The Great Plague of Cock and Key Alley

Documentary examining the Great Plague of 1665, one of the darkest moments in Britain’s history, when over one-fifth of London’s population of 500,000 perished in a matter of months. Much is known of the disaster from the perspective of the largely well-to-do contemporary chroniclers, but this film tells the story from the perspective of the poor through the account of a local councillor who lived a stone’s throw from Fleet Street. Shown as part of the Plague, Fire, War and Treason A Century of Toubles season. In the programme, Dr Champion charts what happened in the months of the Great Plague of 1665, linking film sequences that dramatise life in one London street, Cock and Key Alley, within the City walls. Neighbours in the alley took on new roles as the parish paid them to enforce plague orders. The widow Rebecca Andrews fell sick and was shut into her house along with the orphan she cared for. The blacksmith fitted the locks and another neighbour stood on guard outside. When the gravedigger was infected, his family were shut in with him, but later his son was released to carry on the family trade of burying the dead.