Wooden leper clapper, English, c 17th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The disease of leprosy was believed to be highly infectious, with symptoms including sores, ulcers, erosion of the bones and los of sensation at the nerve endings. As a consequence, sufferers were often reviled by society and isolated from their communities. To warn people of their approach, lepers wore distinctive clothing and were forced to carry a rattle, known as a clapper. The example shown probably dates from the 17th century, when leprosy was becoming increasingly scarce in Britain.