Outbreaks of plague, the Black Death, had occurred in Britain and Europe periodically
for centuries. In 1663 Holland suffered another outbreak and as a consequence Charles II stopped all trade with the country
to prevent its spread into the United Kingdom. In spite of this, outbreaks in the poorest parts of London began to occur.
By early April 1665 almost 400 deaths were recorded in one week from the Plague.
The more prosperous residents of the city started moving their families to their
country homes and by June, unusually hot, everybody who could leave London did so. People showing symptoms of the Black Death
were locked in their home together with their family for 40 days after the plague victim had either died or recovered. Guards
were set to stop people breaking out of the locked houses.
Some servants left behind by fleeing aristocracy and prosperous merchants
were employed driving the death carts carrying plague victims and others took
to looting and robbery. The death toll mounted to such an extent that graveyards soon became full. Vacant land was used for
'plague pits' and quicklime was used in them. In spite of grave diggers literally working night and day, they could not keep
up with deaths and so corpses were piled up awaiting burial.The deaths increased
steadily so that by the middle of August it had risen to over 6000 in one week. After this, the death toll very gradually
declined although many people were still dying. As late as November, 900 people died in one week.
During the summer, whilst the plague raged in London, outbreaks were seen
outside the capital. As fear of the plague increased in the surrounding countryside so refugees from London became more and
more unwelcome. Towns posted armed guards to keep them out.
Thousands of Londoners lived on boats on the River Thames during the height of
the plague and many of these survived.
Only by Christmas of 1665 did life started to return to normal in London.
Just over a month later the King returned to St James's Palace, so encouraging others to do the same