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A Visit to the Plague Village

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by Erin Connelly (subscribe)
I am a medievalist in the process of completing a PhD (involving medieval medicine). I travel as much as possible at home (UK) and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences!
Published December 15th 2012
Plague, Peaks, and Pints
Eyam, better known as the Plague Village, is located in Derbyshire, Peak District not far from the moors of Hathersage. In 1665 the Bubonic Plague (Black Death) arrived in the village and the residents volunteered to go into isolation to prevent the plague from spreading to neighbouring villages. Half the population of the village died, but the isolation was effective and the plague did not spread from Eyam.

Plague-carrying rat on the Eyam weather vane. Photo by Erin Connelly.

The plague museum tells the story of the self-sacrificing villagers and displays current research into the plague. Of interest is genetic research that shows that some modern Eyam residents carry a unique marker in their immune systems that makes them more resistant to colds and flu.

The row of plague cottages in the city centre are still inhabited by private owners, but signs outside the houses give the names or number of seventeenth century residents who died in the house.

Rose Cottage (site of 9 plague deaths). Photo by Alan Heardman.

Eyam Church contains Saxon crosses dating to the 9th century. When I visited the church, members of the community were rehearsing an annual play that illustrates Eyam's plague history. I sat next to a young cast member in the back of the pews and watched for a few minutes until the little girl started to talk to me about her character. "Her name is in that book over there", she said pointing to the church registry on display, "I'm related to her."

I looked at the registry later after the young actress had run off to perform her ancestor's death scene and there was indeed a long list of names with far too many death dates occurring from 1665 to 1666.

Saxon cross. Photo by Erin Connelly.

The stories of self-sacrifice, community strength, and endurance during one of the worst episodes in English history is uplifting, but spending a whole day immersed in the Black Death can be a bit morbid. Fortunately, Eyam is in the centre of the Peak District and right on the edge of the moors, so it's easy to take a brief walk in the country or a longer hike around the peaks after your visit to the village.

Outside Eyam. Photo by Erin Connelly.


Hathersage Moor. Photo by Erin Connelly.

For refreshments after your walk, there is a wide selection of pubs, tea shops, and restaurants in Eyam and the surrounding peak district villages, which are well-known for their hospitality and delicious food. The Miners Arms Pub is one such place in Eyam where you can find a range of pub comfort foods and friendly locals. It is also a bed and breakfast, if you're looking for accommodation.

The Miners Arms
Water Lane
Eyam
Hope Valley
Derbyshire
S32 5RG
01433 630853


Eyam is a few hours drive from London, but can be visited in a day. The surrounding peaks also make it a great destination for a weekend away from the city.
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Why? Tour an unusual village in the heart of the Peaks
When: All year round; see website for church and museum opening times
Phone: Plague Museum: 01433 631371
Where: Eyam, Derbyshire, S32 5QP
Cost: Museum entry: 2.50 (adult)
Your Comment
A really fascinating article and a good read!
by Paula McManus (score: 3|2966) 1042 days ago
I have heard of this place. I love your articles. The pictures you include are really good.
by Ms. Samantha (score: 2|362) 2059 days ago
Brilliant. More memories. Tell them how to pronounce it though. They won't know! :)
by Sally Writes (score: 2|533) 2067 days ago
Great article Erin. It's interesting about the genetic marker that is found in some of the Eyam residents that makes them more resistant to colds and flus. I wonder if there is any research being conducted on this for the development of future drug therapies.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1596) 2067 days ago
It's also the setting for the historical novel Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.

Interesting little spot no doubt...
by Kathleen (score: 2|580) 2067 days ago
Fascinating! I'm getting so many ideas from Weekend Notes about interesting places to visit when I finally visit the UK.
by Carolyn Hopping (score: 2|950) 2067 days ago
What a touching yet inspirational article Erin.

It is fascinating that the survivors' descendants have the benefit of additional disease resistance.
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|10958) 2062 days ago
Your pictures and visits round Nottingham, Derbyshire and Cheshire brought back lots of memories, we lived near there and visited all the places you mentioned and walked all over the Peak District.
by annea (score: 0|6) 1397 days ago
Kathleen, I was just to ask that very question. I knew Year of Wonders was based on a real life town, the book was fascinating, and now Erin you have brought it to life (so to speak). Great article.
by Shannon Meyerkort (score: 3|1781) 2067 days ago
Thank you for those suggestions! I'll definitely add them to my 'to do' list.
by Carolyn Hopping (score: 2|950) 2066 days ago
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