Angmering Mortality Peaks 1600 - 1800

The impact of disease on a community can have drastic and long lasting effects and this was especially true is earlier times. For example, plague in the late-15th Century / early-16th Century is suggested as having effectively wiped out the village of Bargham which was situated in what is now the northern part of Angmering.

During the 17th and early 18th Centuries, the population of Angmering itself fell steadily and did not recover until the late 18th Century. Much of this reduction was the result of disease. In those days Angmering was considered a small country town and one wonders to what extent it may have grown if it had not been subject to health afflictions.

Death, while having obvious impact, was not the only factor impacting on population reduction. Those surviving potentially fatal diseases could experience general poor health which could result in sterility or reduced chances of conception.

There is no known data on the causes of death in Angmering in earlier times. However, "A Chronology of Epidemic Disease and Mortality in Southeast England, 1601-1800" (M J Dobson, Nov. 1987) provides valuable annual data on the diseases and weather conditions that occurred during those dates. This data does not cover any towns or villages in West Sussex but does include communities in Essex, Kent and East Sussex.

An analysis of burials in Angmering during the period 1600 and 1800 shows peaks that are remarkably close to those identified in Mr Dobson's booklet and this should give us a reasonable indication of the likely causes of increased deaths in Angmering. The 57 of those 200 years, where deaths are approximately double the annual average, are shown below with likely causes and/or other comments:

  Year Likely Causes Other factors or comments
  1601 Plague  
  1602 Plague Dry Summer
  1603 Plague  
  1608 Unknown Severe Winter
  1609 Plague, Measles, Typhus, & Smallpox  
  1611 Unknown  
  1614 Smallpox  
  1615 Unknown  Severe Winter. Very dry Summer.
  1625 Plague & Smallpox  
  1626 Plague Cold & wet Summer had great impact on harvest.
  1628 Smallpox  
  1629 Unknown  
  1635 Smallpox & plague Dry and hot Summer
  1637 Plague Deficient harvest
  1638 Typhoid & Typhus Excessively hot and dry Summer
  1639 Typhoid & Typhus "Tempestuous" Winter
  1640 Typhoid & Typhus  
  1643 Plague  
  1644 Typhus  
  1647 Typhus Excessively high corn prices
  1653 Nothing specific Summer very hot and dry
  1658 Typhoid & Influenza Very cold start to year
  1659 Influenza  
  1660 Nothing specific Deficient harvest and wet Autumn
  1661 Smallpox, Measles, & Fever Very high harvest prices. Consumption of contaminated food 
  1667 Plague  
  1668 Plague End of bubonic plague of epidemic proportions in Britain
  1669 Cholera, Smallpox, Measles, & dysentery  
  1670 Cholera, Smallpox, Measles, & dysentery Hot Summer with scarcity of water 
  1671 Cholera, Smallpox, Measles, & dysentery   
  1678 Enteric Fever & Smallpox Hot & dry Summer with deficient harvest
  1679 Enteric Fever & Influenza Hot & dry Summer with cold & wet November
  1680 Enteric Fever    
  1681 Smallpox & Bronchial disease  
  1683 Nothing specific Severe Winter
  1687 Unknown  
  1689 Unknown  
  1705 Measles Year dry until end of August
  1706 Unknown  
  1714 Smallpox & Fever Dry year. Distemper amongst cattle affected standing water
  1720 Smallpox  
  1721 Smallpox  
  1723 Smallpox  
  1727 Smallpox Warm, dry Summer with deficient harvest
  1728 Typhoid  
  1729 Smallpox, Scarlet Fever, & Influenza  
  1731 Influenza Very dry year
  1736 Smallpox Cold & wet up to July with very hot late Summer
  1743 Influenza Abundant harvest
  1762 Influenza & Dysentery  
  1766 Smallpox  
  1772 Unknown Very wet first part of year with very dry Summer.
  1777 Smallpox & Scarlet Fever  
  1785 Typhus  
  1788 Influenza Very dry year with severe winter
  1799 Typhus & possibly Smallpox Smallpox inoculations carried out in some communities
  1800 Typhus Hot dry Summer

It is recognised, of course, that diseases such as smallpox and plague may also have been the cause of death in years where burials may have only been average and thus not appearing above.

