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Ackworth plague stone
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Plague stones are found across England, usually in the form of hollowed-out stones or boulders. They are relics of when plagues spread through the country in medieval times. Stone boulders with hollowed-out depressions, or sometimes the bases of crosses, were filled with vinegar and placed at or near parish boundaries. Vinegar was used as a disinfectant in the hope that the community could buy food and other goods without fear of contagion. The residents placed coins in the hollows to pay outsiders for goods or food which were left by the stone, hopefully avoiding the spread of the deadly disease.[1]

One of the most notable plague stones is at Eyam in Derbyshire;[2] there are others at Dorchester,[3] Hob MoorA local nature reserve and ancient common in York in York,[4] Penrith,[1] Bury St Edmunds,[5] Gresford, and Hereford.[6] The Ackworth plague stone on the road to Pontefract dates from 1645.[7] The Great Stone in Stretford on the south side of the Roman road from Manchester to Chester, a glacial erratic once used as a medieval boundary cross, is thought to have been used as a plague stone.[8]

Citations



Bibliography


Bell, G. Notes and Queries: A Medium of Intercommunication for Literary Men, General Readers Etc. 1852.
Harland, John, and Thomas Turner Wilkinson. Lancashire Legends, Traditions, Pageants, Sports, &c., with an Appendix Containing a Rare Tract on the Lancashire Witches, &c. &c. Reprint of 1873 edition, Leopold Classic Library, 2016.
Historic England. “Plague Stone at Junction with Sandy Gate Lane, Pontefract Road.” National Heritage List for England, https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1313253.
NHLE. “Hob’s Stone at NGR SE 589 504.” National Heritage List for England, https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1256501.