Medieval Illustration Of Bubonic Plague

1300 to 1393 AD

To find the arrival of the Black Death in any village, perhaps the most reliable way in the absence of any documentary evidence is the “Vicars Test”. An examination of Warmington’s list shows that there were 3 vicars in 1349/50 and so it is fairly certain that this pinpoints the first outbreak here.

It has been estimated that the population of the region had fallen by 40% following this first outbreak of the plague, but there were four further outbreaks before the end of the century and these seem to have severely affected the younger adults and children.

All this led to the desertion of some villages, but Warmington survived though with a population that may have declined by as much as 60% and it is from this period that the gradual decline of Southorpe, and probably also Eaglethorpe, began.

It did, however, bring about the virtual collapse of the feudal system since labour shortages enabled peasant farmers and cottagers to convert feudal dues to money payments and to obtain leaseholds on their properties, and the period following the last major outbreak of the plague in c.1390 became a good time for these smaller landholders.

Following the last visitation of the plague, the arable land at Warmington was, in 1393, turned over to four open fields, Westfield, Bolwellfield, Ernefield and Blackthornfield. This may appear somewhat strange given the fall in population, but was probably done in an attempt to improve cropping and to allow for longer fallow periods.