If disease has great impact on communities, it also produced devastation for individual families, most of whom lived in cramped and insanitary conditions. For example, the Bunne family of Angmering had at least two periods of such devastation. Five members of that family were buried in the Winter of 1601, and no less than nine were buried in the year 1647/8.

Neil Rogers-Davis
March 2004

Arundel and Angmering District Mortality

by R W Standing

Parish Registers, recording births, marriages, and burials, should all begin in 1538, by Thomas Cromwell's directive. Unfortunately these registers were often on paper, and were required to be copied into parchment books in 1598, but very often this copying was only made to the beginning of Elizabeth's reign in 1558. Locally, useful registration begins at Arundel in 1561, Angmering 1593, Ferring 1558, East Preston 1573, Rustington 1592 and Goring 1560. Therefore useful data on population changes, and years of high mortality, begins about 1560.

It is assumed that registered baptisms, and burials, reflect the true number of births and deaths locally. In fact, the number of births may be deficient. The Commonwealth period under Cromwell has poor registration in may parishes, but superficially at least good registration in Angmering.

The value of including all of these parishes, is that small rural villages were in fact healthier places than towns such as Arundel. While Angmering, as a large village, was intermediate. It is quite plain, assuming registration was fairly accurate locally, that villages had a surplus of births over deaths in most periods, whereas towns had more deaths than births. Since Arundel did not fall in population, in the long run, there must have been movement of surplus population from the villages, whose populations also remained fairly stable until the population surge beginning in the mid 18th century.

When compiling figures from registers the first important consideration is that the Calendar in use until 1752, had New Years Day on the 25th March. This is of concern when considering mortality due to failed harvest. That is why an artificial Harvest Year is often constructed, running from October to September, so as not to run across two harvests.

For Angmering, yearly mortality peaks, based on the Harvest Year generally provide slightly higher figures than the normal calendar year. However, the peak years remain more or less the same.

When breaking up the figures in quarter years, the average number of deaths in each quarter vary quite significantly. The percentage of deaths in each quarter are much the same for Arundel as Angmering. Over 23 per cent in October to December; next quarter around 32 per cent.; then over 25 percent; and around 19 per cent in July to September. There was heavy mortality in winter, and very much lower in summer, as we might expect.

When considering overall trends, it is useful to go from year to year, aggregating burials and births in decades centred on a year. That is five years each side of 1608, five each side of 1609, 1610, 1611, and so on. When this is done over a period from the 1560s to the late 18th century, certain trends become obvious in all parishes.

Taken both overall, and at Angmering by itself, in the period to 1571 there were more deaths than births, that is population presumably fell in the district. From then until 1608 there were more births. In 1609 to 1616 a surge in deaths. Then again a surge and surplus of deaths in 1634 to 1645, 1655 to 1691, 1705 to 1710, and 1724 to 1732. From 1733 onwards the surplus of births over deaths is continuous and becomes large by the late 18th century. A fall in population during the late 17th century is probable and such figures as there are from other sources do not contradict this.

Peak years of mortality can be measured several ways, even with the old calendar year. In relation to the surrounding decadal average of deaths, or to the average of births. As related to births the figures are naturally more striking, and provide a good indicator of the effect on population

For Angmering the most striking years by the old calendar [years deaths divided by average of births] :

1609 - 1.83

1638 - 2.19

1658 - 3.33

1670 - 2.96

1683 - 1.67

1705 - 3.57

1714 - 1.92

1720 - 1.54

In Arundel, with more extreme crisis years:

1570 - 2.67

1609 - 2.54

1638 - 2.19

1643 - 3.5 This was the year of the Arundel siege and the registers are imperfect

1670 - 3.12

1679 - 3.42

1710 - 3.12

1738 - 6.89

According to my figures there were 80 deaths in Arundel during 1738, and about 72 in 1643. It must be borne in mind that the numbers of births were falling considerably by the early 18th century, only to soar later.

