Lockdown has had many of us enjoying the time to read. One book to which it has been worth returning has been this one (available in the Salisbury Museum bookshop and most other outlets):
Authors Ruth Newman and Jane Howells are great friends of the museum, and the book has provided this blog with some of its recent ‘gems’.
The cover, in itself, is almost worth any outlay. It is a watercolour by Louise Rayner (1832 – 1924), and shows the High Street, looking north, in a scene from the late 1800s. One hundred and fifty years later it still has a familiar look.
The theme of today’s blogging seems to be the Stuart period, and with epidemics still in our minds, this Newman and Howells’ book is revealing on the plague in Salisbury in the 17th century.
There were several outbreaks of plague in the city in the 17th century, as there were all over the country. There were six major outbreaks between the late 16th century and early 18th. In 1604 more than a thousand had died. Poor harvests at this time, together with a slump in the textile industry, created great poverty and such conditions increase the likelihood of disease and death.
Mayor John Ivie, an enlightened and energetic man, set to work, much as our authorities have in recent months, to try and control things.
Goods coming in to the city, especially from London, had to be left outside the city. Alan Crooks has written about Plague Stones in the past on this blog. While many of the wealthy fled (documents suggest that at one point 60 wagons a day were leaving the city), strangers were turned away. The clergy closed off the Close and Ivie had a pest house built at Bugmore to take the most desperate sick. It had previously been the site of a workhouse and was later the site of a smallpox hospital. The name, incidentally, has nothing to do with ‘bugs’ as in germs (unknown in the Middle Ages) but was originally ‘Boggy Moor’ because of its proximity to the flood plain.
Ivie closed down all the alehouses. One which defied the ruling saw all of its regulars dead within a few days. I think we can work out what Ivie’s mixed emotions may have been. He was a Puritan.
In the end 369 were recorded as dying from the plague that year, a figure which might have been very much higher but for Ivie’s work.
A memorial plaque in Salisbury Cathedral says of John Ivie “You have done your country good service.”