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.  


  1. Thanks for sharing your photo's of Eyam with us Linda. When I was still travelling between Manchester and the Wolds I used come across using this route and loved all the little villages. I've not been back to Eyam for a very long time but as my son loves churches I may suggest a trip over the summer as I'm sure he would like the history surrounding the plague and all the stain glass depicting the story.

  2. Such an interesting post. I remember my visit to Eyam with school very well and it's on my list of places to revisit. I think the information boards bring it home just how many people from one small village was lost to the plague and how many more could have died if steps hadn't been taken to prevent the spread of the disease. Wishing you a very happy birthday for next week, enjoy your celebrations.

  3. Lovely photos, Linda. Eyam is such a lovely village but with such a sad story to tell. I picked up a leaflet recently about walks from the centre to the various sites associated with the time of the plague and we hope to go there and walk one or two of them soon. Have you read the novel Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks? I hope you have a lovely break and a wonderful birthday:)

  4. une maladie terrible , qui j'espère ne reviendra jamais
    très beau reportage avec les maisons , les jardins , les paysages
    merci pour tout ces renseignements d'un village d'Angleterre
    toute ma tendresse

  5. I can imagine how awful it must have been to live through such times, your post brings it vividly to life, so haunting! I love the inscriptions of the herbs, I wonder if they helped at all....the plague was such a cruel death.
    I love the cow pics too, thanks for such a captivating post, have a wonderful birthday, may the sun shine for you.xxx

  6. Thank you for sharing the fascinating history of Eyam. I had never heard of it before, but I won't forget it. Reading the family losses and seeing the stained-glass windows really hits you with the fact that these were real people who suffered. Enjoy your family time and birthday celebration, Linda!

  7. We stayed a night in Eyam a few years ago and it did have a rather eerie feel to it, and such a sad history. A lovely and interesting part of the world though.

  8. A beautiful place with such a sad and touching story Linda. I only found out a couple of years ago about the old children's rhyme being about the plague.

  9. Interesting, but very sad. The old cathedral is lovely and so are the stained glass windows that tell the story. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Hi Linda, Birthday thoughts for you and your loved ones... Hope you enjoy the family time together.

    I've read about Eyam ---but can't imagine the emotions one would feel when visiting there. How very sad! BUT---the area is so beautiful... It's hard to imagine what happened there in the 1600's...

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Thanks for this very informative and touching post, Linda. Amazing to think what some have gone through. England has had more than its share, it seems. Your birthday? If so, have a very happy one indeed! Thanks for commenting on my mystery flower post. I think you're right! I guess I had only known of red salvia before. It says the plants are heat resistant which would be good in our hot summers we usually have here. Will be looking forward to your return to posting! Many blessings to you and yours, Bess

  12. From Roma to Eyam, I have enjoyed a lovely visit to your blog this evening. Enjoy your Birthday and the celebrations. xx

  13. I love revisiting Derbyshire through your posts.

  14. Che storia triste!!! Sono rimasta molto scossa dal tuo racconto. I posti sono bellissimi e le tue foto ci raccontano bene quello che si prova durante la visita. Auguri a chiunque festeggi il compleanno. un abbraccio, ciao

  15. What fascinating history! I had no idea the child's rhyme was from the plaque.