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Eyam - the Plague Village

The village name is pronounced 'EEM'.

There is a book about Eyam titled History and Antiquities of Eyam: With a Minute Account of the Great Plague Which Desolated the Village in the Year 1666 which was originally published in 1865. It was written by that William Wood (1804-1865) who is regarded as one of the best Eyam historians. The original book has been electronically scanned to produce this modern-day book that gives an insight into Eyam life in the nineteenth century.

Eyam ½ Marathon

This will be held on Sunday 15th May 2016 starting at 10:30am.

Eyam Carnival and Wakes Week

Wakes week at the end of August starts with the blessing of the wells and includes lots of activities during the week. These usually include clay pigeon shootoing, a beetle drive, donkey rides, fell race, children's games and a Sheep Roast. On Saturday there is the carnival starting 2.30pm at the Hawkshead car park. There will be lots of activities linked to this including a Sheep Roast, stalls, donkey rides and Morris Dancers.

On the last Sunday in August there will be the Plague Commemoration Service at Cucklet Delph. This is a service of thanksgiving for the lives lost in the plague at Eyam.

Tuesday 30th August 2016 sees the Eyam and Bretton Fell Race starting at 6:30pm.

Exploring Eyam

It is best to explore Eyam on foot.

Come out of the car park, walk down the hill, and 20 metres on the right is a water trough. This is the Hall Hill trough which takes its name from nearby Bradshaw Hall. It is one of at least ten troughs which provided water for domestic and agricultural use from 1588. These troughs are believed to be one of the first public water supplies in England.

Continue down the hill and at the bottom turn left to Eyam Hall. The hall is about 100 metres on the left.

Eyam Hall

Eyam Hall is a charming 17th century manor house that has a buttery where you can get food and a gift shop. It has been the home of the Wright family since 1671 and retains the intimate atmosphere of a much loved family home. The Jacobean staircase, fine tapestries, family portraits and costumes are among its interior treasures. The Hall is now run by the National Trust and the craft centre and shop will be open every day apart from Monday. The Hall and Gardens are open Wednesday to Sunday each week from 17th February 2016 until 30th October 2016 and again from 30th November to 23rd December 2016 for Christmas decorations when a reduced number of rooms are viewable. Access to some areas may be restricted when there are functions on.

Tel: 01433 639565

Admission (2016): Adults £7.70, Children £3.85, Family £19.25, Free for National Trust members.

Barmote Court

Opposite Eyam Hall is the Market Hall and village stocks. The stocks were probably used by the Barmote Court to discharge justice to lead miners. The Eyam Mechanics' Institute near the village church, now housing the National Westminster Bank, is the scene of the Barmote Court every spring. This is where the ancient laws affecting lead mining are still administered.

Although no longer mined, lead had been mined in the area since Roman times. Even the clergy benefited from the prosperity with the rector being entitled to mineral tithes. Fluorspar, barytes and some galena are still mined and processed locally.

The Miners' Arms public house has the reputation of being one of the most haunted houses in Derbyshire.

Eyam Museum

In Hawkhill Road (Tel: 01433 631371). The 1665-66 outbreak in Eyam is vividly portrayed with dramatic graphics, text and sets. The tragic stories of individual families are told, the subsequent growth of local industries is described together with local geology.

Open (2016): 22nd March to 30th October, Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am - 4.30 pm. Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays. February Half Term 6th-21st February and between Christmas and New Year 28th - 31st December from 11am to 4pm

Admission (2016): Adult £2.50, Child/Concession £2.00, Family £7.50.

Boom and Bust

Eyam has seen many boom and bust times. In the middle of the eighteenth century there were two spinning factories but the lack of a reliable water supply and the introduction of the power loom elsewhere saw Eyam's spinning industry decline. Then came silk weaving in the nineteenth century. As the silk industry declined, the mills converted to shoe making. At its peak there were three factories and subsidiary factories in Hathersage and Bradwell. The shoe industry ended in 1979 when, due to competition from cheaper manufacturers the last factory closed.

