The Twickenham Museum
Timeline : 1600 - 1700

The Plague
Deaths in Twickenham

Bubonic plague reaches Twickenham

The Black Death which afflicted Europe from 1347 until 1351 has been reckoned to have killed a quarter of England's population of about 6 million. Whole families tended to succumb, something which reduced the genetic diversity of the population, although it possibly created rising resistance to infection. The population remained static until about 1470 when it began to increase, gaining momentum in the early years of the 17th century.

While it can be assumed that Twickenham suffered, there are no records of the extent of the affliction.

There are recorded later outbreaks of Bubonic Plague in various parts of the country in 1563, 1578, 1582, 1592, 1603, 1605 and 1607. The outbreak of 1605 in London spread to Twickenham where 67 deaths are recorded in the burial registers (R S Cobbett, Memorials of Twickenham, page 61). There were about 30,000 deaths in London from this outbreak.

Pest house and plague pits

Twickenham at one time had a Pest House for the plague victims at some distant point on the Common (west of Twickenham Green). It is sometimes claimed that communal plague burial pits were dug in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, but there is no written record of this in the church archives. The major sources of infection were the black rats who carried infected fleas.

Further reading:

G.M.Trevelyan, Illustrated Social History, Vol.2, pages 145-7.
English Social History, Longmans Green, 1945

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