the Plague visited Cheshire
THE SARS virus and the current global concern is put into
perspective if one considers how the population fared in former
times...when the plague visited and medicine was practically non-existent.
Cheshire, in common with the rest of England had its several visitations
of the plague and the records make very interesting, and very sad,
The Black Death of the fourteenth century visited Cheshire and the
county suffered heavily.
In 1348 there was an abnormally wet half year, with rain practically
every day from Midsummer to Christmas, so what with the bad harvest
and the plague the common people suffered much.
There is ample evidence that quite a number of the clergy succumbed
and that for several years many farms were greatly r educed in value
because of the scarcity of labour, which made it impossible for
them to be worked.
In 1507 the "sweating sickness" visited Chester when ninety-one
householders died in three days and "all but four of them widows".
Ten years later Chester was again visited by a "great plague"
and "for want of trading the grass did grow a foot high at
the Cross and in other streets".
This is believed to have been the true plague following the sweating
In 1558 the plague again visited the county and other neighbouring
counties. A few died in Chester, but many fled to the open country
to escape it. Slight as the visitation appears to have been, Chester
was "weakened by the prevalence of the plague", according
to a State paper in February 1559.
Chester was visited again in 1574, but, fortunately, there were
few deaths, rnainly because of the precautions taken by the civic
authority, such as the prohibiting of citizens from receiving any
lodgers who had come from supected neighbourhoods.
Two years later most of the members of the Antrobus family in Northwich
died, and the household linen, valued at 13s. 4d, was put into the
river to prevent its further use, an act which, in 1592, was the
subject of an action by the son who claimed compensation for this
Early in the seventeenth century the plague again came to Chester,
commencing in St. Johns Lane, at the home of one, Glover.
Here seven persons died in a short time, and the plague great increased
until sixty died weekly. Michaelmas Fair was not kept because of
the prevalence of the disease. All infected persons were removed
from their homes and conveyed into houses and and cabins built at
the water side, near the New Tower, and were there relieved at the
cost of the city. In a little over a month, to October 13, 1603,
six hundred and fifty died of the plague.
Despite the many deaths the plague continued to rage in Chester,
and from October 14, 1603, to March 20, 1604, a further eight hundred
and twelve persons died.
In this year of 1604, Nantwich was visited. The parish registers
in July 1604 records the plague as "being brought out of Chester".
Northwich also appears to have been visited during this year, as
it is named, with Nantwich and Chester, as being in need of relief,
for it was "infected with the plague". Owing to the plague
in Chester in 1605 the Court of Exchequer was removed to Tarvin,
and the County Assizes were held in Nantwich.
Stockport was visited by the plague during the years 1605 and 1606
as witness the evidence of the parish registers, for some fifty-one
persons are recorded as having died from it.
Macclesfield had an even more serious visitation. Over seventy entries,
occupying two pages of the parish registers speak of "Burials
in Macclesfield since God's visitations. In 1608 an epidemic started
at "The Talbot" in Chester, when fourteen persons died,
and again in 1610 many more died.
In 1625 the plague at Malpas was very severe, and seemingly several
families were exterminated by the disease. One entry in the registers
is interesting and pathetic.
It reads: "Richard Dawson, brother to the above named 'Thomas
Dawson of Bradley, being sicke of the plague, and perceyvei,)g lie
must (lie at vt time, arose out of his bed, and made his grave,
and caused his nefew, John Dawson, to cast straw into the grave,
w'ch was not farre from the howse, and went and layd him down in
the sayd grave, and caused clothes to be layd uppon, and so dep'ted
out of this world; this be did because he was a strong man, and
heavier than his said nefew and another wench were able to bury.
He died about the XXlVth of August. This much was I credibly tould
he did 1625 . . ."
In 1637 Congleton was visited by a plague of a particularly virulent
type. The authorities, under John Bradshaw, the Mayor, tackled the
epidemic with promptness and forthrightness.
It ordered that "no lnholder, Ale house keeper, Victualler
or other pson of this Towvne whatsoever shall lodge, or receive
into his or theire houses, anie carrier, maltster or other pson
travelling from Darbey, or from anie other place infected or suspected,
and generally reported to be infected whatsoever, or receive ,anie
corne, graine, malte or other Commodity
from anie comon carrier that shall not bring with him a sufficient
certificate that the same malte, graine, or other comoditie came
not from anie place infected or suspected..."
It was believed that this infection was brought from London in a
box of wearing apparel. The plague reached the town a few days before
Christmas, and attacked the Laplove family, several of whom quickly
became victims. It soon spread from house to house, so much so that
the streets of the town became deserted and overgrown with grass.
This attack lasted for two years; the authorities doing everything
possible for the stricken town.
In passing, it may be recorded that the Laplove family, with the
exception of one little girl, was entirely wiped out, five being
recorded in the Astbury parish registers as having been buried in
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