1st January, 1349

01/01/2019 all-day

The Black Death reached Norwich. According to the 18th century historian Francis Blomfield, the first recorded outbreak of what we now call bubonic plague occurred in the city on this date.

Plague had already struck on England’s south coast the previous summer, and was by now rampant throughout the country. Bubonic plague got its name from the painful lymph nodes, culled buboes, which appeared on sufferers’ bodies. Dried blood under the skin turned black. After its onset, an awful death came in seven out of 10 cases within two or three days.

We can never be certain how many people died of the plague in Norwich. Recent estimates indicate that out of a population of about 25,000 in 1348, as few as 6,000 survived, or were living in the city, 20 years later. Of course, many people may have fled to the countryside, where there was a better chance of survival.

The dead were piled high in carts and buried in communal pits in Cathedral Close. In Lynn almost half the population died, while Yarmouth’s densely populated Rows were decimated.

Eventually the country recovered, but plague kept on returning to Norwich, to devastating effect in 1578, 1603 and 1625. East Anglia managed to evade the worst effects of the Great Plague of London in 1665, which was largely confined to the metropolis.