See F. P. Wilson, The Plague in Shakespeare's London (Oxford 1927), pp. 191–92: Ian Sutherland, “When Was the Great Plague,” in Population and Social Change, ed. D. V. Glass and Roger Revelle (New Haven, 1972), pp. 316–17, and Paul Slack, The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 1985), p. 150. From 1603 onward many plague bills survive, most of them printed as broadsides.
A London Plague Bill for 1592, Crich, and Goodwyffe Hurde
Article first published online: 13 NOV 2008
English Literary Renaissance
Volume 25, Issue 1, pages 3–25, December 1995
How to Cite
BERRY, H. (1995), A London Plague Bill for 1592, Crich, and Goodwyffe Hurde. English Literary Renaissance, 25: 3–25. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-6757.1995.tb01425.x
- Issue published online: 13 NOV 2008
- Article first published online: 13 NOV 2008
See Wilson, pp. 191–92, and Charles Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain (Cambridge, Eng., 1891–1894), I, 295-98. Because the two plague bills at the Public Record Office (hereafter PRO) are for nearly the same periods in August and are similar in handwriting, paper, and method, and because one clearly belongs to 1535, Wilson and Creighton made both belong to 1535. The very different numbers in them, however, suggest that they do not belong to the same year.The lord mayor of London evidently sent the second (fols. 223-26) to Thomas Cromwell. It mentions 152 deaths of which 105 were of plague, and it includes ninety-eight parishes, infected and clear. Its heading reads, “The xiiij day of Auguste,” and a note at the end in a different hand reads, “from the vjth day of this monthe of August/to the xiiijth day/which be viij dayes complete.” The note concludes, “this day Senyght yor Mastership shalbe certifyed of the nomber that shall chande to departe in the mean tyme” and is signed. “Yors as y am bound John Champeneys.” he is identified in yet another hand as “The Mayer of london,” as he was in August 1535 and non other August (see John Stow, A Survey of London, ed. H. B. Wheatley [London, 1965], p. 469). In 1535, August 14 was a Saturday.The first (fols. 219-21) is headed, “ffrome ye vth day of august vn to ye xij day of august.” It says that thirty-one people died of plague during the week and the same number of other causes, but the list mentions only twenty-two of other causes (=fifty-three altogether). It includes 102 parishes, infected and clear. It must have come from the lord mayor's office during the same era as the other, and the mayor may well have sent it to Cromwell, but its numbers a year other than 1535—perhaps 1536, when August 5 and 12 were Saturdays.The days mentioned in the bill in the Egerton MS., November 16 and 23, were Saturdays in 1532.
Somerset Incumbents, ed. F. W. Weaver (Bristol, 1889), p. 118, and the parish registers of Kingsdon, which are at the Somerset Record Office (hereafter SRO) in Taunton. The relevant volumes are D/P/kingsd 2/1/1–2. I allow the date alone to show where marriages, baptisms, and burials are in the registers, but for other information, all of which comes from 2/1/1, I give the number of the appropriate folio.
Register of Admissions to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, ed. H. A. C. Sturgess (London, 1949); Students Admitted to the Inner Temple 1547–1660, ed.W. H. Cooke (London, 1878); Records of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Society of Lincoln's Inn. Admissions (London, 1896); The Register of Admissions to Gray's Inn, 1521–1881, ed.Joseph Foster (London, 1889). For the closing of the playhouses, see Acts of the Privy Council of England, 1591-92, p. 550, and Henslowe's Diary, ed.R. A. Foakes and R. T. Rickert (Cambridge, Eng., 1961), pp. 19, 283-85.
For this abbreviation and others involving “q,” see Adriano Cappelli, Dizionario di Abbreviature Latine ed Italiane (Milan, 1979), pp. 300–02, 304, and L. C. Hector, The Handwriting of English Documents (London, 1966), p. 32.
One can only guess at Mary Rode's age because the parish registers of Mudford, where she should have been baptized, do not begin until 1563. She could not have been born much before 1558 because she bore children until 1602, nor much after 1560 because she married in 1578.
PRO, Req.2/223/38 and/218/35, lawsuits of 1578–1579 in which John's sister-in-law accused him of acquiring the mills near Glastonbury from his brother George by sharp practice.
