Sutton Bridge

Plague, Flood and Gewgaws 28/10/2019

Local History Group

October saw the Local History Group treated to a fascinating insight into the plague that came to Wisbech in the late 1500’s by Diane Carlton Smith. Diane is an accomplished local author who specialises in Fenland research and has written various books on the subject along with fiction novels based on the area.

We learned that when the plague swept through the country, the leaders of Wisbech took it on themselves to attempt to minimise the chances of local infection by very charitable and sensitive means. Wisbech was split into 10 wards, each looked over by one of the leaders. Travel between wards was forbidden and travel in and out of the town also banned. One amazing fact that came out was the sympathetic way the poor and the infected were treated. Those who caught the disease were confined to their homes, a red cross painted on the door, but food and wood, for heating, was supplied to them and left on the doorstep. Those who could afford it gave monies over to a central fund to cover the costs. A gesture that seems to conflict with our understanding of the class gap of the day.

Diane had copies of her books for sale and numerous members took the chance to buy them This particular talk was based on her latest tome, ‘Plague, Flood and Gewgaws’. A worthy read.

I will leave you to figure out the meaning of the word ‘Gewgaws’ but no prizes for the right answer.