Torrington 'lepers’' torchlit parade

TORRINGTON is preparing for a bizarre annual festival, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world. On Saturday evening (March 6) lepers will parade in the town, harking back 700 years to when a leper colony was based there. Those taking part

TORRINGTON is preparing for a bizarre annual festival, believed to be the only one of its kind in the world.

On Saturday evening (March 6) 'lepers' will parade in the town, harking back 700 years to when a leper colony was based there.

Those taking part in the 8pm torchlit parade will dress in leper-style clothing and even have leper spots and sores applied!

Starting with an historic racket of clappers, bells and drums, the parade will travel across Taddiport bridge to the chapel of St Mary Magdalene - a leper hospital in the 14th century.


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The chapel will be opened by Torrington's vicar, the Rev Jeremy Hummerstone, for everyone to see where the lepers were once treated.

Strips of leper fields can still be seen in the Taddiport valley below the town's main car park.

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Now in its ninth year, the event is organised by local artist Shan Miller, not only as a memorial to the past, but as an evening of entertainment and a fund raiser for the charity LEPRA, which works for the relief of leprosy sufferers worldwide.

A 'beggars banquet' will be served in a marquee. Period-style mulled wine will be served and there will be street performers, including live local bands.

Shan said: "Many curious features of the landscape and buildings remain as a testament to those leprous days. The Leper Festival is a way of bringing that heritage alive in a fun way, while raising money for the plight of those suffering today. If you would like to take part in the parade itself, leper fancy dress will be required. This can be simple peasant-wear or something imaginative and elaborate. If you turn up an hour early, you can even have leper-spots applied!"

Shan has also created a Leper Museum, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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