Eyam () is an English village and civil parish
in the Derbyshire Dales
. It lies within the Peak District National Park
. The population was 969 at the 2011 Census.
The village was founded and named by Anglo-Saxons
, although lead had earlier been mined in the area by the Romans
After the loss of its industries in the later 20th century, the local economy now relies on the tourist trade. Eyam is promoted as "the plague village", referring to its self-imposed isolation after bubonic plague
was discovered in 1665 so as to prevent the infection spreading.
Lead mining seems to have had a continuous history in the Eyam district since at least the Roman era and there is evidence of habitation from earlier. Stone circles and earth barrows on the moors above the present village have largely been destroyed, although some remain and more are recorded. The most notable site is the Wet Withens
stone circle on Eyam Moor
. Coins bearing the names of many emperors provide evidence of Roman lead-mining locally. However, the village's name derives from Old English
and is first recorded in the Domesday Book
as ''Aium''. It is a dative
form of the noun ''ēg'' (an island) and probably refers to a patch of cultivable land amidst the moors, or else to the settlement's situation between two brooks.
In the churchyard is an Anglo-Saxon cross
n style dated to the 8th century, moved there from its original location beside a moorland cart track. Grade I listed
and a Scheduled Ancient Monument
, it is covered in complex carvings and is almost complete, but for a missing section of the shaft.
The present parish church of St. Lawrence
dates from the 14th century, but evidence of an earlier church there can be found in the Saxon font, a Norman window at the west end of the north aisle, and Norman pillars that are thought to rest on Saxon foundations. There have been alterations since the Middle Ages, including a large sundial
dated 1775 mounted on a wall outside. Some of the rectors at the church have had contentious histories, none less than the fanatically Royalist
Sherland Adams who, it was accused, "gave tythe of lead ore to the King against the Parliament", and as a consequence was removed from the living
The lead mining tithe was due to the rectors by ancient custom. They received one penny for every 'dish' of ore and twopence farthing for every load of hillock
-stuff. Owing to the working of a newly discovered rich vein during the 18th century, the Eyam living was a valuable one. Mining continued into the 19th century, after which better sources were discovered and a change-over was made to the working and treatment of fluorspar
as a slagging agent in smelting
. The last to close was the Ladywash Mine, which was operative between 1948 and 1979. Within a 3-mile radius of the village there are 439 known mines (some running beneath the village itself), drained by 49 drainage levels ('soughs').
According to the 1841 Census for Eyam, there were 954 inhabitants living in the parish, chiefly employed in agriculture, lead mining, and cotton and silk weaving. By the 1881 Census, most men either worked as lead miners or in the manufacture of boots and shoes, a trade that only ended in the 1960s. The transition from industrial village to tourist-based economy is underlined by Roger Ridgeway's statement that, at the beginning of the 20th century, "a hundred horses and carts would have been seen taking fluorspar to Grindleford
stations. Today, up to a dozen coach loads of visiting children arrive each day in the village."
1665 plague outbreak
The history of the plague in the village began in 1665 when a flea
-infested bundle of cloth arrived from London
for Alexander Hadfield, the local tailor.
Within a week his assistant George Viccars, noticing the bundle was damp, had opened it up. Before long he was dead and more began dying in the household soon after.
As the disease spread, the villagers turned for leadership to their rector
, the Reverend William Mompesson
, and the ejected Puritan
minister Thomas Stanley. They introduced a number of precautions to slow the spread of the illness from May 1666. The measures included the arrangement that families were to bury their own dead and relocation of church services to the natural amphitheatre of Cucklett Delph, allowing villagers to separate themselves and so reducing the risk of infection. Perhaps the best-known decision was to quarantine
the entire village to prevent further spread of the disease. Merchants from surrounding villages sent supplies that they would leave on marked rocks; the villagers then made holes there which they would fill with vinegar to disinfect the money left as payment.
The plague ran its course over 14 months and one account states that it killed at least 260 villagers, with only 83 surviving out of a population of 350.
That figure has been challenged on a number of occasions, with alternative figures of 430 survivors from a population of around 800 being given.
The church in Eyam has a record of 273 individuals who were victims of the plague.
Survival among those affected appeared random, as many who remained alive had close contact with those who died but never caught the disease. For example, Elizabeth Hancock was uninfected despite burying six children and her husband in eight days. The graves are known as the Riley graves after the farm where they lived.
The unofficial village gravedigger
, Marshall Howe, also survived, despite handling many infected bodies.
The village's actions prevented the disease from moving into surrounding areas.
