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Wooden leper clapper, English, c 17th century.

Wooden leper clapper, English, c 17th century.
3 3 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 25cm


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.

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© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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