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Black Death Entered Britain Through the Port of Weymouth

Black Death Entered Britain Through the Port of Weymouth History Social Studies World History Disasters

This plaque, in Weymouth, notes that the "Black Death" entered England through this southern port.

The point of entry, and what happened thereafter, is documented in the Grey Friars Chronicle:

In this year 1348 in Melcombe, in the county of Dorset, a little before the feast of St. John the Baptist [that is, around the 25th June 1348], two ships, one of them from Bristol came alongside. One of the sailors had brought with him from Gascony the seeds of the terrible pestilence and through him the men of that town of Melcombe [see note below] were the first in England to be infected.

Soon people in the villages and hamlets near Weymouth were ill.  When villagers left the area, to seek refuge in other parts of the country, they spread the infection.  It did not take long to reach the major cities.

Because people in the strategically important town of Portland also succombed to the plague, the quarries and fields could not be worked and the coastal defenses were deserted.  In 1352, Edward III ordered that the islanders could not move about as they wished. 

In the end, as noted on this plaque, between thirty and fifty percent of Britain's entire population died of Black Death.

NOTE:  The seaside town known today as Weymouth used to be called Melcombe Regis - hence the apparent confusion in the Grey Friars account. 

According to the BBC:  

Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were once two separate places, their boundaries being the harbour, with (old) Weymouth on the south side and Melcombe Regis on the north. There was much feuding between the two over the trading rights of the harbour, but they were officially united in 1571 when Elizabeth I granted a Royal Charter. They then became the Borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis.


Media Credits

Image online, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

PD

 

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