An interesting comparison between the Great Plague of 1665 and the modern day equivalent COVID-19 0f 2020
Eyam village and the Great Plague
It is hard to imagine the quiet village of Eyam, off the A623 in Derbyshire, could have such a fascinating yet tragic story to tell. But - at the end of August 1665 bubonic plague arrived at the house of the village tailor George Vicars, via a parcel of cloth from London. The cloth was damp and was hung out to dry in front of the fire, thus releasing the plague infested fleas. On the 7th September 1665 George Vicars, the first plague victim, died of a raging fever. As the plague took hold and decimated the villagers it was decided to hold the church services outdoors at nearby Cucklett Delf and, at the advice of the Rector William Mompesson and the previous incumbent Thomas Stanley, villagers stayed within the confines of the village to minimise the spread of the disease. Cucklett Delf was also the secret meeting place of sweethearts Emmott Sydal, from Eyam and Rowland Torre, who was from the neighbouring village. They would call to each other across the rocks, until Emmott became a victim of the plague. Six of the eight Sydall family died and their neighbours lost nine of the family members.To minimise cross infection, food supplies were left outside the village either the Boundary Stones or at Mompesson’s Well, high above the village. The Earl of Derbyshire, who lived at Chatsworth House, freely donated food and medical supplies. For all other goods, money as payment was either purified by the running water of the well or was left in vinegar soaked holes. The Riley graves, close to Riley House Farm and approximately half a mile from the village, the bodies of the husband and the six children of farmer Elizabeth Hancock all died within a week of each other. Because of the high risk of infecting her neighbours she had the traumatic task of burying them all by herself. Even more tragic is that the infection probably came to her family when she helped to bury another villager’s body. Twelve months after the death of George Vicars, the plague was stil claiming its victims and on 24th August 1666, Catherine Mompesson, (age 28) wife of the recently appointed rector William die of the plague. She stayed loyal staying with her husband and tending the sick, only to become a victim herself.The Plague in Eyam raged for 14 months and claimed the lives of at least 260 villagers. By 1st November 1666 it had run its course and claimed its last victim, Eyam’s selfless villagers with the strong Christian convictions, had shown immense personal courage and self sacrifice. They had prevented the plague from spreading to other parishes, but many paid the ultimate price for their commitment.PLAGUE SUNDAYAlmost 355 years later a remembrance service is still held every Plague Sunday, ironically, in 2001 the service had to be held in the Church Yard at Eyam as much of Britain had its own modern plague (Foot and Mouth Disease) as most farm land was declared out of bounds.