Hard Times – Historic experiences of Pandemic in Clent: Plague and Cholera

Updated: 14/11/2020 with ‘Prevention of Chloera’

In October 2020 we are still in the grip of some very hard times. The Covid Pandemic is still with us causing health and social problems locally, nationally and in fact world wide. We are daily advised of the measures taken by our government to try to curb the spread of the disease many of which restrict individual movement and socialising and also have a huge impact on the national economy as many face job losses, education at all levels has and is being interrupted, high streets suffer, public transport is confusing, house prices rise. The list of current problems can go on but the focus of this article is not our hard times but those of people living in Clent hundreds of years ago.

Black Death in Clent

With the help of Clent’s John Amphlett; who lived in Clent 1845 -1918 , latterly at Clent Cottage, Odnall Lane, author of A Short History Of Clent.(republished by Clent History Society in 1991)- we can take a glimpse at life here around 1348-1355.

The Black Death (The Plague)

The mid 1300s were prosperous times for England, (Amphlett writes,) but a great calamity was approaching, in which it, in common with the rest of Europe became involved. The Black Death was steadily marching towards Europe from the East, and first made its appearance on the coast of Dorsetshire on August 1st,1348. It travelled slowly northwards, and shortly overspread the whole country. It was terribly destructive and is said to have destroyed a third of the entire population. Its ravages in Clent were extensive as may be gathered from a jury summoned on July 3rd 1355.

The jury were being asked to judge on monies owed annually, from the manors of Mere and Clent to King Edward 3rd as the profits usually raised by  these two areas had been adversly affected by the pestilence. Amphlet gives details of exactly who the land owners were and how much they expected to pay for their land and the exact financial returns they all expected. They were disappointed men at that time.

In a later chapter he turns his attention to the plight of ‘working men’.

Although, the first onset of the plague was the most virulent there were severe visitations of the pestilence in 1361 and 1369. The consequence of the plague was a dearth of labour and in consequence of this wages rose, while much land went out of cultivation. And though the value of labour increased, the value of farming products remained stationary.the loss  caused by the pestilence fell entirely upon the landowners, who strove wildly to regain their lost power and profits.

Parliaments answer to this problem was to pass a Statute of Labourers. This made it clear that wages of labourers were to be frozen to the same wage level as when the plague began. Anyone demanding more was to be sent to prison. Any Lord of the manor who payed workers more than the legally agreed amount would be liable to pay a severe fine. This didn’t work out well. The Lords tried to stop a movement that was gathering force among the working men by treating them as serfs who were not entitled to monetary payments at all. In this way they tried to rebuild their own lost fortunes. Labour prices continued to increase, two and three times above the original figures and serfs realised their powers .

A preacher by the name of Wiklif (not quite Wiki or Wi Fi) began to speak about one man being as good as another. A message which soon spread around the villages by the Lollards (Monks who preached in country areas and tended the sick). These Lollards were very much in evidence around Worcestershire and found people in Clent very willing to accept their message.

Cholera in Victorian Clent

The below Notice was uncovered behind a chimney in one of the Church Cottages.

Worcestershire County Council provide advice on preventing Cholera





As Cholera is now prevailing in some parts of the Continent, and may make its appearance in Worcestershire, the SANITARY COMMITTEE of the COUNTY COUNCIL OF WORCESTERSHIRE think it desirable for it to be known —

  1. That there is little risk that this Disease will spread to Persons who attend upon the sick, if proper precautions be taken.
  2. That with Cholera the matters which the patient discharges from the stomach and bowels are alone infective through food, water or air.
  3. That all bedding and clothing used by Cholera patients should be burnt; and, if not burnt, must be disinfected before being washed. Clothing and bedding so burnt by order of the Sanitary Authority may be paid for out of the Rates [Section 121 Public Health Act 1875]
  4. That any leakage, or soakage from cesspools or drains, however small, of the infected material into any water-supply used for household purposes, may propagate the Disease.


The precautionary measures which should be taken are–

  1. All uncleanly premises, outhouses and closets should be thoroughly limewashed at once.
  2. The immediate removal of all dirt heaps, pig-wash and house refuse from near dwellings, or from near sources of water-supply. In the removal of such filth, the rubbish heaps themselves and the exposed surfaces from which the filth has been taken, should be liberally sprinkled with either Chloride of Lime or Carbolic Acid, in powder. Unpaved earth close to the dwellings, if sodden with slops or filth, ought to be similarly disinfected.
    The above Disinfectants can be supplied by Local Sanitary Authorities free of cost.
  3. Drains should be disinfected and well flushed every day, and attention given to all the drainage defects through which offensive smells reach the house. If there is reason to believe that there are drainage imperfections, the Sanitary Inspector should be called in.
  4. Overcrowding should be prevented, and ample ventilation of living and sleeping rooms should be attended to by opening of windows, etc.
  5. Immediate and searching examination of all sources of household water-supply; and when defects are discovered the Medical Officer of Health should be immediately consulted. All cisterns should be at once cleansed, and any direct connection of waste pipes with drains should be severed. The water contained in a cistern directly used for flushing a W.C. should not be resorted to for drinking purposes.
    If, unfortunately, the only water which for a time can be got should be open to suspicion of dangerous organic impurity, it ought to at least be boiled before it is used for drinking, and it should not be drunk later than 24 hours after it has been boiled. Filtering of the ordinary kind cannot of itself be trusted to purify water. The dangerous qualities of water are not removed by the addition to it of wine or spirits.
  6. The cleanliest domestic and personal habits are enjoined.
  7. Stale, unsound or unripe fruit or vegetables, tainted meat, fish, etc. should be avoided.
  8. Attacks of Diarrhoea should be promptly checked, and medical advice sought at once; and, under present circumstances, the bowel discharges in such cases should be disinfected before being thrown down drains or into cesspools.

The most Reliable Disinfectant for bowel discharges, articles of clothing, etc. or for swabbing furniture and floors, is the solution of Corrosive Sublimate (Perchloride of Mercury). A convenient preparation in which this substance is made up is known as “St Bede Disinfectant”, and can be obtained through any Druggist. It is sold in small solid blocks, four of which should be dissolved in each gallon of water to concentrate the required strength of solution. Non-metallic vessels, such as wooden buckets or earthenware pans, should be used for this solution and articles which have been soaked in it should be ???? in water before being sent to the wash.

A less reliable, though convenient disinfectant solution for the same purpose prepared by mixing half a pint of Carbolic Acid in three gallons of water.
For the disinfection of ashpiles, middens, manure heaps or cesspools, etc. Chloride of Lime should be used in sufficient quantity to destroy all effective odours.It should be remembered that all of these disinfectants are poisonous.Issued by order of the Sanitary Committee, 6th September 1892.

(Signed) DOUGLAS GALTON, Chairman of the Sanitary Committee,
G.H FOSBROKE, County Medical Officer of Health

[Bayliss & Son, Steam Printers, The Cross and Trinity Works, Worcester.]


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