The history of Eyam is one full with melancholy. In 1665, a batch of flea-infested cloth was delivered from London to a tailor in the quaint Derbyshire village, there was over a year full of death and disease. This was the start of Eyam’s dark history…
Within a week of the fateful cloth arriving in Eyam, the tailor’s assistant had died; and others in the household soon followed.
As you can imagine, this hellish disease spread rapidly through the village and devastated whole households within days.
The plague put the fear of God into the villagers, and so they soon turned to wise clergymen; Reverend William Mompesson and Puritan Minister Thomas Stanley. With their advice the people of Eyam tried to take precautions as to stop the spreading of the plague; one of which was the famous ‘self-quarantine’ of their little village.
No one entered or left the village for the whole 14 month period in which Eyam was struck with the Black Death (or at least they were strongly willed not to)! In order to get things like food and medicine into the village safely, people would leave money, which had been dipped in vinegar, on big stones with little coin holes in, of which you can still see today! They left their money and people from surrounding villages left their supplies.
According to Eyam Church records, 273 people died of the plague in that period, but other statistics suggest that out of a population of 800 only 430 survived.
But, as well as remembering the people who died of the plague, Eyam is also known for a couple of notable survivors. For example, Elizabeth Hancock did not catch the disease despite burying six of her children and her husband over eight days.
Perhaps even more surprising is the village’s unofficial gravedigger, Marshall Howe, who must have buried hundreds of victims, miraculously survived.
Since the plague’s bicentenary in 1866, the village of Eyam has celebrated ‘Plague Sunday’, on the last Sunday of August in the Cucklett Delph. This now coincides with the unique Derbyshire tradition of ceremonial well dressing.
A Walk In Eyam
On a walk around Eyam you’ll see plaques outside houses and cottages, stating who died there during the times of the Black Death, as well as the local church of St Lawrence which is also home to an eight century Celtic Anglo- Saxon cross.
This is the oldest and most striking feature of the churchyard is one of the best preserved examples in the country.
Apart from the aforementioned ‘plague stones’ which surround the village, other places of interest are: Eyam Hall (pictured below) and Eyam Museum.
Below is Eyam Hall Library:
… there are also a fantastic set of village stocks! These were used to punish villagers for petty crimes.
From the M1 take the Chesterfield exit and then follow signs for Bakewell. Take the right turn at the second large roundabout, past the church, and follow the road to the crossroads at Calver. Travel straight ahead, through Stoney Middleton, and then look out for signs to Eyam on the right. There is a pay and display car park in the village.
Eyam is also only 2 miles from Grindleford station.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look at the history of Eyam and that it gives your trip to Derbyshire a little more insightful.