Thursday, 4 August 2011

Coleman Anecdote 08 Richard Worts

In the county of Norfolk we find a Mr R[ichard] Worts [d 1686], a worthy minister, a great sufferer for his Nonconformity. He was seized, and made a close prisoner at the time when the plague raged in London. With six more he was put into the castle, in a hole in the wall, where there was neither door, window, nor chimney. The hole had three wickets into the castle yard, one of which was of necessity open night and day, or they must have been suffocated with the steam of the charcoal. For five weeks the door below was kept continually locked, the hole being above 'forty steps high in a narrow passage in the wall. The keeper usually went away with the key ahout four o'clock, near a mile and a half from the head jailer's house, and returned not until about eight in the morning, during whose absence none could -come to them, whatever occasion there might be, and they were not permitted for five weeks so much as to come out into the yard. If a prisoner's wife came to see him, he was called down to the door, and .the keeper used to set his back against one side of the door, and his foot against the other, and in this manner the husband and wife might only see and rspeak with each other. After about two months' continuance here, they were removed to another prison. They were wonderfully preserved this year from the contagion of the plague, while the arrows of the Almighty fell very near them, on one side and another, there being only a lane between, so that they could see some that were shut up, and hear them cry for bread. In this trying situation they fled to their strong tower, the name of the Lord, where they found safety and peace. Some time after, a great man in power told the jailer he must forthwith carry them to the castle, and put up each in a place alone. The jailer answered, "It cannot be done, the castle is full, and I daily fear the plague should break out amongst them." "Then put them into a place together; what do I care if the plague be in it ?" was the reply. However, they were preserved in that filthy hole, at whose wickets came in the odious smell of the common yard of the felons. One of them, indeed, was almost suffocated by it, and the physician could give him no relief, so long as he was confined there. Mr Worts continued a prisoner seven years.

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