RW Standing

Angmering Population
by R W Standing

Angmering was not an island, but close set with other parish and village neighbours, between the downs and sea. Most of these were smaller in area and population, with Angmering as something of a market centre to them. Not until the 19th century did Littlehampton or Worthing in Broadwater parish, expand beyond village proportions. The chief town continued to be Arundel, with its lordly castle, markets and fairs.

Only with the first modern census of 1801 can any dimensions be given to these places. Arundel with 1850 people, over twice the size of Angmering with 708, and Littlehampton 584. Nearby villages included, Clapham at 197, Patching 192, Ferring 238, East Preston 170, Rustington 261 and Poling 170. That is to say, while Angmering was a satellite village to the town of Arundel, it in turn represented a third of its own satellite group. Was this the case earlier, in the 16th to 18th centuries?

By good fortune there is a sort of census, made at a time when church registers suggest the population was at a long time low, in 1724 [EpI/26/3]. In this the clergy were required to state how many families there were in their parishes. The term 'family' we would understand as household, including everyone in a house, relatives and servants. In some places estimates may have been made, in other parishes rate books had the answer at hand.

Trusting the census, we find for 1724. At Arundel 188 families, and Littlehampton 30. For local villages, Angmering 64, Clapham 21, Patching probably similar, Ferring and Kingston 37, Preston 20, Rustington 38 and Poling 21. In other words the relationships are much the same as in 1801, although Angmering dominates its area rather less with 30 per cent of local population.

The actual population represented by the families is a matter of contention. An average of 5 persons to a family is considered fair, and in 1801 an average family in the district [Poling Hundred] was just over 5. Therefore we may estimate the population of Angmering in 1724 at 320 or rather more. Half what it was to become by 1801.

Going back another century to 1641, when registers suggest the local population was higher than in 1720. Another good census can be found in the Protestation Returns [SRS Vol V, when inhabitants had to declare their Protestant faith]. From these the numbers of adult men in each parish can be counted. With children representing a large proportion of a families in those days, the number of men needs to be multiplied by a figure between 3 and 4.

There is no return for Arundel, but Littlehampton has 37 names. Angmering 142, Clapham 49, Patching similar, Ferring and Kingston 71, Preston 28, Rustington 53, and Poling 32. Thus we have Angmering once again representing a third of its neighbourhood. We can estimate the actual population of Angmering at between 430 and 560. Les than in 1801 but assuredly more than in 1724.

If we now look at figures from the parish registers, giving the numbers of deaths in various crisis years during the 17th to 18th century. These can be related to a good estimate for the population of Angmering, so the impact of the crisis can be imagined. Bearing in mind that towns such as Arundel fared worse.

In 1608-9 around 30 deaths represents 6 per cent of the village, which is bad enough but far less than the catastrophe in Chichester and other places. In 1638-9 around 40 deaths represents 8 per cent, but when we consider that over three years over 100 died, representing a fifth of the population, the drastic effects can only be imagined. In 1658 we have worse figures, and combining three dreadful years a total of around 110 deaths in a depleted population was indeed serious. Two years around 1670 another 77 died. In three years around 1679 nearly 90.

When we get to the 18th century we know the population was down to 350 people and less. Therefore although in 1720 the burials recorded were only 28 in number, this still signifies 8 per cent or more of a now small village.

Fortunately improved climate, agriculture, and a decline in plague and other epidemics in the later 18th century brought a rapid recovery. In another hundred years the problem had become over population.

RW Standing

Page last updated 21 April 2004