and member of the Warwick Court Leet, a group concerned with preserving the town’s heritage. He could not be contacted at the time the Courier went to press.

l If you think this building should be saved, email us with your views.