When I was writing ‘Plague, Flood and Gewgaws’ last year I thought a lot about how things must have been for local people, our ancestors, when terrible events visited their lives.
Over the centuries, the Fenland people suffered devastating floods time and time again. They also had to cope with the upheaval of Church Reforms, times of famine, the Black Death and cholera.
And then, during the 1580s, Wisbech and Guyhirn went into lockdown.
When the bubonic plague found its way to Guyhirn, then to Wisbech, the local authorities divided Wisbech into ten wards. Movement in and out of these areas was restricted and citizens showing symptoms of the plague were ordered to isolate themselves and stay at home. Baptisms, burials and weddings could only be attended by individuals strictly necessary for the ceremony; no guests at all. Deliveries of food had to be organised and delivered to those who were sick and isolated.
I remember thinking how glad I was that nothing like this happens now! A year later, such things have become strangely familiar.
This very difficult year has affected everyone in some way. Personally speaking, I had been looking forward to giving more talks than ever before. The diary was full. The first talk was in early March, a lovely event at Ely Library, but then lockdown came and the diary was emptied.
The extra time did, however, allow the new Fenland Mystery, ‘In The Wash’ to be finished ahead of time. With this book I went right back in time to 1216 and loved writing about our area in those days so much that I think I’ll stay there for a while and write more about the people who lived then.
No lockdown then, no Covid 19, but leprosy was rife and our understanding of medicine was basic. Our Fenland was a watery wilderness stretching between the islands where our towns were growing and developing; Ely, March, Ramsey, Littleport, Whittlesey, just to name a few. And Wisbech looked out to sea, the Wash coming in right to its doors.
When you think about it, we’ve lived through a lot of interesting times!