For unexplained deaths today, we have autopsies and coroner’s reports, but back in the 17th century all sorts of weird and wonderful reasons were given to explain a death. In the Parish Registers of Lamplugh in Cumbria, a remarkable document has survived. It lists the deaths of 112 individuals between 1658 and 1663, of which the following examples provide a revealing insight into how people lived and died in this small Cumbrian parish.
1 person was killed in two duels – first with a frying pan; second with a pitchfork.
1 person died after becoming ‘crost in love’.
1 person broke his neck robbing a hen roost.
1 person was led into a horse pond by a will of the wisp.
1 person ‘overeat himself’ at a house-warming.
1 person was knocked on the head with a quart bottle.
2 people died of the cold sleeping in the church.
2 people were killed by ‘ye parson’s bull’.
2 people died after drinking Mrs Lamplugh’s cordial water.
3 women were drowned for witchcraft.
4 people were ‘frighted to death by fairies’.
7 people were ‘bewitchd’.
7 people were hanged for ‘clipping and coyning’ (presumably this means making counterfeit coins).
And 57 people died of ‘old age’.
You can imagine people encountering their demise through hypothermia, over-indulging when they get the chance and entering into duels but what about those who were ‘frighted to death by fairies’ or ‘ led into a horse pond by a will of the wisp’? What really caused those deaths?
So next time you visit Lamplugh, be wary of Mrs Lamplugh’s cordial water – it might not be as pleasant a drink as it sounds!