Powys Digital History Project

The plague in Presteigne
The terrors of the plague

Early prosperity
It is thought that the granting of a weekly Saturday market to Presteigne probably dates from the middle of the 13th century. The town seems to have become relatively prosperous by the end of the century, with an estimated population of around 350 inhabitants.

The economic growth of the town, however, was to be badly hit by a series of bubonic plague epidemics in the second half of the 14th centuryRemoval of plague victimswhich ravaged much of Europe. These were chiefly caused by the primitive sanitation of the times, with open sewers and overcrowding in the towns. The disease was rapidly spread by rat fleas, and those bitten quickly succumbed and their chances of survival were very slender.

The Black Death
The earliest of the major outbreaks, the infamous "Black Death" of 1349-50, had spread throughout Europe and is believed to have caused the deaths of around one third of the population of England and Wales. The Black Death was so called because of the black spots of dried blood that appeared under the skin of victims.
There were further serious outbreaks of the plague at intervals between 1360 and 1390, and the epidemic of 1349-50 was recorded as having ‘swept away over half the population’ of the diocese of Hereford.

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