Plague Survivors at All Saints Church, Great Sturton, Lincolnshire Wolds, 1348

All Saints Church, Great Sturton, Lincolnshire

The Bubonic Plague, a pandemic also known as the Black Death, arrived in Lincolnshire in the summer of 1348, and over the next two years killed 45% of the population. Generally now considered to have been carried by fleas which fed off the blood of rats, the human victim’s symptoms included delirium, fever and swollen lymph glands, called buboes.

The inability of the Church to cure the plague created widespread disillusionment and led some towards magic and hedonism. A common belief at the time was that birds spread the plague, and plague doctors often wore beak-like masks.

In Lincolnshire the sites of 200 abandoned medieval villages have been identified, which can often be spotted by irregular undulations in fields. The north aisle at Gt. Sturton was demolished probably as a result of these events, and Nikolaus Pevsner comments that ‘cutting down the aisle parallels the gradual decay of the village it served’ (see Lincolnshire, in The Buildings of England series by N Pevsner, Yale University Press; 1989).