The Plague

1627 was not a good year in Salisbury. At the height of summer that year, the first victims of a disease that had ravaged other areas of the country made a rude appearance in the City. The plague had arrived. Richer members of Salisbury society quickly left for more rural areas, hopeful of avoiding the worst effects.

One man, however, stepped forward to try and protect his community, John Ivie, Silversmith, Goldsmith and Mayor. Initially, Mayor Ivie, with his strong puritan views, tended to cast blame on the lifestyles of those affected as a punishment from God. As the sheer numbers affected rose rapidly his blame soon turned to concern and radical action. He initiated a number of actions which we would recognise today. A foodbank was founded with leather tokens given to families where the bread winner was ill. A city council brewery, owned and run by the city council was the only provider of beer for local inns the profits of which bought further supplies for the foodbank. Apprentice training was created to help the orphaned children of families learn a trade and a hospital was founded to look after those who were showing signs of contracting the disease.

Nearly 50% of the population of the city died during this period and the previously reliable and wealthy economy of sheep and wool was totally decimated, Salisbury needed, as many cities did in those times, to reinvent itself with new industry, like musical instrument making and cutlery production.

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