A first Peak District post. They aren’t in any particular order, my inner morbid self just expressed an interest to write about this place first… My older two take after me with their gruesome history interests, and because of this Eyam was firmly on the list… First stop, Eyam Plague Museum…
Way back through the mists of time – 1665 to be precise – an Eyam tailor ordered a bale of cloth from far off London. Sadly, back with it came one of the most feared killers, the Plague. As soon as the village realised what was in their midst, and the potential it had to kill thousands more around them, they isolated themselves, barring anyone from entering, and obviously anyone leaving. Food and other goods were left on the outskirts and money left in exchange in little rock hollows filled with vinegar (many of which are still visible in the surrounding fields today)…
Altogether Eyam lost 260 residents, more than double the mortality rate of London at that time, but through their pure selflessness, thousands of lives were doubtless saved.
Eyam’s Plague Museum charts all of this, giving an insight into the personal lives of those affected, the beliefs surrounding “cures” and possible “causes” of the illness, what life was like generally in Eyam at the time, and how it went on afterwards…
It’s a little museum packed full of knowledge and it’s well worth a visit… Plus it has the best weather vane I think I have ever seen….
Sadly for us (and much to the annoyance of the baby’s older, completely engrossed siblings) we weren’t able to stay for as long as we might have liked to… It seems the baby, still traumatised after his initial encounter with Father Christmas (see evidence below. For those of you gasping as your eyes take in the entirety of the scene, please rest assured that he wasn’t crying beforehand, and whilst I took a quick photo for prosperity (and future blackmail purposes) his father rushed across to rescue him from Ol’ Saint Nick (aka the Financial Director from the Small People’s Bavarian school)), now associates anyone with grey long hair and/or a slightly longer than average beard with the festive giver of gifts himself…
On a good day, this can amount to a simple greeting of “ho ho ho” shouted accusingly in the direction of a person with grey long hair/and or beard. On a bad day, it can result in a slightly cross, unusually timid, and not altogether over the moon Small Baby (and a usually slightly perplexed person with long grey hair and/or beard). Luckily, in real life matching males are quite few and far between. Unluckily, The Plague Museum happens to contain quite a few waxwork figures that fit the bill, in fact the introductory video starts off with a person with flowing grey locks. Thereafter, and as much as we tried to distract him with other exhibits, he was very much not in the mood…
Not that we let that put an end to our day of historical learning, and Eyam obviously contains a lot more besides the fabulous Museum itself. In fact, I suggest you set aside at least half a day to cover most of it properly. Next stop Eyam Hall.
Some people ask how we manage to do things now we have the Small Baby in tow, when in reality (apart from long haul flights which we cannot currently face with him) the only thing we have started doing slightly differently is how we typically visit places that often contain a lot of valuable things/people peering at stuff. When visiting stately homes for example, one of us explores the interior, whilst the other baby wrangles elsewhere. This makes for a much less stressful experience all round, and ensures that we actually see something (did I mention how child friendly Bavarian people can be in comparison??)…This time Mr R and the Small People explored this Jacobean Manor house first, whilst I delved into the little craft shops in the courtyard.
Built a few years after Eyam’s brush with the plague, Eyam Hall is the first property leased to the National Trust, and is actually owned by the same family today some eleven generations on.
I did overhear someone say that the family still tend to the garden, and although the National Trust are temporary guardians, the house will return to the Wright family at some point. In fact it almost feels like you might stumble across them watching Antiques Roadshow or something as a few of their modern-day belongings are dotted about the place. Don’t let that fool you though, look out for the tapestries – these out date the house by a mere two hundred years. Not to mention the little love poem etched onto one of the window panes by an ancient relative, amongst a stack of other stuff…
And whilst the rest of my family were still exploring (and I had worked my way through the craft shops) the baby and I walked through the village graveyard, and past the little cottages that detail the families that lived there during plague times, and sadly how many occupants tragically perished. A plague memorial service is still held here by the way, usually on the last weekend in August, in the same outdoor setting that the villagers used all those years ago…
Not the cheeriest of places, but a valuable slice of English History well-preserved. Nowadays, we like to think ourselves more advanced than those centuries ago, but this little village saved so many lives out of pure selflessness, and it’s something we could do with remembering today…
We stopped off at beautiful Curbar Edge on the way back (which is also a must see by the way) which (with a slight fear of heights) I found a lot more petrifying at times…
There are masses of rock climbing and photography opportunities to be had here (our wonderful landlady said she didn’t bother with softplay when her children were small, she just brought them here!), and the biggest opportunity to breathe in lots of pure Peak District air, whilst appreciating the times we live in today (or not!)…
Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays says
That is a fabulous weather vane. The Eyam story is compelling, I’d tell it first too #CulturedKids
Thanks Catherine! :)
Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me) says
What a fascinating story. And yes, Father Christmas is scary – but that doctor is beyond terrifying! I can’t imagine what it must have been like, holed up in the village, waiting to see if you and your family would die. Gipping stuff. #CulturedKids
Can you imagine? So brave of them to stay put and wait it out! Thanks Nell! :) x
Cass Bailey says
This looks like a really interesting day out – my two would be more interested in the outdoors than inside I think x x
My older two loved both, but I loved the outdoor photography opportunities best! :D Thanks Cass! :)
Kate Williams says
Oh I had no idea about that at all! I bet my son would love it there as at 6 he is in the proper morbid phase ;)
It’s really interesting… Certainly makes you think too! :) Thanks Kate!
It looks a fascinating place. I wonder how many people perished from the plague in England at that time? We have a haunted wood just off the Causeway where people from the village with the plague were taken, apparently the vicar said he would bring them food – its said he never returned to them and now the wood is haunted!!! The beak mask in your picture looks like masks we found in Venice – I guess originating from the plague there as well? We live and learn! x
We do live and learn. Unless we have the plague and are “looked after” by an evil vicar!! You have lots of fascinating history around you! :) xx
Karen Langridge says
Gosh what an interesting day out, very educational, my two would enjoy this! Hope your little one gets over the beard phobia too x
Thanks Karen. It tends to just be long grey beards/hair thankfully, but I hope so too! :D x
Midlife Singlemum says
I read a novel set in Eyam but I can’t remember what it was called. And actually the plot is a bit sketchy now too. Very interesting place. I’d like to visit there.
Thanks Rachel, will have to have a search for that! :)
Polly Davies says
oh sounds like a great place for a visit!
Jen Walshaw says
Oh how truly gruesome. It is something that my boys would enjoy. There is something really sinister about that doctor’s outfit.
You wouldn’t want him knocking on your door would you? Thanks Jen! :)
It looks like a fascinating place to visit – you would sell my kids on the rock climbing
My two LOVED this. When we go back, we have strict instructions to return to the same place so that we can go there every day! :D Thanks Kara!
I’ve ambled about here with May. Ah Cubar edge, it’s lovely – there are some fantastic walks around there. I’ve never been to Eyam hall or plague museum but I’ve walk around the village and across nearby fields, many times. It’s a cheery little village with a sobering message. Looking forward to more Peak District places.
So beautiful isn’t it? But so sad too. More coming up soon! This returning to England writer’s block has been a killer! :D xx
Very interesting. I think the wax models would have scared me too!!!xx
I can imagine. Didn’t you fall down the stairs in fright at the London Dungeons!?! :D xx
Mary @AsturianDiary says
My old stomping ground! But I shamefully never made it to the Plague Museum even though the story always fascinated me. Thanks for filling me in on!! x
No problem Mary. Thank you! If it makes you feel any better, I only visited Hampton Court Palace a few years after we had lived around the corner! :D x