Wednesday, 13 May 2015

A visit to Eyam, Derbyshire

After our walk around Stoney Middleton, Derbyshire we went on to Eyam for the second time. (These photographs are from both visits when the weather was very different on each occasion). Although Eyam is well-known for being 'the plague village' where the villagers voluntarily lived in isolation so that the plague did not spread, there's much more of interest to see that I will share another time.
However, for now I shall concentrate on the story of when the plague came to the village.

Around the village there are many reminders of this terrible time in Eyam's history.

                                  A memorial window in the Parish Church of St. Lawrence.

William Mompesson was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire. He was appointed rector of Eyam by his patron Sir George Savile of Rufford Park and he took up his living in 1664. In the Summer of 1665 the bubonic plague that had unknowingly been brought into the village from London through the transportation of a bale of flea-infested cloth began claiming lives. As the situation got worse a meeting was called by Mompesson and another minister, Thomas Stanley. It was decided that church services would be held in the open air, villagers would be buried as quickly as possible where they had died without the usual church ceremony to prevent further spread of the sickness in the village and all those still alive would not go out from the confines of the village for fear of carrying the infection to neighbouring communities.

                                         The two ministers meet to discuss the situation.

The window shows the well and a group of family graves that were situated
 outside the village. Villagers from outlying
villages such as Stoney Middleton would leave food for the folk in Eyam
in certain places near the parish boundary. 

One sad story is that of Emmot Sydall and Rowland Torre.  Emmott was betrothed to Rowland who lived in Stoney Middleton.  During the winter he made a journey each day to see her to make sure all was well. They saw one another from afar at the boundary between the two villages. One day Emmot did not arrive.  When the village was pronounced safe Rowland was the first to enter only to find that she had died in the April shortly after their last meeting.

William Mompesson survived the plague although his wife, Catherine, died in August 1666. Her tomb can be seen in the churchyard. It is the only known grave of a plague victim in the churchyard as a special exception was made to allow her body to be interred there as burials had recently ceased in the grounds. Eventually William remarried and was transferred to another parish where he continued to live simply until his death in 1708 not wishing to receive special acknowledgement for his role in planning a strategy to stop the plague spreading outside the village. 

pages from a copy of the register of deaths that can be seen in the church
especially designed and illuminated (1951)

The Parish Church of St. Lawrence

Catherine Mompesson's table tomb grave. 
 The lady in the background was one of the visitors
 whose ancestors were known individuals living in Eyam during the time of the plague.

a bed of herbs that are well-known for their aroma and medicinal properties 

These are the cottages near the church, but the information boards are on 
the majority of the buildings in the village and this sadly reminds the visitor the extent to which
 so many households in the village were struck down by the plague.

Here is the school and entrance gate on which there is the well-known playground 
nursery rhyme that we used to sing as little children, acting out the words.
  We wouldn't have realised they actually refer to the plague.

Ring a ring a roses, 
a pocket full of posies,
atishoo, atishoo,
we all fall down.

  Some cottage gardens in the village.

On our second visit to the area there was sunshine and blue skies. The countryside to the west of Eyam is different from the rugged terrain to the south of the village. There are woods, gorse-covered hills and pastureland.  

Thank you for your comments on my last two posts about Rome.  I'm now going to take a break for a while from writing posts as I shall be celebrating a special birthday next week with lots of family time planned.
I hope for you there will be peaceful days during the rest of May.
Linda :)