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Coordinates: 53°17′02″N 1°40′16″W / 53.284°N 1.671°W / 53.284; -1.671

Eyam Church - geograph.org.uk - 21749.jpg
Eyam is located in Derbyshire
 Eyam shown within Derbyshire
Population 926 (2001[1])
OS grid reference SK220764
District Derbyshire Dales
Shire county Derbyshire
Region East Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district S32
Dialling code 01433
Police Derbyshire
Fire Derbyshire
Ambulance East Midlands
EU Parliament East Midlands
UK Parliament High Peak
List of places

Eyam /ˈm/[2] (Anglian At the islands[3]) is a village in Derbyshire, England. The village is best known for being the "plague village" that chose to isolate itself when the plague was discovered there in August 1665, rather than let the infection spread. The village was founded and named by Anglo-Saxons, although lead had been mined in the area by the Romans.[4]

Plague history[edit]

The plague had been brought to the village in a flea-infested bundle of cloth that was delivered to tailor George Viccars from London.[5]

A 'plague' cottage with plaque commemorating some of the deaths

Within a week he was dead and was buried on 7 September 1665.[6] After the initial deaths, the townspeople turned to their rector, the Reverend William Mompesson, and the Puritan Minister Thomas Stanley. They introduced a number of precautions to slow the spread of the illness from May 1666. These included the arrangement that families were to bury their own dead and the relocation of church services from the parish church of St. Lawrence to Cucklett Delph to allow villagers to separate themselves, reducing the risk of infection. Perhaps the best-known decision was to quarantine the entire village to prevent further spread of the disease. The plague raged in the village for 14 months and it is stated that it killed at least 260 villagers with only 83 villagers surviving out of a population of 350.[6] This figure has been challenged on a number of occasions with alternative figures of 430 survivors from a population of around 800 being given.[6] The church in Eyam has a record of 273 individuals who were victims of the plague.[7]

When the first outsiders visited Eyam a year later, they found that fewer than a quarter of the village had survived the plague. Survival appeared random, as many plague survivors had close contact with the bacterium but never caught the disease. For example, Elizabeth Hancock never became ill despite burying six children and her husband in eight days (the graves are known as the Riley graves).[5] The unofficial village gravedigger Marshall Howe also survived, despite handling many infected bodies, as he had earlier survived catching the disease.[6]

Places of interest[edit]

The Boundary Stone

Today Eyam has various plague-related places of interest such as the Coolstone, a stone in which money, usually soaked in vinegar, which was believed to kill the infection, was placed in exchange for food and medicine, and the Riley graves as mentioned above. The only pub to be found in the village is the Miner's Arms. Opposite the church is the Mechanics' Institute, used as the village hall meeting rooms. The Mechanics' Institute was established in Eyam in 1824,[8] with a library paid for by subscription, which then contained 766 volumes. There were 30 members recorded in 1857, paying 3d. (the equivalent of 1p) per month.[9] Up the main street is the Jacobean house Eyam Hall, built just after the plague. The green opposite has an ancient set of village stocks reputedly used to punish the locals for minor crimes. There is also a Youth Hostel in the village.

Eyam Museum opened in 1994, including exhibits on local history in general and the 1665 Plague in particular.

Eyam Hall is currently managed by the National Trust and opened to the public in March 2013.

Anglo-Saxon Cross[edit]

7th century Anglo-Saxon cross

Eyam churchyard contains an Anglo-Saxon cross (Mercian) dated to the 8th century. Initially, it was located at the side of a cart track near Eyam. It is Grade I listed and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.[10] It is believed that the cross originally lay on a moor outside the village and was later moved to the churchyard. It is covered in complex carvings and is almost complete, but is missing a section of the shaft.[11]

Eyam's role in genetic research[edit]

Researchers found no evidence that the Delta 32 gene mutation had protected the survivors of the plague, although this mutation was found in a statistically significant number of 14% in direct descendants of the plague survivors.[12]

Notable residents[edit]

Literary and musical treatments[edit]


  • 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, reissued by Kessinger Publishing, 2008[14]
  • 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 Nov. 30, 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.'


  • 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, Methuen, 1985 and various editions thereafter; adapted for television 1994
  • The Naming of William Rutherford by Linda Kempton, a fantasy novel for children, published by Heinemann, 1992 and various editions thereafter
  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, published by Fourth Estate, 2001, and various editions thereafter[15]
  • 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 (USA), 2009
  • Eyam:Plague Village by David Paul, Amberley Publishing, 2012[16]


  • 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;[17] published by Heinemann, 1976
  • a different drum by Bridget Foreman; first performed 1997 by the Riding Lights Theatre Company; revived 2013.[18] 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[19]


  • 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[20]
  • 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,[21] 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, Eddie Brierley, Peter Robinson, Arthur Connett; premiered at the Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester (1999), before moving to the Lyric Theatre at the Lowry Centre in December 2000. Revived in 2010 and currently touring the North West of England, culminating with a week's run at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.[22]


  • "Roses of Eyam", originally composed by John Trevor (Beau) in 1975; added to Roy Bailey’s repertoire and recorded by him in 1985 on his Hard Times album and reissued on his album Past Masters, Fuse Records, 1998; Beau himself released the song officially for the first time as a bonus track on the 2007 UK reissue of the original Beau disc (Cherry Red), and on the 2008 Japanese release of the same album (Airmail Recordings).[23]
  • "We All Fall Down", written by Leeds-based band iLiKETRAiNS and featured on their album Elegies to Lessons Learnt, 2007

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Parish Headcounts: Eyam CP". Neighbourhood Statistics. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  2. ^ "Eyam in brief". eyamvillage.org. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Eyam". Key to English Place-names. English Place Name Society at the University of Nottingham. Retrieved 18 Aug 2013. "Probably referring to its situation between Hollow Brook and Jumber Brook" 
  4. ^ "Living with the plague". Local Legends. BBC. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  5. ^ a b "Mystery of the Black Death". Secrets of the Dead. PBS. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d Clifford (1989)
  7. ^ List of plague victims
  8. ^ White's History, Gazetteer & Directory of the County of Derby, for 1857
  9. ^ http://www.wishful-thinking.org.uk/genuki/DBY/Eyam/MechanicsInstitute.html
  10. ^ "Eyam Saxon cross". Images of England. English Heritage. Retrieved 2006-04-17. 
  11. ^ Neville T. Sharpe, Crosses of the Peak District (Landmark Collectors Library, 2002)
  12. ^ Is there a genetic reason some people survived the plague during the middle ages?, Ask a Geneticist
  13. ^ A poem on her revisiting the village
  14. ^ The original edition is on Google Books
  15. ^ The opening chapters can be read here http://browseinside.harpercollins.com.au/index.aspx?isbn13=9781841154589
  16. ^ Details on Google Books
  17. ^ http://www.survivors-mad-dog.org.uk/MD_Eyam_Roses.html
  18. ^ Review from The York Press
  19. ^ Script available online at http://www.sycd.co.uk/who_am_i/pdf/everywhere/drama/eyam.pdf
  20. ^ Preview script at http://www.playsandmusicals.co.uk/cgi-bin/shop/shploader.cgi?lopera/rowr.htm
  21. ^ http://www.guidetomusicaltheatre.com/shows_e/eyam.htm
  22. ^ Tracks from the 2010 Salford performance at http://www.theringofstones.co.uk
  23. ^ http://www.trevormidgley.com/JohnTrevor.html; the words are quoted at http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=50418
  • Clifford, John G. (1989). Eyam Plague, 1665-1666. Eyam: J.G. Clifford. OCLC 57354126. 

External links[edit]