The Black Death was one of the deadliest pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. It is widely thought to have been an outbreak of bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, but this view has recently been challenged. Usually thought to have started inCentral Asia, it had reached the Crimea by 1346. From there, probably carried by fleas residing on the black rats that were regular passengers onmerchant ships, it spread throughout the Mediterranean and Europe.
During the February half term holidays the boys and I whipped out our Warwick Castle annual passes and spent one very rainy and cold English day seeing the “Smelly man” (the guy with the wild hair and dirty rags for clothes), the “Rat Catcher” (the guy in the black costume who also happens to have a pole with some dead rats hanging off the end…charming indeed!) and have a general wander around the castle. The last time we were there it was Summer time so it was interesting to see the contrast.
Alexander was selected out of the audience to smell the mystery bottles during the Ratty Show in the main hall of the castle. One of the bottles contained a “plague infested rat” and anyone who smelt it would surely die! Fortunately the smelly man took one for the team and sniffed that one. Alex was lucky and his bottle contained a “Noblemans Lemon and Mint balsam”.
We didn’t brave the Castle dungeon’s with its hideously disfigured plague victims (we chose to forgo subsequent nightmares).