by Bill Carson
The below extract is from Cornelius Brown’s- Notes About Notts, 1874:
Most old writers agree in ascribing to Nottingham the merit of being a healthful town. One author, writing 140 years ago, says ” the air is esteemed as healthy as any part of England affords”. The situation of the town, the open spaces within it, and the efforts made to ensure the cleanliness of the streets, have gained for other large places, it is occasionally the home of disastrous epidemics. Deering says: “as healthful as Nottingham is, there mostly happens once in five years some distemperature in the air;” and he mentions an outbreak of smallpox in 1736, which caused 104 to be buried in St Mary’s churchyard in one month.
The year in which the plague visited Nottingham was 1667. Bamford, writing of the plague twenty four years before the above event, and when the disease was by no means uncommon, says: “it hath beene proved that clothes of infected persons layed up and not well ayred, being opened, though a yeere or more after, have instantly renewed the plague. Againe, we perceive by the smell that garments will retaine the sent of wormwood or muske for a long time; the cause is not in the sent by itself considered, but in the ayre, which is the subject of the sent. The plague in a garment is the poisoned ayre, being according to the nature thereof from the partie infected, and infecting the garment, though not perceived by smell”.
A curious fact is mentioned in connection with the outbreak of the plague. It is recorded that it made a cruel desolation in the higher part of Nottingham, but very few died in the lower. Especially in a street called Narrow Marsh, it was observed that the infection had no power, and that during the whole of the time the plague raged, not one who lived in that street died of it.
This induced many of the richer sort of people to crowd thither and hire lodgings at any price; the preservation of the people was attributed to the effluvia of the tanner’s ouze (for there were then 47 tanner’s yards in that place), besides which they caused a smoke to be made by burning tanner’s knobs.