Pestilence and plague have stalked this island many times throughout history, always with frightening and devastating results, sometimes leaving completely empty communities in their wake. In many towns and villages, there are still reminders of those dark days,
in the shape of plague stones.
|The Burton Stone, York|
The best known plague stone in York is The Burton Stone. The stone itself has several hollows and is believed to be the base of one of the boundary crosses that marked the jurisdiction of the City. This one used to stand outside the Chapel of Mary Magdalene, where travellers had previously paid for prayers and protection before travelling out of the City and through the dangerous Forest of Galtres, with its wolves and thieves.
The Burton Stone was named after the local Burton family, and the lane named after the stone. It resides at the side of the Burton Stone Pub at the junction of Burton Stone Lane with the A19 into York, and now has its own plaque. It was originally one of four stones, one at each entrance to the City of York. Two others at Fulford and Heworth have long ago disappeared.
|Paul Fürst engraving of a plague doctor of Marseilles 1721|
The plague stones, sometimes called vinegar stones, played an important part in sustaining the population through these dark times.
|Hob Moor plague stone, York|
On Hob Moor, between Acomb, Holgate and Dringhouses, one of the still-existing ancient commons of York, there is another plague stone. The poor who were known to have contracted the disease were isolated from the rest of the population here, and housed in temporary wooden huts on the moor. The Hob Moor plague stone played the same role in allowing these people to still trade for food and other goods. There were also similar temporary camps located near to St Lawrence's Church on Hull Road and at the Horsefair on Gillygate, where the coach park is now.
|The Hob Stone, Little Hob Moor, York|
Next to the Hob Moor plague stone stands the Hob Stone, beside the path on Little Hob Moor. The Hob Stone is actually a badly eroded effigy of a Knight of the de Ros family, thought to have been sculted in 1315. It is still possible to make out the shape and pattern of the shield, but little else.
In front of the two stones of Hob Moor is a plaque, giving details, and saying that the Hob Stone was placed there in 1717. It also bears the inscription that can no longer be read on the stone: "This image long Hob's name has bore 'Who was a Knight in time of yore and gave this Common to ye Poor."
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