The Black Death (or the Great Pestilence as it was known then) hit Peterborough in 1349. This terrible disease, now called bubonic plague after the enlarged lymph nodes (buboes) resulting from the infection, is caused by an organism called Yersinia pestis carried by the fleas on black rats, though at the time it was thought to have been caused by bad air known as 'miasma'.
Approximately a third of the townspeople and 32 of the 64 monks at the monastery perished in a matter of weeks, and many of those who died were buried in mass burial pits to the west of the town and in the burial ground of the leper hospital of St Leonard. A higher proportion of monks died perhaps because they were helping tend to the sick.
The plague returned to Peterborough on many occasions causing a great deal of death and suffering until the last outbreak in 1665.
The image shows the Triumph of Death by P. Bruegal (1562) inspired by the Plague.