Presentation on theme: "Libraries & Archives The Plague – ‘A Summer Disease’ A bite sized piece of history."— Presentation transcript:
Libraries & Archives The Plague – ‘A Summer Disease’ A bite sized piece of history
Like many areas in the country, Kent was badly affected by plague and pestilence between the 14th and 17th centuries. The plague was brought to England from Europe and was often carried by the fleas of the black rats living on ships. As you might expect, Kent was badly affected due to its many ports and important European Naval connections. Although the towns and ports suffered the most, rural areas in the county were also affected.
In 1578 the government gave instructions on how to deal with an outbreak. The records of the village of Harrietsham contain these ‘plague orders’ which include the following… ‘Upon every out doore of the house where any shall die of the plage, there shalbe presently nailed or fastened one great whyte with of wood wrethed, there to remaine by the space of 11 daies’ *(Document found in Kent History & Library Centre Ref: P173/7/1)
In 1597 the vicar of Cranbrook, William Eddye, began the record of burials for the year with the words ‘A Plague this year in Cranbrook’ and wrote that the plague was divine retribution for drunkenness… ‘the judgment of God for sin was much before threatened and especially for that vice of drunkenness, which did abound here’ * He also noted that the plague in the town‘ended in the house of one Henry Grynnoche who was a pott companion.’ Pot companion was a common term for a drunkard! * (Document found in Kent History & Library Centre Ref: P100/1/15)
The plague was a largely a ‘summer disease’ and struck with devastating affect. The Great Plague in London killed 15% of the population during the summer of 1665. Physicians of the time were ill equipped to deal with the disease – one common preventative measure was to hold a posy of flowers up to your nose! The common practice of simply sealing up infected houses meant that whole families could be wiped out in as little as a week.
The Kent historian Edward Hasted reported that, in 1665 and 1666, the town of Dover ‘felt heavy misfortune of the plague’s carrying off a number of its inhabitants, 900 at least dying of this dreadful pestilence’ In 1667,infected houses in the village of Biddenden were ‘shut up’ and 12 inhabitants died…‘12 more had plague sores which recovered’. Fortunately, it is not a disease we face today.
We hope you have enjoyed this ‘History Bite’. If you would like to discover more please visit: www.kent.gov.uk/leisure_and_culture/kent_history/history_co llections/history_bites.aspx