Plague Sunday has been celebrated in the village since the plague's bicentenary in 1866. Originally celebrated in mid-August, it now takes place in Cucklett Delph on the last Sunday in August, coinciding with the (much older) Wakes Week
and well dressing
Places of interest
thumb|right|The Boundary Stone
Today Eyam has various plague-related places of interest. One is the Coolstone in which money, usually soaked in vinegar, which was believed to kill the infection, was placed in exchange for food and medicine. It is just one of several 'plague stones' marking the boundary that should not be crossed by either inhabitant or outsider. Another site is the isolated enclosure of the Riley graves mentioned above, now under the guardianship of the National Trust
A reminder of the village's industrial past remains in the name of its only pub, the Miner's Arms. Built in 1630, before the plague, it was originally called The Kings Arms. Opposite the church is the Mechanics' Institute
, originally established in 1824, although the present building with its handsome pillared portico dates from 1859 and was enlarged in 1894. At one time it held a library paid for by subscription, which then contained 766 volumes. The premises now double as the village club. Up the main street is the Jacobean
-styled Eyam Hall
, built just after the plague. It was leased and managed by the National Trust for five years until December 2017 but is now run by the owners (the Wright Family). The green opposite has an ancient set of village stocks
reputedly used to punish the locals for minor crimes.
Catherine Mompesson's tabletop grave is in the churchyard and has a wreath laid on it every Plague Sunday. This is in remembrance of her constancy in staying by her husband, rather than moving away with the rest of her family, and dying in the very last days of the plague. The church's burial register also records "Anna the traveller, who according to her own account, was 136 years of age" and was interred on 30 December 1663. A more recent arrival there is the cricketer Harry Bagshaw
, who played for Derbyshire and then acted as a respected umpire after retiring. At the apex of his headstone is a hand with a finger pointing upwards. Underneath the lettering a set of stumps is carved with a bat, and the bails flying off where a ball has just hit the wicket.
Respect for its heritage has not always been a priority in Eyam. In his ''Peak Scenery'' (1824), Ebenezer Rhodes
charges that by the start of the 19th century many former gravestones of plague victims had been pulled up to floor houses and barns and that ploughing was allowed to encroach on the Riley Graves (pp. 34–5); that the lime trees planted on either side of Mrs Mompesson's grave had been cut down for timber (39–40); that the missing piece from the shaft of the Saxon Cross had been broken up for domestic use (p. 44); and that in general the profit of the living was put before respect for the dead (46–7).
was opened in 1994 and, besides its focus on the plague, includes exhibits on the village's local history in general. Among the art exhibits there are painted copies from different eras of a print (taken from a drawing by Francis Chantrey
) in Ebenezer Rhodes
' ''Peak Scenery'' (1818). These depict the sweep of the road by the 'plague cottages' where the first victims died, with the church tower beyond. The local amateur John Platt painted in naive
style and is represented by depictions of the Riley Graves (1871) and the old windmill (1874).
Since the area is scenically beautiful, it has attracted many artists and the village appeared in the work of Sheffield artist George Cunningham (1924–1996), while Tim Rose, a specialist in interiors from the same city, has painted several watercolours inside Eyam Hall. Other watercolourists who have painted landscape views include George Hammond Steel (1900–1960) and Freida Marrion Scott (d.2012). Eyam also has a resident artist in Hazel Money, who specialises in small-scale acrylic paintings and lino prints of the village and surrounding area.
The most distinctive of the Sheffield artists to paint Eyam was Harry Epworth Allen
, since he subordinated the picturesque so as to interpret his subject as a living community within a worked landscape. His "Road above Eyam" (1936), now in the Laing Art Gallery
, shows a road travelled by working people above the village. His "Burning Limestone" in Newport Museum and Art Gallery
acknowledges the two centuries and more of industrialisation by which the local inhabitants earned their living among harsh conditions.
“The village of Eyam," its historian begins his account, "has been long characterized throughout the Peak of Derbyshire, as the birthplace of genius – the seat of the Muses – the Athens of the Peak". During the 18th century the place was notable for having no fewer than four poets associated with it. Reverend Peter Cunningham
, curate there between 1775 and 1790, published two sermons during that time as well as several poems of a political nature. In addition, William Wood's account speaks of "numberless stones in the burial place that contain the offerings of his muse".
The rector for whom Cunningham deputised much of the time, Thomas Seward
, published infrequently, but at least one poem written during his tenure at Eyam deals with personal matters. His "Ode on a Lady's Illness after the Death of her Child", dated 14 April 1748, concerns the death in infancy of his daughter Jenny. Seward also encouraged one of his surviving daughters, Anna Seward
, to write poetry, but only after she moved with her father to Lichfield
. A pioneer of Romanticism
, Seward could not hide from herself the fact that the wild natural rocks she admired were daily being blasted for utilitarian purposes and the "perpetual consumption of the ever burning lime kilns", while the view was hidden behind the smoke from the smelting works. Following a visit to her birthplace in 1788, she wrote a poem about it filled with nostalgia for the past. She celebrated this lost domain of happiness once more in "Epistle to Mr. Newton, the Derbyshire Minstrel, on receiving his description in verse of an autumnal scene near Eyam, September 1791". No copy of the poem by William Newton
now exists. The author was a labouring-class
protégé from nearby, originally discovered by Cunningham and introduced to Miss Seward in 1783.
