Colne, sinful Colne, and the Plague
Ralph Josselin was vicar of Earls Colne from 1641 until his death in 1683. He experienced, during his tenure, the Civil War, the Commonwealth and the Restoration. He commenced his Diary with a brief account of his early life, and kept it on a regular basis, with weekly entries from 1644, until his death.
The diary is fascinating to read in its entirity, but the following extracts are unique in their description of the plague that raged in East Anglia between 1665 and 1666. We rely on Ralph Josselin's figures for our estimates of the most probable mortality from plague in Colchester in and other Essex parishes.
The extracts are taken from the edition of Josselin's Diary by Dr A. MacFarlane, published by the Oxford University Press for the British Academy in 1976, from a transcription in the Essex Records Office (author unknown)
God good in manifold mercies, my personal illnes abateth, blessed bee God. The plague gott into our land at Yarmouth and London, 14 dying this weeke.
God good in our preservacon. The plague feares the London. They flie before it and the country feares all trade with London. Died 1006; of the plague 470. The Lord stay his heavy hand.
A sad windy, stormy violent morning. To Aug 9 a great increase of plague. 2817, total 4030. Giles criplegate 690. Lord bee not angry with our prayers. And now Colchester is infected, and when will Coin lay it to heart.
Kept a day of prayer at Mr Cressener's great resort, God in mercy, heare our prayers. Colchester's infection looketh sadly, by a joyner. Dedham clapt him into a pest house presently. God spare that place.
God good in Colnes preservation, yet Colchester increaseth in illnes being spread over the whole town. After frequent reports of a most wonderfull increase this weeke it abed through mercy. From Sept 5 to 12, 562.
The publique fast, and our calamities great, yet oh how few mind this hand of God that is lifted up, but goe on in their vain wayes. Wee remembred poore Colchester in our collection, neare 30s and sent them formerly 4li God accept us and spare us for his mercy sake.
To thy goodnes wee own it with praises that wee are preserved from the smal pox in our town and plague in the country, which is hott at Ipswich. Harwich an 100 dying in 3 weeks, their graves fill the churchyard alreadie, and have called for a new burying place. At Colchester it spreads exceedingly. This weake buried 188. Feares of Cogshall, Halsted, Feering. Certainly at Kelvedon up land, Braintree and yett Colne, sinful Colne, spared.
Abated at London again 408. Burials 1388; 1031 of the plague, yet at Colchester it increased. Above 20 new houses infected. Buried there about 147.
A good season and God good in his mercie to us. Said the plague mortal to many masters of families at London. It increased 399, in all dying 1787, of the plague 1414. Abated at Harwich yet not cleare at Colchester. Their died 110. Lord cleare the nacon.
Publique fast, a very thin audience, yett God good to us in withdrawing his pestilence and our preservation. Sent Colchester 7li.10s. collected at our severall fasts. Lord accept and bee gracious unto us.
Wonderfull dry. Plague abates at London, viz to 17, total 224 but it sadly increaseth at Colchester to 70.
God good in manifold mercies. Plague gentle but increaseth at London, viz. 26, tot. 211. Feare worse at Colchester 73. Its at Dedham and severall vil- lages. Lord in mercy remove thy hand.
God good in our preservacon, yet sadly called on for the plague, one dying of spots at night. It increased at Colchester sadly to 177. At London to 40 total 213. Many people resort to the word; lord doe them good by it.
Cold month, but indifferent dry. God good to us in our preservacon, under a strang carlesries of people. London abates to 31, total 203. Colchester abates also to 110, and not so mortal at Bocking. God in his rich grace preserve poore Coin.
God good to admiracon in our towns preservation, when so sad in all other places, Cambridge, 0undles Needham, Braintree, But above all at Colchester, increasing to 180.
A very hot season. Plague rageth at Braintree, Colchester, 169. At London abated to 33, total increased to 247.
The aire moist. Plague at Colch.18. God cleare that place, restore our peace and trade. God good in the word. Saw the sad state of Braintree, die 21. My heart dies as to leaving coln. Lord direct mee and provide for mee, for I relie on thee for mee and mine.
A very wett morning. The country cleare of the plague.