Eyam is a small village in the eastern-central Peak district, best known as being the 'Plague Village'.
The village would be a tourist attraction in its own right, even if the plague had never visited this small community. It is in a very pretty setting, contains various attractive buildings and interesting monuments, and has easy access to walks on the moors above the village.
One of the most imposing buildings is 17th century Eyam Hall, on the main street in the village. The hall is open to the public (summer only) and also contains a craft centre. Many other notable and interesting houses are also to be seen, remarkably untouched by the centuries.
Be sure to visit the churchyard to see the rare 7th (or perhaps 8th or 9th) century cross, intricately carved and more or less intact (although the cross was originally located elsewhere nearby, being brought to the churchyard more recently).
Several houses around Eyam bear plaques relating the names and background of the people who lived in the property until their deaths in 1665. The churchyard also contains gravestones of some of those who died in the plague.
Eyam Plague Village - history
Everyone has heard of the Great Plague of 1665, and thinks perhaps of London. But other parts of the country were affected, and it was in that same year that the plague came to Eyam - by way of fleas carried in a box of cloth brought here to the local taylor, George Viccars, from the capital.
From the arrival of the cloth at the end of August it only took until 7th September for the first fatality to strike - George Viccars himself.
The disease spread rapidly among the community - bubonic plague is one of the most deadly and contagious diseases known, and in the 17th century it was not known how the disease spread.
To prevent the plague spreading to neighbouring communities the villagers agreed to stay within the limits of the village, at the suggestion of the rector and the church minister. In a great act of selflessness the villagers all agreed.
Food and provisions were brought to the village boundaries by neighbouring communities, while the villagers trapped inside suffered terrible losses. During the following 16 months more than 260 of them died (estimates of the percentage of the village that this represented vary widely, but it was a great loss to the entire community).
Sometimes entire families were killed; on other occasions (and perhaps worse) all but one of the family would die. Strangely perhaps, given his high level of exposure to infected individuals, the gravedigger was not killed.
Eyam Museum in the village has various objects of interest and period re-enactments that help tell the full story of the plague years.
Eyam - a tribute
Each year on the last Sunday of August the village pays tribute to the brave villagers who stayed in Eyam risking death rather than fleeing and potentially spreading disease to surrounding communities.
If visiting, be sure to park in the car park on Hawkhill Road rather than try and park in the village centre - in any case double yellow lines prevent this in most places.