Wooden model of 15th century leper's alms bowl, English, 1917-1920
People did not want to get too close to those with leprosy, which is why this bowl has a handle just under 40 cm long. The bowl may have been used to give money or food without the need for actual contact. People were afraid of catching the disease because of its effects. In the worst cases leprosy can cause disfigurement to the face, hands and feet and muscle paralysis.
The original of this model was used in the 1400s at a hospital set up for lepers in Harbledown, Kent. It was founded in 1084 by Archbishop Lanfranc for 32 people. The hospital would have been staffed by members of religious orders; to expose oneself to infection was seen as a mark of holiness. Shown here with a similar example (A635020).