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 February 1st 2013
From Pride and Prejudice to the Plague Village
Chatsworth House is the ancestral home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. It famously played the part of Pemberley in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and has been attracting a worldwide audience ever since. Set against green fields and tree-covered hills, it is one of the most eye-catching country manors in all of rural Derbyshire.
The house is set next to a river in 1000 acres of parkland, which is perfect for long walks in the countryside. Chatsworth is within easy walking distance of many beautiful and amiable country villages, but the most intriguing, perhaps, is historic Eyam, otherwise known as the Plague Village.
Eyam village is a mere seven miles down the road from Chatsworth House. The best way to get there is to follow the roadside path; although, more challenging and less direct routes are available, so long as you have a map and a good sense of direction.
Plague Village may sound a bit ominous, but the history is a rather uplifting story of self-sacrifice and compassion. When the Black Death hit the village in 1665 the inhabitants placed themselves in voluntary isolation to prevent the spread of the plague to the neighbouring villages. Nearly half the population perished during the quarantine, but they did prevent the plague from spreading.
St Lawrence's Church, Eyam. Photo by Erin Connelly.
There are many historical sites to visit in Eyam, but St Lawrence's Church has played a key role in village life, both historically and in modern times. The church contains a museum detailing the history of the plague and many artefacts dating back to much older events.
An intricate Anglo-Saxon cross in the churchyard is thought to be over one thousand years old and is probably a remainder from a long gone Anglo-Saxon church on the same site.
There happened to be a wedding just finishing at the church when I, and my group of mud-spattered walkers, arrived in the churchyard. Many of the wedding guests were wandering around the churchyard and an elderly gentleman pointed out a grave set off from the others by four stone pillars. 'That is a real pirate grave,' he said. With its scowling skull and crossbones emblem, it did seem to be pirate-like, but I think he was just having some fun. It's unlikely pirates were very plentiful in the land-locked peak district and even more unlikely to find one who managed to get buried in consecrated ground. It's probably the unmarked grave of a plague victim with typical 17th century death art reminding every observer of their own mortality.