On this day in 1665, Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary:
“But, Lord! What a sad time it is to see no boats upon the river; and grass grows all up and down White Hall court, and nobody but poor wretches in the streets! And, which is worst of all, the Duke [of Albemarle] showed us the number of the plague this week, … that it is encreased … more than the last, which is quite contrary to our hopes and expectations, from the coldness of the late season. For the whole general number is 8297, and of them of the plague 7165; which is more in the whole … than the biggest Bill [of Mortality] yet: which is very grievous to us all”.
The “Great Plague” was now killing over a thousand people a day, and at its peak, and it had grown so deathly quiet in London that throughout the City the river could be heard flowing under the nineteen arches of the old bridge. The Plague eventually killed at least 70000 people in London, and possibly as many as 100000 – far more than the “Black Death” of 1348-9, although far fewer in proportion to the overall population. The “Bills of Mortality” show that of the 70000 recorded Plague deaths, only 10000 were in the 97 parishes within the walls of the City – possibly because a significant proportion of those inhabitants who could afford to do so had fled to the country (see also September 5th posting). The remaining 60000 Plague deaths were in the 16 parishes without the walls, the 5 in Westminster, and the 12 in Middlesex and Surrey. Stepney was the worst affected, with 6500 deaths.
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” standard walk, and on our “Tudor and Stuart London”, “Tudor and Stuart City highlights” and “Lost City highlights” themed specials. The bulk of the church collapsed in 1671, the foundations undermined by plague burials.
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