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Black Death

The Black Death did more to change the society than religion, military action, change in the ruling class.
The summer of 1348 was very wet and was already a disaster because of the poor harvest when plague broke out in what was then called Melcombe Regis, modern Weymouth, in August. It reached Bristol, and probably Chewton Mendip, within a few weeks.
Estimates of the numbers who died range one-third to two thirds of the population but some sectors fared worse. It was the duty of the clergy to provide the last rights to the dying and the method of transmitting disease was not understood so the death rate amongst the parish priests was close to 100%.
Hayling Island Priory  had recently taken control of the Chewton Mendip and Philip de Burcrstre had ben appointed as the vicar in 1340 but he was replaced by Nicholas de Fiskerton in 1348 suggesting that Philip de Burcrestre was a casualty. Nicholas de Fiskerton  only lasted two years. A similar pattern can be seen in the list of incumbents of most of the churches in the area.
 Hayling Island priory had other motivation for building on the Mendips, they suffered other problems with biblical connotations. Hayling island was subject to flooding.
Another possible ‘casualty’ was a market granted to Chewton Mendip in that year. Chewton Mendip’s loss may have been Priddy’s gain and the Priddy Sheep fair is still an annual event.
 One theory that was commonly held at the time was that the plague was caused by miasma or bad air so they avoided the lowlands and moved to the hills.
  The parish priest or the monks owned  large part of the land may have also have sought refuge on top of the Mendips which may explain the existence of Egelsfelde House. Holcombe church is one example of how the village moved up the hill leaving the church by itself in the bottom of the valley.
 The high mortality rate and repeated outbreaks eventually ended the feudal system of tied labourers or villains who were required to worked for their lord as part of their rent. There were so few people to work the land that they were able to rent land without committing themselves to working for the land owner.
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