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A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
 
The Plague Cottages, Eyam
The Plague Cottages, 1906

It was in these pretty cottages, close to Eyam's Church, that a major calamity was to strike one September day in 1665; it was to decimate the population of this unsuspecting north Derbyshire village in a little over a year. Plague. It had been spreading like wildfire through London and entered Eyam by stealth, hidden amongst a box of clothes and patterns that had been sent from the capital to a journeyman tailor in the village.

Like many epidemics, the number of deaths rose slowly at first but bubonic plague was to kill 260 of the village's 350 inhabitants, the death toll reaching its peak in the summer months of 1666. In August that year, when the epidemic was most virulent, Mrs. Hancock buried her husband and six children in the Riley Graves, a quarter of a mile to the east of the village, over a period of only seven days.


The Plague Cottages, 1929


To stop the plague spreading to other communities the villagers, under the leadership of their vicar the Reverend William Mompesson[1], made the ultimate sacrifice. Knowing full well what could happen to them, they shut themselves off from the outside world. Nobody left the village and no-one entered either. Food was delivered to designated spots on the boundary and the money exchanged was cleaned in bowls of vinegar that was collected later. The church was closed and services were held outside in Cucklet Dell. Mompesson ministered to the sick and dying, with his wife Catherine supporting him and Reverend Thomas Stanley working equally as hard[2]. Marshall Howe was also exposed to danger as he interred the bodies of the victims[3].

In mid-October 1666 the plague had run its course. The sacrifice made by the brave villagers had prevented the plague from spreading any further north.





Postcards and drawing in the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
1. "The Plague Cottages, Eyam, Derbyshire", "Scott" Series No. 83 published by Scott Russell & Co., Art Publishers, Birmingham. Posted 6 October 1906.
2. "Eyam, The Plague Cottages", published by Judges', Ltd, Hastings, England. No. 11970. Card published approx. 1929. Unposted.
3. "Plague Cottages, Eyam". Pen and ink drawing from "The High Peak to Sherwood, The hills and dales of old Mercia", Thomas Linthwaite Tudor (1926), published London by Robert Scott. This drawing was done by Tudor.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews. Intended for personal use only.
Author's note: In the summer of 1966, three hundred years after the plague had been at its worst in Eyam, I was researching and writing a thesis on Well Dressing in Derbyshire. My investigations took me to Eyam. Although I already knew the bare outlines of the story, the full horror only really dawned when I read numerous harrowing accounts in the old books that were then housed in an upstairs research room in Matlock library.

Notes:

[1] Mompesson's children were sent away, but his wife chose to remain with her husband. Catherine Mompesson became one of the plague's victims and died in August 1666, aged 27. There is a tomb containing her remains in the churchyard. Mompesson eventually moved away and died in 1708.
[2] Stanley had been ejected for Nonconformity in 1662.
[3] Howe was to lose his wife and son, but he survived and lived for many years afterwards.


Also see, elsewhere on this web site:
Kelly's 1891 Directory, Eyam.
There is another postcard of Eyam - Railway Cards of Derbyshire Scenes

Davies' book Also see:
Davies, David Peter (1811) "History of Derbyshire" pub. S. Mason, Belper which describes Eyam.
Read the transcript: (Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811) elsewhere on this web site.



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