As we enter however another 12 months residing with Covid-19, Mike James, a member of the Castle Park archaeology group, appears to be like at the inbound links between two Bishop’s Stortford landmarks and a pandemic of just about 700 yrs ago…

The quick distribute of Covid-19’s Omicron variant has been depressing, but we are terribly properly-educated about it and shielded by vaccination by means of the speedy developments of science.

Almost seven generations back, in 1348-49, a different pandemic unfold westwards into the Uk, with awful repercussions – populace mortality in Europe and the Uk was 30-40% (Covid’s is ‘only’ .25%).

St Michael’s Church in Windhill, Bishop’s Stortford. Pic: Vikki Lince. (54124550)

The leads to of the bubonic plague were being then mysterious and there had been no solutions, whilst numerous were tried using. The survivors could only thank God for sparing them – they must have felt blessed. But who can guess at the penalties of living via such an enormity?

Just one vital survivor was Ralph de Stratford, the Bishop of London between 1339 and 1354. Bishop’s Stortford was the Bishop of London’s from Saxon times (604 Advert). It looks apparent that the 1st Stortford church was Saxon, becoming replaced by a Norman building when the Normans arrived, then superseded by the current St Michael’s. But virtually no physical proof for this sequence exists the earliest document for the present church is 1431.

A quick wander from St Michael’s, the improved documented Waytemore Castle was also established by a Bishop of London, a Norman, in the 1080s. Nearby villages owed ‘castle guard’ to develop and maintain it.

The Waytemore Castle mound in Bishop's Stortford. Pic: Vikki Lince. (54124610)
The Waytemore Castle mound in Bishop’s Stortford. Pic: Vikki Lince. (54124610)

In 1346, just ahead of the plague arrived, Waytemore below Bishop Ralph was at its top. A licence to crenellate – supply it with battlements – was granted by Edward III and it was in great maintenance.

The castle precinct housed the constable (William Attewood), the bishop’s jail and a chapel committed to St Paul – proper due to the fact St Paul was a Roman prisoner. The castle’s continues to be are flint and mortar, but its crenellations, window surrounds, doorways and ways, like St Michael’s currently, would have been stone.

When JL Glasscock, the builder and historian, investigated the castle keep’s ruins in 1899, no masonry was found – presumably salvaged for reuse somewhere else. Limestone does not manifest in this place, so it had to be expensively carted in: probably Ralph made a decision to increase his church as effectively at the exact same time as his castle?

In 1352, in thanksgiving for his survival, the bishop established a chantry in his chapel of St Paul to pray forever for his and the Queen’s souls. But St Michael’s displays a considerably higher realistic expense – in time, dollars and product. It would have taken numerous many years to make, by hand, being accomplished right after the plague experienced subsided, before 1431.

Mike James (54179539)
Mike James (54179539)

We can surmise that present-day church, significantly larger than its Norman predecessor, represents in section – like his chantry – a thanks featuring from Bishop Ralph and the surviving Stortford populace for their safety from the plague, as well as a plea for their long run.

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