The Great Plague (Black Death Documentary) | Timeline


the Black Death is scary The bodies piled up faster than they could be buried. One of the consequences of the fact that London is so cramped is that Churchyards can’t get any bigger and loads of burials are happening in a very small space. And here in the Churchyard of St. Olafs, we can see how high the burial ground has risen above the level of the Church. So that when I’m standing in the Church porch way here the burial ground is about up to here. The epidemic was about the worse that anyone could remember. At this rate the whole of London would be dead by Christmas. Then in September, a cause for hope. A possible preventative emerged. Fumigation. James Entier, who is a celebrated authority on fumigation. He persuades the Privy Council to let him. have an experiment in high Holburn where he burns qualities of saltpetre brimstone, and amber. And I think the stench must have been so astonishing that only a rat with a vestige of sense mechanism in its body would have fled, and I think that kind of treatment may well have worked. Hearing positive reports of the methods, the King ordered fumigation to be tried, on a vast scale. Every six houses on each side of the way are to join together to provide one great fire before the door of the middlemost inhabitant. It was a monumental undertaking involving the whole city. Hundreds of cauldrons of coal were bought at great expense. All over London, plague was to be smoked out once and for all. Great fires, burning aromatic incense blazed across the city There was at last a reason to believe that the disease could be defeated. But cruelly, the weather changed. After the fires had burned for three days the rain came. The fires were extinguished. The next night, more than 4000 died. So many were dying, that it was now impossible to keep track. Jospeh Penny’s father, William died without any burial record. A man who had spent his life giving others a decent burial was carried away on a cart to be disposed of in a common pit. They take these dead carts through often very narrow streets, and they have either slings or boards that they go into the house and bring people out. It’s probably one of the most vastly thoughts in the world of these, of people going down crying out “Bring out your dead”. So you really never know where your dear, dear departed relative, friend, lover where they were going to end up, and you were not allowed out of that house. so off they went on a dead cart to who knows where. Before the plague, the Parish of St. Dunstan had a population of about 3000. In the six weeks at the height of the plague Joseph Penny buried 500 of his fellow parishoners. In seven pits. “Sixteenth of August – Four pits” “First of September – Two pits” Fourth of September, Joseph Penny paid for planks to cover the pits that the visited poor were buried in. There are no markings today to show where London’s plague pits were. The mass graves were dug and filled so fast there was no time to place memorials. Rector John Gheer ordered a plague pit dug in Covent Garden for four pounds and nine shillings. It took sixty man days to dig The Rector looked into it, and prayer it would be the last. It was the first of five. The plague was killing faster than the corpses could be buried. London suffered, the noysome stench arising from the great number of the dead. The broad gate development which is on the northern fringe of the City of London is on a site which was called “The New Churchyard” in the early modern period. It was founded in 1569 to take plague burials, it was used in every successive plague and indeed in all the intervening years and certainly a lot of people were being buried there. Every time theres been excavation on that site both when they put through Broadstreet, the overground railway line, when they did the underground and when they demolished the station in order to build Broadgate itself, they found large numbers of bodies. In October, Joseph Penny died The shovels and basket, that were the tools of the grave makers trade were returned to his mother. The plague faded as fast as it had begun. Winter was approaching, the cold was killing the plague bacillus. With the first frosts, the worst seemed to be over. Many of those who had left now returned to the city. John and Elizabeth Davis now came back to the alley where they helped nurse the sick. Paid John Davis for keeping of Elizabeth Phelps who died of the visitation. But some of the refugees returned too quickly Those who had survived the worst of the epidemic seemed to have acquired some immunity to the disease. Those who returned had none, and presented the plague with a new opportunity. The number of deaths rose again in December. The city feared the disease would never relinquish its grip. But it proved to be a false alarm. There were fewer and fewer cases as winter set in. It was soon safe enough for Parliament to return. The Lord Mayor gave up his elaborate glass case. By February, when the King returned people knew the epidemic was over. White crosses were painted over red to show that a house had been free of infection for forty days. People emerged into the streets again. All had suffered, but the poor most of all. The editor of the only London newspaper of the time reported: “I do not find this visitation to have taken away in or about the city any person of prime authority and command” For the people of Cock and Key alley 1665 was a year from which they would never recover. Twelve of the twenty houses were afflicted with plague. Eleven of the twelve were shut up. Over half the people living there died. The street’s final death toll was 36 men, women and children. “In many houses, half the family is swept away. And in some the whole, from the eldest to the youngest.” “Few escape with the death of but one or two, never did so many husbands and wives die together.” “Never did so many parents carry their children with them to the grave.” At the end of 1665, the only member of the Penny family still alive was Elizabeth. She’d lost her three sons, and her husband. She could not carry on the family trade of grave digging, the parish did what they could for her. Henry Dorset, the Church warden, bought back the tools of the grave makers trade. “Three shovels and a basket, four shillings”

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