I want to share something safe and readable with you, through these unprecedented and challenging times.
For me, 2020 so far has been a difficult year, probably worse than 2015 when the year started off with my younger brother passing away, then on a couple of weeks later, someone ran a red light taking me with them and smashing my leg, resulting in over two years of surgery to stabilise things, and still ongoing issues today!
With all the inclement weather we've all endured, it has been hard for me to get out because of my leg, which as many will know, has had to be reconstructed, but very close to amputation, and I still have lots of skin problems, so getting out in the wet is not a viable option. So as a result, this year so far, I've not made many ventures outdoors.
Now with the necessary lock-down, I'm yet still, and as I type, on this rare lovely sunny day, unable to get out and enjoy sitting in a hide, or wandering one of the local National Trusts.
However, this is not a sympathy call, more an opportunity to share some history of folk who endured more challenging times, without the support we have today. Difficult the current situation is for us all, I'd like to share a historical story, with a very large element of fact behind it, about a village in the Peak District called Eyam.
Incidentally, my blogs from my walking days are just like my photos, are there as memories for me, and for anyone else who wants to peruse to read/view and enjoy by anyone else.
Eyam; a plague village and a walk on Eyam Moor
Most of us know: the Bubonic Plague started life in London, during the summer of 1665. However, what a lot of people don’t realise, this was not the only occurrence. In fact, there were quite a few occurrences of the plague in London spanning over a century!
However, this particular outbreak is the one to which my visit to Eyam in the Peak District National Park relates to.
For it was here, in Eyam often known as the Plague Village, where under the direction of the Reverend William Mompesson, of St Lawrence Church, Eyam, that the village isolated itself from the rest of the world to prevent the spread of the plague.
The bubonic plague took Eyam’s first victim, tailors assistant one George Vicars on 7th September 1665 and its last victim, Abraham Morten on 1st November 1666. In that period of fourteen months, some 260 people died within the village!
I will apologise in advance. Eyam is so full of history; I’ve not covered a lot, but seem to have written a lot. I hope you find what I’ve written as fascinating as I have when undertaking my research before going live with this blog.
I won’t go in to any great detail about the plague days, for there will be too much to cover, but I can strongly recommend reading up on how the village of Eyam coped with the plague.
The story is; a chest of clothing arrives at the house where George Vicars was staying with clothes from London. Upon opening it, he observed an obnoxious odour, which found the clothes to be damp.
This in itself was not the cause of the bubonic plague, but what the clothes harboured was, fleas!
It was the flea that feasted on the blood of the black rat found its way to feast on human in the absence of its host, the black rat
To help contain the bubonic plague, Rev’d William Mompesson set about a plan to control the plague. That was; to basically quarantine the village by isolating itself from the rest of the country, to close the church to reduce the spread of the plague with in the village and the final but probably the least pleasant, was to bury their own family members on their own land!
Could you imagine having to bury your family members, with plague ravaged bodies, at the bottom of your garden?
The church during those days held a very prominent place in everyone’s lives, so to close the church would be cutting off a lifeline for the villagers. So Rev’d William Mompesson arranged an alternative location, The Delf, located to the south west of Eyam, between the village and Middleton Dale.
St Lawrence Church, Eyam
To briefly continue, as part of this quarantine, the village needed to bring certain items in and also send certain items out, to survive. This had to be done without spreading the plague and this is where Mompesson's Well came in to its own. Here, it provided a drop off and pick up point for Eyam, allowing the exchange of goods without any contact from the villagers to the outside world.
Coins were soaked in vinegar to disinfect them in a bid to stop the spread of the plague….
Mompesson's Well, Eyam
This story was covered in a play, The Roses Of Eyam, which was televised on BB2 in 1973, which I recall watching as a child.
I would love to see that play again……
Now, some of you may be thinking about the nursery rhythm “Ring a Ring a Roses” for which there are a few variations of.
There is no confirmed relationship between the bubonic plague and the nursery rhythm, but I often wonder?
For these little lines of verse are often born out of some even, be it local or wider spread….
However, I’ve picked this one;
“A ring, a ring o' roses, A pocket full o' posies- Atishoo atishoo we all fall down. “
My thoughts, the ring of roses, the ringed scab as a result of the flea bite,
“Atishoo atishoo”, the sneezing associated with the bubonic plague and finally, “We all fall down”, the final curtain.
After a lot of searching on the web, I didn’t manage to find a satisfactory explanation to the line “A pocket full of posies-“
Especially with all the variants of the nursery rhythm that are around….
One final thing before I move on to the walk, Eyam Well Dressings, as with many Peak District villages has a dresses three wells and blesses them, which is held at on the last Saturday of August each year.
If you haven’t read my write up on Tissington Well Dressing, might want read Tissington Well Dressing, an ancient custom, today, which will give you an insight in to what Well Dressings are about.
I have never visited Eyam before, but it’s been a long time on my list of places to visit. As a result of my initial research I kept the walk very short, so I could spend some time in the village of Eyam.
Plague Doctor with Beak Mask (image Eyam Plague Museum)
Very few plague victims were buried in the church graveyard. It was deemed best to bury those who passed away on your own land, hence why there are few plague victim graves in the churchyard.
