by Charles Sprinks (Church Warden, St John’s Langrish)
Church Wardens are asked many strange questions:
“Where is granny’s unmarked grave? I know it is near a clump of snowdrops”.
“Why isn’t Langrish School in Langrish?” – A frustrated delivery driver.
“How much further is Arundel, we are late?” – A car heading towards Winchester
Perhaps the strangest question by someone tracing their ancestors, “Where is the Langrish Pest House – my great grandparents were born near it?” This was baffling. I had heard of Pest Houses, but not in Langrish. There is a Pest House still standing next to the churchyard in Odiham, together with the whipping post and stocks. Some years ago, new houses were built in Pest House Lane at Whitchurch near Basingstoke, but when they were sold the owners petitioned for the name to be changed to something really original such as ‘New Road’.
In 1625 there was an outbreak of the plague in East Meon and Langrish. Two hundred and thirty-five people died in Petersfield in 1666 within eight months and contact with adjacent villages was virtually suspended. Following the plagues, an outbreak of smallpox be- came the greatest scourge. As a result, Pestilence Houses were constructed on the outskirts of most towns and villages where families with contagious or infec- tious diseases were isolated, with food left at an agreed spot for collection.
Pest Houses were built for obvious reasons on the very outskirts of a parish. West Meon’s Pest House was constructed just west of the Meon Hut crossroads. on the periphery of the then large, combined parish of East Meon, on the unenclosed wasteland at ‘The Stroud’.
The purpose-built Pest House was constructed in 1703 on land north of what isnow Ramsdean Road, nearly opposite Langrish School. The building consisted of four rooms, two up and two down, of brick and stone construction under a thatched roof, each room intended to house an infected family in isolation from the community. The Pest House continued in this capacity, or as a poor house until 1834, when the Petersfield Union Workhouse was built in Love Lane.
The original building which still bears an engraved plaque which reads “East Meon Pest House 1703”, has been considerably enlarged and improved and is now known as Mount Pleasant Farm, home of Mr and Mrs Wright. “Mount Pleasant” and “Love Lane” – our ancestors certainly had a strange sense of humour!
Why is East Meon and Langrish Pest House situated in Stroud? The three villages were all one, Langrish becoming a separate parish in 1870, Stroud further separated in 1932.
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