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Author Topic: Lamberhurst Churchyard and the Black Plague  (Read 4114 times)

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Offline kyn

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Re: Lamberhurst Churchyard and the Black Plague
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2008, 15:42:26 »
I was wondering how long these diseases live for and what risks there are when the burial grounds are disturbed.  I heard there was still yearly checks on Deadmans Island where alot of cholera, yellow fever and other diseased bodies were buried  ???

Offline kyn

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Lamberhurst Churchyard and the Black Plague
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2008, 13:11:25 »
The outbreak of bubonic, entericodysentrey and pneumonic plague (The Black Plague) hit England in 1348 with a further outbreak from 1350 until 1470, and other small outbreaks occurring in later years.  The death rate of the pneumonic plague was 70 percent; this was transferred through water droplets.  Up to half of England's populating died causing a seriously reduced workforce.  Workers demanded extra pay for the increased workload, the government attempted to reverse the pay rise and helped cause the Peasant's Revolt of 1381.

Around 7 years ago it was proposed to bury ashes in the South Eastern corner of Lamberhurst's church yard, the local population were scared that the burial in the original churchyard, that had not been used since the 1900's could disturb burials from the Black Plague.  This caused a report to be commissioned to the Bishop of Rochester.  Burials after the 1900's had been within ground to the North, East and South of the original churchyard, so not causing fear as to disturbing the earlier burials.  It was unknown if Death Plague victims had been individually buried or if the had been buried in pits due to the amount of deaths at that time.  The earliest gravestones that could be found at the church were from the early 17th century, long after the plague deaths.  There is little evidence to show how this village suffered during the plague, this has made it difficult to judge whether pits were used.  Rochester suffered greatly with William Dene, a monk at Rochester stating:

"The bishop of Rochester; out of his small household, lost four priests, five gentlemen, ten serving men, seven young clerks and six pages so that not a soul remained who might serve him in any office...  The mortality rate swept away so vast a multitude that none could be found to carry the corpses to the grave.  Men and women bore their own offspring on their shoulders to the church and cast them into a common pit.  From these there proceeded so great a stench that hardly anyone dared to cross the cemeteries...  In this pestilence many chaplains and paid clerks refused to serve, except at excessive salaries...and priests betook themselves to places where they could get larger stipends than in their own benefices."

There was evidence of a vast amount of victims suffering nearby at Tudley, causing the closure of the iron works during the second wave of the Black Death by 1360, also the church's Norman tower was demolished with the intention of rebuilding it, but this didn't happen for nearly 100 years, presumably due to the lack of workmen.  Another possible sign that Lamberhurst suffered greatly during this time is the number of vicar's appointed at the church.  From 1331, when Thomas de Regnes was instituted as vicar, until 1361, when William Alwene was appointed, there had been a total of twelve vicars at the church with another five up until 1427.

Although it seems there were many casualties from the Black Death is it still probable that these were buried in individual graves and that the graves were within the churchyard.  The vicars were also likely to have been interred under the chancel floor within the church.

So regarding the proposal to bury ashes within the south eastern part of the original graveyard, this should pose no problem as the plague victims are likely to be buried in numerous places within the graveyard, which would have been reused many times since their deaths.

 

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