Outbreaks of Plague.
Plague and pestilence beset the people of this country from the 14th to the 17th centuries. At the start of this period there were a series of poor harvests, causing malnutrition and the reduction of the immunity to disease, just as the first wave of plagues swept across Europe. Firstly there was the Black Death of 1349, that claimed half the population, and it is understood that a similar proportion perished in a plague epidemic of 1510.
After the registers were started in 1558, further outbreaks were recorded in 1590, 1603/4, 1608/9, and again in 1666.
On this last occasion it is recorded that on October 26th, ‘George Cumber, his wife with five children and two servants died of ye plague’, and on the same day, Joan, daughter of Thomas Bannister with three children died, all of ye plague.
Of these last records the greatest number occurred in 1609 when a total of 92 residents of Yalding became victims of this scourge.
It is thought that on some occasions it was brought to Yalding by children who were sent out from London to be nursed, and because of the profit that could be gained, it did not prevent them repeatedly suffering from the same cause.
A 14th century monk, of the cathedral city of Rochester, 24 kilometres (15 miles) to the north of Yalding, wrote: -
To our great grief the plague carried off so vast a multitude of people that it was not possible to find anybody to carry the corpses to the cemetery . . . mothers and fathers carried their own children on their shoulders to the church and dropped them in the common pit . . . such a terrible stench came from these pits that hardly anyone dared to walk near the cemeteries.
It was only after the Fire of London in September 1666, which destroyed 13,000 rat-infested houses in the city, that England had seen the last plague outbreak.