The Great Plague of London, 1665-1666.

The Great Plague of London (1665-1666) spread through the city during a time of great political change and social disruption, aligning with the Stuart Restoration and the Great Fire of London. An estimated 100,000 people died from the plague from symptoms such as fever, vomiting, coughing up blood, painful swelling, and hysteria (“The Great Plague”). The Great Plague encouraged significant social, political, and medical responses to plague, inspiring development in medical understandings and practices, governmental action through public health measures, and increased sanitation and better housing in the densely populated London (Mullett 1946, 304).

Nine images of the plague in London, 17th century

Nine images of the plague in London, 17th century.

This collection of nine printed illustrations are featured as the frontispiece of Walter George Bell’s detailed account of the plague in The Great Plague in London in 1665. These wood prints depict different scenes from the plague including a scene of infected people from different social classes being treated by medical professionals, body collectors going through the streets, people escaping the Great Fire by taking refuge on boats on the Thames River, mass burial scenes,  a funerary procession, and what appears to be scenes of mass migration of those who lost their homes to the Great Fire of London. 

Chart of distribution of the Great Plague, 1665

Chart of distribution of the Great Plague, 1665.

This print depicts a chart showing the geographical distribution of deaths during the Great Plague in London from Walter George Bell’s The Great Plague in London in 1665. The darkest regions represent over 3000 deaths per unit square, the second darkest being over 2000 deaths, the third darkest being over 1000 deaths, and the lightest being under 500 deaths. Through the variations of shading used by the artist, it appears that the outskirts and/or most heavily populated areas of the city were the most affected by the Great Plague and that areas such as the Tower of London were not as severely impacted. The Great Plague became known as the “Poore’s Plague” because the lower classes were “unable to escape from it” (“The Great Plague in London”). 




This silver tankard is part of a collection of six others commissioned by Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, the Justice of Peace for His Majesty Charles II, for his friends (Banister 1967, 356). The tankard is engraved with depictions of the Great Fire and the Great Plague of London in commemoration of his services to the city as a magistrate during these events. The Great Plague engraving depicts a mass burial of victims of the plague and is accompanied by a Latin inscription honouring Godfrey’s role in lessening the plague’s devastating effects. It also includes a reference to a silver flagon gifted to Godfrey from Charles II in recognition “of his faithfulness to duty” (358).

Prev Next