I have just returned from the newly-opened exhibition entitled “London’s Dreadful Visitation: The Great Plague, 1665” in the Guildhall Library. The exhibition runs until September 11th. Readers might also be interested to know that there is an illustrated lecture and late viewing to accompany the formal launch of the exhibition between 6-8pm on July 16th (£5 payable, booking essential), and also a series of family-friendly storytelling workshops between 11am-12:30pm on July 27th and 28th and August 3rd and 4th.
As well as informative posters, the exhibitions features a selection of seventeen priceless and seldom-seen primary source materials from the library’s extensive holdings. The latter include a copy of the rare book “Certain Necessary Directions: As Well As For The Cure Of The Plague As For Preventing The Infection: With Many Easie Medicines Of Small Charge”, issued at the beginning of the outbreak by the Royal College of Physicians, sadly to little practical effect; a collection of the Parish Clerks’ “Bills of Mortality” for the plague year, compiled at the end; and St Giles Cripplegate’s parish register for the plague year (this parish was one of the worst affected).
Photography is permitted in the exhibition, although reproduction of photographic images is not, leastwise without written permission and payment of a fee.
Extracts from the Parish Clerks’ “Bills of Mortality” for the Plague Year of 1665 are examined at the church of All Hallows Staining on our “London Wall” and “Tower to Temple” standard walks, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City highlights”, “Lost City highlights” and “Great Fire of London” themed specials (see also April 30th blog). According to these records, 68596 people died of the plague in London in 1665, including 112 in the parish of All Hallows Staining (the church collapsed in 1671, it is said on account of undermining of its foundations by plague burials). Among the plague victims was my twelve times great-aunt’s first husband, Robert Mickell, who succumbed on 17th September, 1665 (having written in his will only days earlier, evidently only too aware of his own mortality, “I … being well in body … praised bee God for the same but considering the frailty of man’s life and not knowing how soon it may please Almighty God my creator to call me out of this transitory world doe make and ordayne this my last will and testament … ”). He died as the epidemic reached its peak, killing around a thousand people a day. At this point, it grew so deathly quiet that throughout the City the River Thames could be heard flowing under the nineteen arches of Old London Bridge.
Further details of all our walks are available in the “Our Guided Walks” section.