Eyam the Plague Village – a lesson from history…

Plague Cottages, Eyam

As a small boy, I lived in Manchester. However both my parents came from Woodhouse (Sheffield), so we regularly went through Derbyshire to visit them. Occasionally we’d stop, in this beautiful county, to visit various sites of interest. One of those places, that has tuck in my mind, was the beautiful village of Eyam.

In 1665, Eyam villagers knew that London was to be avoided – because the plague was raging there. On one day in 1665, cloth arrived from London to a tailor (George Vicars) in Eyam. Fleas (on the cloth) bit George, and he died a few days later (from the plague).

The plague swept through the village. 260 villagers died of the plague – nearly a third of the population. The villagers, instead of getting as far away as possible from the plague, chose a self imposed quarantine.

Nine people lived at Rose cottage – they all died.

The village suffered VERY heavy casualties.

Jane Hawksworth lost 25 relatives.

However, thanks to their policy of self containment, the plague never spread throughout Derbyshire. Villagers would buy things form neighbouring villagers – but money was left in a bowl containing vinegar to avoid infecting others.

Riley Graves, Eyam

These six gravestones and tomb, are the graves of all the Hancock family. They all died of the plague in Eyam, and are buried here in Riley’s Field.

I’m full of admiration for these Derbyshire villagers. It would have been very easy for them to have left the village, to Buxton and beyond, taking the plague with them. They didn’t – and the plague didn’t spread outside the village.

Compare, and contrast, this disease with Coronavirus in 2020. Every statement I’ve heard from the government is as much about the economy as about containing the disease. There has been no bans on public meetings or travel etc. etc.

I’ve got a small amount invested in shares, and don’t especially want their value to drop. However, I’d rather that happen, than be dead in a box! Have we learned nothing from history?