The Great Plague

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During the Great Plague, in 1665, the river was almost deserted, for many of the watermen had taken their wives and families in their wherries and other small craft and had moved up the river, where they remained until the plague ceased, lying on each side of the stream, close into the shore, and putting up small huts and tents on its banks.

The river also proved a safeguard in another sense, for the shipping, which extended in rows, two and two and in some places three deep, right away down from the Pool to Long Reach, was not reached by the contagion except in one or two isolated cases close inshore.

As there was very little trade, whole families took refuge and escaped. Some of the watermen were not so fortunate. Pepys tells us of one who rowed him from Greenwich to the nearest point from which he could reach the Navy Yard in Scotland Lane, and who was dead the next day, which frightened him for a time.

He also mentions two others who carried his letters, and were struck down by the disease. It must be said to Pepys' credit that his vigilance and assiduity in the work of his office did not relax although many of his associates had fled.

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