The poet Richard Furness
belongs to the early 19th century and was known as 'the Poet of Eyam' after his birthplace, but the bulk of his poetry too was written after he had left the district. Among the several references to the village there are his "Lines written in sight of the rectory", which praises both Anna Seward and her father. William Wood, the author of ''The History and Antiquities of Eyam'', was a village resident. At the head of his first chapter is an excerpt from a poem that links the place with the story of the plague. Simply initialled W. W., the inference to be drawn is that it had earlier appeared in Wood's collection, ''The genius of the Peak and other poems'' (1837). A later visitor from across the Peak District was Thomas Matthew Freeman, who included a blank verse
meditation "On Eyam" and its plague history in his collection ''Spare minutes of a country parson''. At the start of the following century Sarah Longsdon O'Ferrall was living at Eyam Rectory and published ''The Lamp of St Helen and other poems'' in 1912. This contained hymns sung on special occasions in Eyam and some verse referring to plague sites.
Prose writers also came to live in the area. The village of Milton that figures in some of Robert Murray Gilchrist
's fiction is in fact based upon Eyam. His ''The Peakland Faggot'' (1897) consists of short stories, each focusing on a particular character in the village. This was followed by two other series, ''Nicholas and Mary and Other Milton Folk'' (1899) and ''Natives of Milton'' (1902). Eyam was also featured under its own name in Joseph Hatton
's novel ''The Dagger and the Cross'' (1897). Set in the former Bradshaw Hall in the year before the plague arrives, it includes local characters who had key roles during the spread of the disease, such as George Vicars and William and Catherine Mompesson.
* ''The Village of Eyam: a poem in four parts'' by John Holland
, Macclesfield, 1821
* ''The Desolation of Eyam'' by William and Mary Howitt
, London, 1827
* ''The Tale of Eyam, a story of the plague in Derbyshire, and other poems by an OLD BLUE'', London, 1888.
Because of its subject, the poem was reviewed in the ''British Medical Journal'' for 30 November 1889, where its poetic diction is taken literally: 'The author speaks of the pestilence and ''its hellborn brood''; and again of firebolts from ''heaven's reeking nostrils.'' Such phraseology aptly exemplifies the mental attitude of men who lived in the infancy of modern science, when in the plague they saw the angry stroke of offended Deity, and recognised the 'scourge' of God in what we know to be only the scourge of filth.'
*''A Moral Ballad of the Plague of Eyam'' by Francis McNamara (1884–1946). This was published as an Irish broadside in 1910.
* In his poem "Lockdown" (2020), written in response to the coronavirus pandemic
, Simon Armitage
draws a parallel at the start with the voluntary quarantine of the inhabitants of Eyam.
* ''The Brave Men of Eyam – a tale of the great plague year'' by Edward N. Hoare
, SPCK, 1881.
* ''God and the Wedding Dress'' by Marjorie Bowen
, Hutchinson, 1938.
* ''A Parcel of Patterns'' by Jill Paton Walsh
, a novel for young adults, Puffin Books, 1983.
* ''Children of Winter'' by Berlie Doherty
, a fantasy novel for children, published by Methuen, 1985;
adapted for television 1994.
* ''The Naming of William Rutherford'' by Linda Kempton, a fantasy novel for children, published by Heinemann, 1992.
* ''Year of Wonders
'' by Geraldine Brooks
, published by Fourth Estate, 2001.
* ''Black Death'' by M. I. McAllister
, children's fiction, Oxford University Press, 2003.
* ''Kiss of Death'' by Malcolm Rose
, a thriller for young adults, published by Usborne Publishing, 2006.
* ''TSI: The Gabon Virus'' by Paul McCusker
and Walt Larimore, M.D., Christian suspense fiction, published by Howard Books
* ''Eyam: Plague Village'' by David Paul, Amberley Publishing, 2012.
* ''A Shadow Beyond'', an historic story of plague by Emma-Nicole Lewis, Kindle Edition 2019.
* ''The Brave Men of Eyam: 1665–1666'', a radio play by Michael Reynolds, originally broadcast on 30 August 1936, and reprinted by permission of the ''Radio Times''.
* ''Isolation at Eyam; a play in one act for women'' by Joyce Dennys
, published by French, 1954.
* ''The Roses of Eyam
'' by Don Taylor
; first performed 1970, broadcast on TV in 1973; published by Heinemann, 1976.
