Contactless Delivery – in Medieval England

Many comparisons are being made nowadays of the current pandemic to Spanish flu in the early 1900s and the bubonic plague in the 1500s. Then, as now, the quickest way to stop the spread of the disease was through voluntary and enforced quarantines and keeping a safe distance from others. In towns across England one such reminder, of the social distancing that occurred, remains to this day.

Sitting unnoticed beside main roads, or near the outskirts of many towns all across England are stones that tell a story of the plague. These Plague Stones were hollowed out from the middle, filled with vinegar, and placed at the edge of town. Farmers were terrified to bring goods to market because of the plague, as a result of which there were severe food shortages in the towns. 

People from the town left coins in the vinegar and retreated a safe distance (one would assume of 6 feet or more) away from the stone. Farmers then came to the stone, picked up the – now sanitized with vinegar – coin from the hollow and left their farm produce, eggs, bread, etc. by the stone for the person standing a safe distance away.

And that was how Plague Stones played their part in stopping the spread of the plague the 1500s – they were the contactless delivery of today.

These Plague Stones teach us the importance of social distancing in fighting any pandemic. And more importantly, they teach us the value of knowing our History and learning from it – knowing how our ancestors got through the plague will teach us how to get through our current crisis. (Images courtesy of UK town travel websites – exploreperinth.org.uk etc).

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