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The Ombersley Plague Stone

Looking through pictures from my various travels I spotted something that's very topical for today.


The village of Ombersley is a picture perfect village lying just off the main route from Worcester to Kidderminster. Among it's charming old wood framed cottages and inns, the eagle eyed visitor might spot a more grim relic of the past.


The Plague Stone is a combined trough and boundary marker originally placed on the road to the west side of Ombersley during the Black Death of the 1300s. This roughly chiselled megalith warned the traveller to stop and turn back as the village beyond was a hotspot for bubonic plague and was to be quarantined. It's hollowed out space was where villagers would leave what coins they could gather together, for merchants to take as payment for supplies which they would leave in the trough in exchange.


Vinegar would be poured into the stone to immerse the coins and similar monuments found around Britain are often called “vinegar stones”. This was believed to disinfect the money before any trader would take it, but it is unknown how any disagreements over the sales would be handled. There was certainly very little in the way of aid in the 14thcentury! In 1975 the stone was moved to it's current location at the village crossroads next to the old weighbridge house, and in recent years it has become an unlikely flowerbed, barely noticed by drivers passing through the village.


I say that it is from the Black Death of the 1300s as this is what is claimed on the very few historical references I can find, although later ones from the plague of the 1600s do exist. Could plague stones make a comeback, placed at the end of residential streets for the Tesco driver to fill? Black humour perhaps, but what else do we have to get through times like this?



Plague Stone at Ombersley

The barely legible name plate on the Plague Stone

The 15th Century King's Arms inn at Ombersley

An old picture of the stone - before it was brightened up

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