Stephen Love.

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In 1650 a Londoner, Stephen (sometimes spelt Steven) Love and his wife Deborah arrived in Pembrokeshire. He had been appointed to the living of Cosheston, the Rector of which at that time was Peregrine Phillips, as a result of his work with the Propagation Committee. [I could find no evidence that he had taken Holy Orders. He would have lived in the Rectory just down from the Church which is now the site of a private house.]

The area was just recovering from the effects of the second Civil War but in that year Tenby was visited by an even greater disaster. In the town an outbreak of plague had occurred. Haverfordwest records show that there was a house to house collection in the town for the relief of the sick and distressed in Tenby. How many died we do not know but the Mayor of Tenby gave a shilling for a shroud for each poor person and it is recorded that that sum came to 113 shillings. [If 113 poor people died how many more affluent townsfolk died as well?]

The next year a ship arrived and berthed at Haverfordwest. To avoid being quarantined it is believed to have anchored in the Haven down near the present site of the Cleddeau bridge. The bodies of several young seamen wrapped in their hammocks were hastily buried in the mud below the high tide mark. So hastily that one had a coin of 1650 buried with him. It is believed that they died from bubonic plague. [They were found during the construction of the Cleddeau Bridge.] This ship which berthed in October 1651 is believed to have carried the plague to Haverfordwest as in the first nine months after that date 207 people died of it - a tenth of the town’s population.

Meanwhile in 1651 Stephen Love had been moved from Cosheston to St Thomas’s Church, Haverfordwest as according to records Puritan Rector and on May 13th 1652 “Love Stephen (Cleric?) (HW Corp MS 584 (1)). "Minister of the Gospel was appointed Vicar of St Mary’s” and he with his wife were visiting the infected families and houses trying to help and organising others.

The merchants were worried, not about the plague itself but about the effects on their businesses. They could not sell goods they had manufactured and there was talk of closing the markets and holding them out of town which would mean a big loss of revenue. It was argued in March that the inhabitants could not buy provisions and the market trade was poor as no one would come in from the surrounding area to buy. The Mayor and aldermen requested the Justices of the Peace for the county for food to be sent, not only to Haverfordwest but also to Newton, Waterston, Honeyborough, Prendergast and Great Pill (Dale is not mentioned but Wade (South Wales 1913) suggests that 600 people died there.)

To collect for food would not be easy so the Justices sided with the merchants saying “that the sickness is not so contagious as is reported, only four houses being infected and none at present sick in them”, they relaxed their previous ruling: the inhabitants of Dungleddy hundred were to be permitted to attend the market in Haverfordwest once again.” They spoke too soon. The plague increased in intensity in the next month with 17 dying and over sixty being moved into the pest house. Another house is recorded as being used in Coker St near the Holloway and also the Bateman stables. All these were within the town walls. Some records suggest that at the end of April the mayor accompanied by some other officials went to London to try to obtain aid for the town as none was coming from other sources. All those in the pest houses had to be maintained by the council many of whose merchant members were complaining about the Justices who had ordered the St Thomas fair to be held at Llawhaden which adversely affected their income. [For me it interesting to note this attitude as recent research on a East Smithfield cemetery on 490 victims of bubonic plaque by Dr De Witte show that those in poor health were more likely to have died. Many of the skeletons showed that the victims were malnourished, had iron deficiencies and health problems. And would go some way to explain the merchants attitudes as it would be mainly the poorer people who would have these problems.]

The death rate increased and finally the following letter was written – it was not from the Council nor signed by the Mayor.

1652 May 13

Henry White and Samson Lort to the High Constables of the Hundred of Dungleddie.

Whereas the town of Haverfordwest was in times past the usual place for buying and weighing of wool, and forasmuch as the said town is now infected with the plague, whereby it is not safe for people to meet and stay there on that of the like business without great danger of spreading the said infectious disease, these are therefore to require you to give summons to the inhabitants of the several parishes within your hundred that Tuesday in every week is appointed to meet at Staynton and Saturday in every week to meet at Llawhadden for the weighing of wool as aforesaid during the time of the sickness and present visitation in Haverfordwest aforesaid, whereof you are not to fail at your perils.

(Haverfordwest Corporation MS. 584 (ii))

Two other entries in the Haverfordwest records make interesting reading as well:-

William Davids 1652 May 24 Treasurer of the poor - fled plague.

John Edowe 1652 May 24 High Constable - fled plague.

How many more followed their example?

Whole families were affected as the following few examples again from the Haverfordwest Records show.

Richard Luntley  1652  Wife, one child, maidservant died - plague...

Mrs Thomas Widow  1652  (St Martin's Parish) with her son and daughter died of plague.....

Thomas Bowen (Carpenter) 1652 Apr 26  ? wife d. plague.....

Richard Web  (labourer) 1652 Apr 26 Died of Plague.....              

Lawrens Butler  1652 May 24  and one child - died of plague...

John Edwardes  (carrier)  1652 June 7 died of plague.........

Love Deborah  Mrs widow1656 May 31  Haverfordwest Records 1539-1660.

Love Stephen  1656 May 31  Haverfordwest Records 1539-1660.

Love Stephen 1651  Rector St Thomas  Haverfordwest   Pembrokeshire Parsons.

Love Stephen 1652  Vicar  St Marys  Haverfordwest   Pembrokeshire Parsons.

Stephen Love had also written to Sampson Lort and Henry White and had meetings with them which led to another justices order being written on the same date as the previous one 13th May. Requiring the High Constables to collect voluntary contributions of food and money for the people of Haverfordwest but also it was ordered that: “As true Christians cannot be void of such a measure of Christian fellow-feeling and sense of their near-neighbours misery as not to contribute towards their belief” the names of those able to contribute but refusing to do so were to be noted!

Help did come as nearly £50 in money and provisions was received during the next month and then the justices ordered a monthly rate on the county of £80.

The figures for September show that just under 600 people in Haverfordwest were receiving help, including 31 in the pest house and 9 in the Cokey St house.

Although there was a legend that plague victims had been buried outside the town I have found no evidence of that. It would be quite in keeping for the time that with the relative small numbers dying each week that they would be buried in the existing churchyards.

Stephen Love carried on with his ministry but an entry in the Haverford Records says:

Love Stephen 1656 May 31st died. What he died of we do not know or how old he was.

Love Deborah  Mrs widow1656 May 31  The Haverfordwest Records also show that she was awarded a sum of money for her work with the plague victims and returned to London.

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