* ''A different drum'' by Bridget Foreman; first performed 1997 by the Riding Lights Theatre Company
; revived 2013. The plague story interspersed with other stories of self-sacrifice.
* ''Ring Around the Rosie'' by Anne Hanley; staged reading by Fairbanks Shakespeare Theatre (Alaska), 2004.
* ''Plague at Eyam'', a script for young adults published by the Association of Science Education, 2010.
* ''Eyam'' by Matt Hartley; performed on the main stage at Shakespeare's Globe
, 2018, and also published that year by Nick Hern Books.
* ''Plague upon Eyam'' an opera in three acts by John D. Drummond, librettist Patrick Little; University of Otago Press (New Zealand), 1984;
Songs recorded on ''Mr Polly at the Potwell Inn'', Sirius CD SP004, 2000.
* ''Ring of White Roses'', a one-act light opera by Les Emmans, librettist Pat Mugridge, 1984; published Plays & Musicals, 2004.
* ''The Plague of Eyam'' by Ivor Hodgson, 2010; overture performed on BBC radio, March 2010.
* ''Eyam: A Musical'', music by Andrew Peggie, book and lyrics by Stephen Clark; pioneered as a group production in 1990, CD Joseph Weinberger, 1995; London production at the Bridewell Theatre, 1998
* ''A Ring of Roses'', Darren Vallier, Dress Circle Records (STG1) 1996; first performed at the Savoy Theatre, 1997; Jasper Publishing 2004.
* ''The Ring of Stones'' premiered in Manchester in 1999 and since then has been revived and performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2011.
* ''Catherine of Eyam'', created at Boundstone Community College
by Tom Brown and Aedan Kerney in the 1990s and then revived and rewritten as a community musical for 2017 performance.
* "Roses of Eyam", originally composed by John Trevor in 1975 and subsequently performed by Roy Bailey
as part of his repertoire.
* "We All Fall Down", written by Leeds
-based band iLiKETRAiNS
and featured on their album ''Elegies to Lessons Learnt
The village lends its name to the evolutionary "Eyam Hypothesis" whereby infected individuals exhibit sickness behaviour
because of kin selection
of reduced infectivity
, 'the Swan of Lichfield', (1747–1809)
, 'the Poet of Eyam' (1791–1857)
*Robert Eden, 3rd Baron Auckland
Rector of Eyam between 1823 and 1825. Afterwards 3rd Lord Auckland
; Bishop of Sodor and Man
1847–1854, then Bishop of Bath and Wells
, Rector of Eyam between 1884 and 1886, later Archdeacon of Newark
*Derby plague of 1665
, Great Plague of London
(also in 1665)
* Documents on thEyam Village site
* Carew, Jan, ''Eyam: Plague Village'', Nelson Thomas, (Cheltenham), 2004.
* Daniel, Clarence (1938), ''The Plague Village: A History of Eyam'', (Tideswell), T.W. Warrington & Son.
Holloway, Julian (2017), "Resounding the Landscape: The Sonic Impress of and the Story of Eyam, Plague Village", ''Landscape Research'', Vol.42, No.6, (18 August 2017), pp.601-615.Massad, Eduardo, Coutinho, Francisco Antônio Bezerra, Burattini, Marcelo Nascimento, and Luis Fernandez Lopez (2004), "The Eyam Plague Revisited: Did the Village Isolation Change Transmission from Fleas to Pulmonary?", ''Medical Hypotheses'', Vol.63, No.5, (January 2004), pp.911-915.
* Paul, David (2012), ''Eyam: Plague Village'', (Stroud), Amberley Publishing,
Race, Philip (1995), "Some Further Consideration of the Plague in Eyam, 1665/6", ''Local Population Studies'', No.54 (Spring 1995), pp.56-65.Wallis, Patrick 2006), "A Dreadful Heritage: Interpreting Epidemic Disease at Eyam, 1666–2000", ''History Workshop Journal'', Vol.61, No.1, (Spring 2006), pp.31–56.White, Francis (1857), "Eyam Parish", pp.570-582, in F. White, ''History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Derby, etc.'', (Sheffield), Framcis White & Co.Whittles L.K. & Didelot, X. (2016), "Epidemiological Analysis of the Eyam Plague Outbreak of 1665–1666", ''Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences'', Vol.283, No.1830, (11 May 2016), 20160618.Wood, William (1842), ''The History and Antiquities of Eyam; With a Full and Particular Account of the Great Plague, Which Desolated that Village, A.D. 1666, Thomas Miller, (London), 1842.
Eyam Plague Village websiteGuide to Eyam VillageEyam Hall National Trust site
* . It takes a skeptic look at the story of self-quarantine in Eyam and applies it to the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak
Category:Villages in Derbyshire
Category:Towns and villages of the Peak District
Category:Populated places established in the 1st millennium