For Tilgarsley the evidence comes from the Eynsham Cartulary, the collection of charters maintained by Eynsham Abbey. In 1359 it was alleged that Tilgarsley had been abandoned in 1350 because all the inhabitants had died. For lack of tenants the abbot was obliged to take the holdings into his own hand, but he was granted relief from relevant subsidies.
It may not in fact have been true that all the inhabitants died as several well established family names from Tilgarsley survived after 1350, but the record in the Eynsham Cartulary makes it clear that the village itself was abandoned.
Although the records indicate the total desertion of both villages they provide no information about the experiences of the villagers. Many accounts of the impact of the Black Death in Britain and on the continent give a general impression of the emotional responses of the population, their attempts to make sense of and deal with the disease, and the way it affected their attitudes and behaviour. We have to assume that the people of Tilgarsley and Tusmore reacted in similar ways.
The pestilence was recognised as a new and unfamiliar disease. Theories were put forward with regard to its origin (e.g. earthquakes or the movement of the planets) and its mode of transmission (e.g. via corruption of the air or by touching the body or clothing of a dead person). Above all, in the pre-scientific days of the fourteenth century, it was perceived as a punishment inflicted by God on mankind. There was uncertainty on the issue of what particular sins had aroused the wrath of God, but the greed of kings, drunkenness, lechery, and the costumes worn by women who took part in tournaments were all proposed as candidates.
Many remedies, both medical and religious, were suggested, but it was obvious to everyone that little could be done to provide protection from the disease and nothing at all could avert death once a person had contracted it. It must have been a time of enormous anxiety. People were not just afraid that they would contract the disease themselves; they feared the possible consequences for society in general. Many believed that the entire human population might be wiped out. Some accounts report the disinhibited sexual or criminal behaviour that many people engaged in. There may have been a feeling that if you were likely to die soon you might as well make the most of the time left to you.
When the disease arrived in your own community there would have been the stress of caring for family members, friends, and neighbours as they endured the agony of the disease. Those left alive would have had to decide whether to go on living in the awful surroundings of a village where others were dying or to leave and seek a place where the disease had not yet arrived.
Contemporary accounts reveal that there was a rapid general change in attitudes towards authority. Respect for the church may have been damaged by the fact that clergymen were unable to ward off the disease. The power of landowners was weakened as people who survived became more mobile and often found themselves in a strong bargaining position with regard to rents and terms of employment.
At Tilgarsley and Tusmore we do not know how many residents died as a result of the Black Death. It is possible that some inhabitants moved away after the disease reached their village. All we know is that within a year or so the villages were empty.