Eyam Museum tells the dramatic story of the bubonic plague outbreak that so decimated the inhabitants of the village in 1665/6. Also, local geology, archaeology and social and industrial development are all covered in this excellent little museum. The main public car park, with toilet facilities, lies directly opposite the museum, and the museum is therefore a good place to start a visit to Eyam.
The plague started when George Vicars, a tailor, who was lodging in one of the cottages next to the church opened a packet of cloth. It had arrived damp after its long journey from London, he spread it out in front of the fire to dry. This released fleas concealed in the parcel, which were carriers of bubonic plague germs. The death of George Vicars was sudden, others soon followed, and the villagers started to panic.
Some families fled, but as the disease seemed to be abating during the winter others remained, only for the plague to intensify during the following spring. The Rector of Eyam, William Mompesson and his predecessor Rev Thomas Stanley persuaded the villagers to accept strict quarantine arrangements to prevent the spread of the disease. Neighbouring villages left provisions at agreed pick-up points. Church services were held in Cucklet Delph, where worship could be conducted in the open air to reduce the chance of infection.
When the plague finally was over, whole families had been wiped out and only one sixth of the population remained in Eyam. The plague had been contained within the agreed boundary set by the people of Eyam, but at a dreadful cost.
Apart from telling the story of the plague the museum covers the development of a community from prehistoric to modern times. Its social and industrial development, and its fascinating geology and prehistory.
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Eyam Museum (Tel. 01433 631371/631732) tells the dramatic story of the bubonic plague outbreak that so decimated the inhabitants of the village in 1665/6. Local geology, archaeology and social and industrial development are all covered in this excellent little museum. Open Tuesday to Sunday, Easter to October from 10am. Closed Monday except Bank Holidays.
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