Category Archives: Health and disease

Great Plague

The Great Plague started in May 1665 and it was nasty stuff – worse than Man Flu. It’s reckoned that it killed 75,000 Londoners

A little biology lesson! If you see a rat in London today then it is a Brown rat.

Back in the 1600s, however, the resident rat was the Black Rat and it was believed for some time that these carried the Bubonic plague which was then passed to people by fleas.

This has proved not to be the case and the disease was actually passed from human to human by fleas and lice.

Not the first plague epidemic in London, that being the Black Death in 1348/49. Last recorded case in UK was in 1679. The last recorded case in China though, was in 2019 – but 2022 in the USA.

Want to know more? Come on either my Billingsgate or City Essentials walk.

Aldgate Pump

There was a well recorded here in 1200s and the first record of a pump appears to be in 1574.

The wolf’s head on the east side of the pump is reputed to mark the last place a wolf was seen in the City.

The water came from a stream which reputedly flowed from Hampstead north-west of the City but this is not possible as the Walbrook River, which flows from Shoreditch to the north-east, is in the way!

It was reported as being “bright, sparkling, cool and of an agreeable taste” but in the 1870s was contaminated by graveyard water and several hundred people died from drinking it. A local vicar had the water analysed and the pump was closed in 1875.

The pump was moved in 1876 because of a road widening exercise and was finally connected to the mains. A regular patron was the Whittard Tea Company who filled their kettles there. It remained in use until the 1920s.