The Great Plague 1665-66

Eyam is most famous for the villagers' sacrifices during the Great Plague in 1665-66. Before the plague struck, there were almost 350 inhabitants of Eyam. However, 259 villagers from 76 families, died between September 1665 and October 1666.

The plague was brought unintentionally to Eyam from London in a parcel of cloths sent to George Vicars. He was a travelling tailor who at the time was lodging with Mrs Copper and her two sons in a cottage now known as Plague Cottage, 200 metres from Eyam Hall. The parcel arrived from plague infested London in September 1665. George contracted the deadly disease, died four days later and was buried on September 7th 1665. 15 days latter Mrs Cooper's son Edward died and by the end of September another four villagers were dead. October saw the death of a further twenty-three and some families started to leave the village.

William Mompesson, the rector of Eyam, recognising the dangers of the infection spreading led the villages in a self-imposed quarantine of their village, allowing none to enter or leave. This heroic feat achieved their objective of stopping the virus spreading.

There are many signs on cottages in the village relating to the events of the plague, the bulk of which are close to the church.

From the church there is a footpath to Mompesson's Well (grid reference SK 223 772). This is a spring covered by a gritstone slab, and is where food and medical supplies were left and the villagers left money. The money was disinfected here by either running water or vinegar.

During the plague the church was closed and services were held outdoors in Cucklett Delf, a nearby valley. Services are held here annually to commemorate the plague. As there were no funerals during this period families had to bury their own dead, usually near their homes.

The Riley Graves

Just outside the village at Riley Farm are the seven graves within a stone wall contain the remains of Mrs Hanncocke's Husband and six of her children. All were struck down by the plague and buried between the 3rd and 10th August 1666.Here lieth bvried the body of John Hancock Sen who died Avg 7th 1666

The Riley Graves (SK 227 766), 700 metres to the east of the village, are not signposted in the village, so to get to them, continue along Church Street until the major road is met.

At this junction there is a Bull Ring. This is were a bull or bear would be fastened to the ring set upon by dogs as entertainment during the Wakes Week. This practice was declared illegal in 1835.

Then turn left up the hill along New Road towards Hathersage. Even the Eyam Tea Room on the right has got a small plaque to commemorate the plague victims who died there The last sign about the plague is at the Miners Arms Croft on the left. Go past the Wesleyan Church and as you are coming out of the village you should see a tarmac track on the left which has a No Through Road sign. It also has a little sign which says Pedestrians - Riley Graves.

Take the right track when tarmac track splits about 400 metres from the road. There is a small sign which says Riley Graves. 50 metres along this track, which can get muddy during inclement weather, the Riles Graves can be seen in the field on the left. There is a stile to the graves in another 150 metres along the track. The graves are in an enclosure about 30 metres from the track.

There are graves with simple headstones for:

Elizabeth - August 3rd
William - August 7th
John - August 7th
Oner - August 7th
John - August 8th
Alice - August 9th
Amy - August 10th

William Mompesson's wife Katherine was a victim of the plague and she died on the 25th of August 1666 and is buried in the church yard.

The Church

Return back to the church in the village centre. On the south wall of the church is a rare example of a wall sundial and in the graveyard is an 8th century Celtic Cross. Celtic crosses are significant in that they carry a mixture of Pagan and Christian markings. It was a time when the Christian church began to take over the pagan beliefs such as Sun worship.

Well Dressings

Well Dressing starts the last Saturday in August which will be the 29th August until the 5th September 2015. See the comprehensive list of well dressings which includes other villages and towns within the Peak District National Park and many outside the Peak National Park.

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Well that's the legal stuff sorted.

Should you decline to comply with this warning, a leather winged demon of the night will soar from the deep malevolent caverns of the white peak into the shadowy moonlit sky and, with a thirst for blood on its salivating fangs, search the very threads of time for the throbbing of your heartbeat. Just thought you'd want to know that.

Last Updated : Friday, 01-Feb-2019
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