PRO, PROB. 11/72/fols. 322v-23. Another of the overseers was the rector of the parish, Nicholas Whitehalke, who died later in the year. “Nithe,” curiously, now belongs to Park Farm, but during the first half of this century belonged to another (I am indebted here to the present farmer, Mr. Alan Whitehead; see also VCH, Somerset, III, 112, 116).
This and the two other probate acts are recorded in the margins of the register copy of John Hurde's will. For this one, “Aprilis” and “1604” are legible (barely), but the day of the month is not.
Acts of the Privy Council of England, 1592, p. 118.
PRO, PROB. 11/133/fol. 221, proved by Mary Creech, March 26, 1619.
In the 1620s and 1630s people usually paid 6s. 8d. (half a mark) for burials in the church, as John Hurde had in 1588 (fols. 44v, 47v, 48v, 49, 50, 51). Perhaps they paid more if the burial involved the placing of a large tombstone.
The tombstone and parish register establish that the Mary Hurde, widow, who married Francis Creech, and the Mary Hurde, widow of John Hurde, were the same person. For the lady buried on October 30, 1626, is the wife of Francis Creech in the register and of John Hurde on the tombstone. A note in the register among nineteenth-century burials (SRO, D/P/kingsd 2/1/3) quotes the tombstone and describes it as “a flat stone in the pavement of the S. W. corner of the Southern transept; when the church was repaved the Stone was thrown out, but on Rector's return from abroad in 1843 was brought into the Vestry & there fastened for a time.” The rector was Peter Hansell, who may have been abroad while committing “fornication and incontinence” with Susannah Woods, a parishioner, from December 1, 1842, to June 1, 1843, for which he was suspended seven years from September 2, 1844 (SRO, D/D/Bd 1). The tombstone was left rough at the sides and back.
Frederick Brown, Abstracts of Somersetshire Wills (London, 1888), second series, p. 112. Kingsdon people could probate wills in either the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, like John Hurde, or in the courts of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. Most of the wills probated in the bishop's courts, presumably like Mary and Francis Creech's, were destroyed in the bombing of Exeter in 1942, but some survive because they were elsewhere, and abstracts of others, like William Hurd's, survive in Brown's volumes. For the fines, see Calendar of the Proceedings of the Committee for Compounding, III, 1722.
The printed list of parishes and plague deaths for 1582 counted 109 parishes in city wards within and without the walls, and, according to John Bell, lists in 1594 and until 1603 also counted 109. He explained confusingly, but the broadsides that printed the plague bills of 1603 explained better, the adding of other parishes in 1603. Confusion arose partly because of hesitation to count Bridewell precinct and the pesthouse (both added in 1603) as parishes. By 1665 the number of parishes counted had risen to 130. See The Number of all those that Hath Dyed in the Citie of London, & the Liberties … from the 28, of December 1581, vnto the 27, of December (1583?), STC 16738.5; Bell, Londons Remembrancer (1665), sigs. A4v-B2; and the weekly issues of The Trve Copie of all the Burials …, July 14-August (1603), STC 16743.9 (1–5). The annual bill for 1603, A True Report of all the Burials (1604), STC 16739.5 (reproduced by Wilson, facing p. 114), helps to explain the additions of 1603. For Bell, see also the appendix.
The figures for 1581 and 1582 come from Cecil MS. 208/6 at Hatfield, whose figures Creighton printed in 1891 (I, 343-44), when they were probably more legible than they are now. That for 1603 comes from the plague bill for September 15–22 printed in The Trve Copie, STC 16743.9 (10); in addition to figures for the 112 parishes in city wards within and without the walls, it gives those for nine “out parishes” in Westminster, Middlesex, and Surrey (344 plague deaths). The totals for September 15–22 also appeared in issues for October 6 onward (13–23), one of which (14 for October 13–20) Wilson reproduced, facing p. 106.
Wilson, p. 204. All the dates mentioned in printed lists for 1603 (The Trve Copie and A True Report) and in those for other years to 1646 are Thursdays, as are the dates in Cecil Ms. 208/6 (1577–1583), in The Number of all those that Hath Dyed (1582), and in Bell and others to 1646. The original plague bills were preserved at parish clerks' hall, but they and the hall were destroyed in the great fire of 1666. For the hall, see Stow, p. 215, also the map surveyed by John Leake and others and drawn by Wenceslaus Hollar, An Exact Surveigh (1667), site 138.
