The title is used here to cover the constant visitations by outbreaks of infectious diseases: in the 19th century the types are well-enough known but in earlier centuries the plague covered a number of different diseases. There is no help from Alcesters burial register in identifying the infections: it is a matter of looking at individual years or periods for sudden rises in deaths. The outbreaks in the 19th century were, as often as not, caused by cholera.
Between 1568 and 1570 the average yearly burials was 7, which
seems very low. In 1590 the number was 19, in 1592-37. This latter seems quite high. In
1601 & 1602 the annual death rate was 22, which was probably normal, but from 1604 to
1609 the average was 41, suggesting a protracted visitation. We have two corroborative
documentary sources: in 1604, the will of John Dodd of Alcester states that he was visited
by the plague: in 1607 the people of Stratford made a collection for Alcester because of
their affliction from the plague. In the years before the Civil War there were several
highlights: in 1624 40; in 1625-42; in 1630-40; in 1635-47. The years 1624/25 were
particularly bad years around the Stratford and Redditch areas, so infection in Alcester
is not surprising sing. Other years in the 17th century when, apparently, Alcester was
hit were 1654-70 and 1684-85. The 1654 outbreak mirrors a similar visitation
in Birmingham. Generally speaking, outbreaks seem fairly localised. The great plague of
London in 1665 had no immediate effect in Alcester only 18 deaths that year, though the
number doubled in 1666 and 1667.
The population of Alcester was gradually increasing, so deaths in the 18th and 19th centuries would be expected to increase. However, there are several high points: in 1727, 80 burials; in 1729, 96. This is the very time when in neighbouring Worcestershire some contagion laid many low it is thought to have been either smallpox or influenza. The 1830s in Alcester contained five years when the numbers were above average,e.g. in 1833 - 64. There was a general cholera epidemic in the area, as there was between 1849 and the l870s, when, again, several years saw an increase in burials, though it is known that smallpox added to the cholera deaths. The improvement in the 1870s in Alcesters water supply and sewerage system led to a decided decrease in the annual burial figures.
Summer 1986 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1986