Ackworth Plague Stone

The Black Death and Bubonic Plague
The black death had arrived in Southern England in 1348 and by 1350 had killed a third of England's population. In nearby Pontefract it was estimated that around 40% of the population had been killed. A reminder of how communities communicated and traded in spite of plague remains in Ackworth to this day in the form of the Ackworth plague stone although it is thought that the stone dates from yet another outbreak of plague in 1645. Situated at the junction of Sandy Gate Lane on the road into Pontefract, the stone is also a grade II listed monument. Plague stones were described as "receptacles for sterilising coins in vineagar, normally at or close to parish boundaries." Indicating that the current location of the plague stone was the outer rim of the parish. The plague in 1645 was said to have killed 153 with the bodies been buried in a 'burial field' "crossed by the footpath from Ackworth to Hundhill." The area had possibly already been used as an area of mass burial after a skirmish earlier in the year between Roundhead and Royalist forces as part of the English Civil War. The bubonic plague of 1645 was not confined to Ackworth, in Leeds over 1,300 people died and a further 245 were thought to have died 'in and around the Wakefield area' with one theory being that the plague had been brought into the area by soldiers fighting in the civil war. Another story of how the plague came to Ackworth was retold by Henry Thompson in the book 'A History of Ackworth School in its first 100 years'. He recounts the story of how a popular and well loved monk went to Rome and became "smitten by the plague and died". The monk, from the priory at Nostell would preach at the medieval cross in the centre of the village and was described as a "noble soul with a kindly heart" who was admired by young and old alike. After succumbing to the plague in Rome, his body was brought back and passed through Ackworth at which point "nothing could satisfy the ignorant but faithful love of the old hearers" and the coffin was opened. The village was then stricken with plague and the stone on Castle Syke Hill became "for many months the only contact between them and the outside world". Describing a transaction the book says "upon that stone the Ackworth purchaser dropped his money into a vessel of water, for which, a few hours afterwards, he found his return in merchandise." Of this tale the author comments "we make no idle comment on this history. We tell the tale as it was told to us." from wikipedia
Return to: Various or Gallery