A Bibliography of Royal Proclamations of the Tudor and Stuart Sovereigns, cal. by Robert Steele (Oxford, 1910), nos. 696, 708, 719, 724, 760, 764, 852, 970, 1038, 1085, 1449, 1921, 1732. The authorities also postponed Michaelmas term in 1593 because of the plague, but they used one proclamation (no. 865, dated September 24) to say that the term had been postponed twice, to October 27 and then to November 3 (the fifth return day, Crastino Animarum), and had also been moved to St. Albans. Had he written in 1593, Rixton would have given November 3 rather than October 27. Besides, in 1593 September 14 was a Friday. In Paul L. Hughes's and James F. Larkin's Tudor and Stuart royal Proclamations (New Haven, 1964–1969, and Oxford, 1973–1983), the relevant proclamations are the same but are numbered differently.
The two surviving summaries (one reproduced by Wilson, p.198, the other at the Folger, 16743.8) and plague bill (PRO, S.P. 14/47/nos. 85–86) for 1609 all count 121 parishes. Bell printed (sig. B3v) and Wilson reprinted (p. 187) other figures for 1609. For 1581 see Cecil Ms. 208/6 (printed by Creighton, I, 343).
A modern version of the plague bill: St. Andrew Holborn, 8 St. Anne Aldersgate, 1 St. Bartholomew the Less, 3? St. Botolph Aldersgate, 6 St. Botolph Bishopsgate, 8 St. Bride Fleet Street, 14 Christchurch Newgate, 4 St. Dunstan in the West, 2 St. Vedast oster Lane, 1 St. George Southwark, 6 St. Gregory by Paul's, 1 St. Giles Cripplegate, 13? St. John Zachary, 2 St. James Garlickhithe, 2St. Katharine Coleman, 5St. Leonard Foster Lane, 3St. Leonard Eastcheap, 1St. Magnus the Martyr, 1St. Martin Vintry, 2St. Michael Wood Street, 4St. Michael Paternoster Royal, 1St. Mary Somerset, 1St. Mary Aldermanbury, 1St. Magdalen Old Fish Street, 1St. Margaret New Fish Street, 2St. Olave Southwark, 43St. Peter Cheap, 1St. Sepulchre, 28St. Saviour Southwark, 8St. Stephen Coleman Street, 1St. Swithin London Stone, 2?Holy Trinity the Less, 2St. Thomas the Apostle, 1St. Thomas Southwark, 3?St. Michael Bassishaw, 1This Holy Trinity is the one in Queenhithe ward called the less, because the other, in the Minories, was one of three city parishes outside the walls not counted until 1603 (the others were St. Bartholomew the Great and St. Botolph Aldgate). See Bell, sig. A4v.
In the second line of the summary the missing number to signify the end of the week should be “21,” but Rixton's “th” after it suggests either that he wrote “20” not knowing the method of plague bills or should have written “st“. A modern version of the summary and note:From the 14th to the)th of September)—377[dead of?] the plague—183parishes clear) of the plague)—74parishes infected—35Crich: Commendations, andI have sent you three letterswith bills enclosed, and Inever could receive anyone letter from you since yourdeparture, which is contraryto your promise made to meat London. All your friendsin London are in health, Godbe praised. The [law] term isproclaimed to begin the 27thof October. We have smalldoings by reason of the sickness.Yet I thank God it is nonearer unto us than the alleysas yet; there died two childrenmore out of the other alleys thisweek. And although yourfriends in London thinkthemselves forgotten of you,[yet?] they remember you, allwith many commendations.And thus for want of paperand time I cease now, committingyou to God. Your fellow, William Rixton
A modern version of the letter (italics indicate Latin expressions):Goodwife Hurde: I heartily commendgood health as my own; atque [i.e., and so], these [i.e., this letter] areyour letter dated instanter [i.e., urgently] by [i.e., sent via] Edmund MastersI have sent you three yards of fine black
26s., two yards quibuscum [i.e., with some] of fine black at 12s.xat 2s. 2d., 7s. 7d., and aliquibuscum [i.e., with others] of aired and of bugle lace [i.e., lace with glass beads in it] 20d., in all which things I have had been for myself, and the sum of them all is pD37s. Edmund Masters left with John a
Windet's broadside is The Trve Copie, STC 16743.9 (13–23), issued weekly, in which he printed plague bills beginning with that of July 14–21. To the bill of October 6–13 and all those until the end of the year, he added weekly summaries from July 14 and a headnote giving figures from 1593 and 1592. When the series resumed in 1604, STC 16743.11, he omitted the summaries and the headnote. The other broadside is A True Bill of the Whole Number that Hath Died, STC 16743.2, 3, printed for John Trundle; it appeared twice, with the same summaries from July 14 to October 6, then 20, 1603, and much the same headnote, format, and typography. The broadside of 1625 is The Red-Crosse, STC 20823, also by Trundle and also with much the same headnote. When it reappeared in 1636, STC 20824, it was issued by Henry Gosson.
