Our latest Curiosity of the Week is the picturesque Derbyshire village of Eyam. Eyam is known by many as the Plague Village, and it is the reason it holds a fascinating place in history.
During an outbreak of the plague in 1665, the village took the unusual step of quarantining itself, to stop the spread of the disease to neighbouring villages.
It is thought that the plague hit the village after a contaminated package of cloth was sent up from London for a local tailor to use.
The disease began to spread quickly through the households, leading the local minister, William Mompesson, to take steps to try to halt the plague’s progress.
Eyam’s residents agreed to a self-imposed quarantine and took several practical steps to help stop infection. These measures included holding outdoor church services, not leaving the village boundary, and families burying their own dead. Supplies were left at special points on the outskirts of the village, at locations such as ‘Mompesson’s Well’ and the ‘Boundary Stone’, so that infection could be limited.
If you are planning to visit the village, a good place to start is Eyam Museum, which covers the events of the time in great detail.
You can also buy a map of the village with the main points of interest marked, including the plague cottages, Mompesson’s Well, the Boundary Stone, and the Riley Graves.
The locations around the village are mostly well-marked, with information plaques outside the points of interest. The plague cottages even have the details of the unfortunate families and the dates they died from the plague.
A little out of the village centre, in the middle of a field, are the Riley Graves. The resting place of the Hancock family, who were not buried in the churchyard because of the quarantine rules.
Also a short walk from the village is Mompesson’s Well, which isn’t really a well but a drinking trough. This was one of the points where supplies were left for the villagers.
The walks to the Riley Graves, Mompesson’s Well, and the Boundary Stone aren’t well-marked from the village, but are easy enough to find with the aid of an OS Map or similar.
Other points of interest in the village include a Saxon cross, the restored village stocks, Eyam Hall, and the ‘innovative’ water troughs, dating from the 1500s.
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