Flickr Peak Rambler
Very interesting Mike, although I was loosely familiar with reading about part of the history surrounding Eyam including the plague to hit the village (and living not that far away from the Peak District) the historical facts had, in part, archived themselves in the recesses of my memory so thanks for this poignant reminder. Although many died the village overcame this plague (by using their ancient isolation methods) and saved the country and beyond as a result. Following the guidelines to the hilt the world will also overcome this huge challenge thrown at us if we adhere to advice and be kind to one another. In a discussion less than a month ago with my landlord and Mike ……. if we believed in divine retribution ………………. perhaps nature is getting it's own back on us for messing with the planet, polluting the seas, destroying wildlife habitat and releasing harmful gases up into the atmosphere; if there was ever a lesson to be learned we have to remember as the human race that we are not the overall super power, the number one on this earth, invincible and that we have to be respectful and act as a caretaker not a destroyer of this world so future generations can hopefully continue to enjoy the nature and beauty that remains around them and learn from our mistakes.
post edit: I've gone through most of your links Mike but didn't see one for this, forgive me if you have inserted it and I missed it ……………..
"Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again"
In reply to HAZY:
You never know, it could be divine retribution, especially with what is happening around here with HS2. Only Friday last, more trees were downed by contractors for HS2 Ltd, as part of Phase 2, which as yet, hasn't been given the go-ahead!
I really do despair with how things are happening in this country when it comes to the environment. All the open fields and wooded areas I used to play in as a child are no built on.
However, my cynical mind and having lived through the Cold War years, suspect something more sinister and manmade.
Re the link Hazel, I hadn't seen it so thank you for sharing it, it made interesting viewing.
I did return to Eyam, post accident for the Well Dressing about three year ago, taking some friends with me who'd never heard of, let alone seen a Well Dressing before. They were awe-inspired, not just of the Well Dressings, but also the history of Eyam and the plague.
I was hoping to get to Tissington Well Dressing, probably one of the most vibrant Well Dressing event (usually towards the end of May) this year, but that will be a non-event.
Taking into consideration the early post-war years and how things changed the following couple of decades, I think we'll see a lot of big changes in how the world goes about its business, but on a faster and vastly more different scale, with the faster moving times and electronic communications links.
In a way, I'm almost apprehensive/scared for what the future holds, and feel I've lived the best years, uncouth they may have been, but certainly the most innovative and probably freer, the 60's & 70's, even though they were the Cold War years, but probably the safest years mankind will ever see.
To reiterate those last words: "Wishing everyone the best, keep washing those hands and keep a 2 metre plus distance."
In reply to VivienneV-34940929:
VivienneV-34940929 said:But as history has shown us, we will probably get through this, then forget this
To be honest, although we should eventually see Covid-19 run its course , I don't think anyone will ever forget this moment in time as so many people have lost loved ones and sadly there will still be more illness and death to come yet. It will go down in the history books as a Pandemic like no other in modern history. I only hope when this is over (whether it returns at some stage like the flu is still unknown) that everyone can recover from the impact it has had on everyone's lives and that the economy can recover sooner rather than later and that peoples well being has not been affected beyond repair mentally. Stay safe everyone.
Very interesting history Mike & shows that nothing is new!
In a discussion less than a month ago with my landlord and Mike ……. if we believed in divine retribution ………………. perhaps nature is getting it's own back on us for messing with the planet, polluting the seas, destroying wildlife habitat and releasing harmful gases up into the atmosphere; if there was ever a lesson to be learned we have to remember as the human race that we are not the overall super power, the number one on this earth, invincible and that we have to be respectful and act as a caretaker not a destroyer of this world so future generations can hopefully continue to enjoy the nature and beauty that remains around them and learn from our mistakes.
I agree entirely Hazy, but I'm afraid that once over, nothing will change.
Hazel in the Gironde estuary, France
VivienneV-34940929 said:Very interesting, Thanks Mike. Was a bit disappointed to find out the village was suffering through it for over a year. Will we go that way too do you think?
You're welcome Vivienne.
My guess to the length of time will be down to the available means to control the plague not being on the same level as today's, but the basics were the same as what has been imposed today.
The video I mentioned, The Roses of Eyam, is a studio based version, is worth a watch, though I sort of feel some of the story lines have been somewhat adapted. The Delph, where the villagers met was used quite a lot for social distancing, no mention of Mompesson's Well, which was a vital trading point, and a few other things. But still worth watching just to get the feel of emotion.
A blog that might be worth a read, is: Mompesson's Well Eyam - Peak District, is written by Paul Besley, a former Peak District Ranger.
In reply to Noisette:
Hazel C said:
Sadly, I have to agree with that last line: "I agree entirely Hazy, but I'm afraid that once over, nothing will change."
If only folk could see the destruction of nature and countryside around me today, with houses, retail parks and HS2, which is why I feel folk are too distanced from nature and look no further than their own backyard!
I will apologise for my perpetual mention of the local destruction, it does alarm me, and I see no end to it and while the money people manage to forge their way, it will only get worse.
We spend 90% of net income on conservation, public education and advocacy
The RSPB is a member of BirdLife International. Find out more about the partnership
© The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a registered charity: England and Wales no. 207076, Scotland no. SC037654