For Graunt's book see the two editions of 1662, STC G1599 (pp. 4, 33) and G1599 A (pp. 3, 31); those of 1665, STC G1600-01 (pp. 6, 65 in both); and that of 1676, STC G1602 (pp. 1–2, 46).
Hull, The Economic Writings of Sir William Petty (Cambridge, Eng., 1899), II, 426-27 n. 2 (but see also II, 426 n. 1). Stow gave two sets of figures, one for parishes “within the walls“—8,598 deaths from all causes and 5,390 from plague—the other for parishes outside the walls and in the liberties—9,295 and 5,285 (=17,893 and 10,675). Presumably these parishes are the 109 counted in the plague bill at Park Farmhouse and from at least 1582 to 1603. Presumably, too, Bell's and Camden's figures are for the same parishes. Stow's figures appeared in editions of his Summarie from 1598 onward. They also appeared in editions of his Annales from 1600 onward but with 100 more plague deaths outside the walls and in the liberties (5,385). Because his total of plague deaths (10,675) did not also gain 100 in the Annales and is therefore correct only for the figures in the Summarie, one must conclude that the extra 100 plague deaths in the Annales are the result of a typographical error.
Shrewsbury, A History of Bubonic Plague in the British Isles (Cambridge, Eng., 1971). pp. 226–28 (see also A Collection of Very Valuable and Scarce Pieces Relating to the Last Plague , pp. 62–65). Sutherland, “When Was the Great Plague,” in Population and Social Change, ed.D. V. Glass and Roger Revelle (New Haven, 1972), pp. 317, 300, 303. Finlay, Population and Metropolis, the Demography of London 1580–1650 (Cambridge, Eng., 1981), pp. 118, 155. Slack, The Impact of Plague in Tudor and Stuart England (London, 1985), pp. 147, 151, 374 n. 6; in a second study Slack gave only Stow's figures, accurately: “Metropolitan Government in Crisis,” in The Making of the Metropolis, London 1500–1700, ed.A. L. Beier and Roger Finlay (London, 1986), pp. 62, 77n. 2. It is Sutherland, p. 288n. 1, who doubts that 1592 was a year of great mortality because of plague. E. A. Wrigley and R. S. Schofield use Sutherland's figures for London before 1610 in their The Population History of England 1541–1871 (Cambridge, Mass., 1981); see esp. pp. 80–81.
Compare, e.g., the figures cited above for September 1–29, with those for the same period among the printed plague bills for 1603 (STC 16743.9 [8–11]) and 1636 (STC 16745 [18–22]) and the weekly totals for 1625 printed by Graunt (sig. B4). Wilson reprinted the figures for 1603 and 1625 (pp. 93, 136-37).
Chambers introduced figures for 1593 that no one else has considered. In August and September, Philip Henslowe, who was at home in Southwark, mentioned the plague in three surviving letters to his son-in-law, the actor Edward Alleyn, who was touring with Lord Strange's men. In an undated letter evidently belonging to early August he wrote that 1,603 had died in London of all causes “this laste weacke” and 1,135 of plague, “the greatest that came yet.” On August 14, he thought 1,700 or 1,800 had died there “of all syckneses …in one weacke.” On September 28 he wrote that 435 fewer had died in London of the plague in the last two weeks and 1,100 or 1,200 “in all … this laste weack.” The relevant figures in the weekly totals, July 28 to August 4 1,550 797 August 4 to 11 1,532 651 September 15 to 22 450 (330?), do not compare well with Henslowe's. See Henslowe's Diary, pp. 277, 279, 281.