Tuesday, August 17, 2010

E is for EYAM

The village of Eyam is not only a quaint little village in the northern part of Derbyshire, U.K. it has a wonderful and courageous history.

(All the photographs below are shown by courtesy of Dr. Brown and Mollie and are copyrighted by him.  If you would like to visit his web site with these and other great photos of England please  click on the LINK  here to find Dr. Phil and Mollie's Home Page. Thank you Dr. Brown.)



Well, to start with a picture of a museum is a bit dull, but look closely and you will see the weather vane on the roof is in the shape of a rat. Here's why:

In 1665/6  the Bubonic Plague (the Black Death) was raging through London and Europe. Some estimate that the number of people who died during these years was around a quarter of a million.  Some authorities say that around 500,000 people died in London alone.  As the plague spread from town to town, village to village, in England the number of deaths grew.  It is thought that originally the plague came from Holland, brought in among bales of cotton purchased by British merchants. Others say it came from further abroad and was brought by sailing merchants from country to country.  

As the plague spread northwards in England, it eventually reached the village of EYAM  located in the heart of some of Britain's most beautiful countryside, in Derbyshire. It is thought that the plague came to this little village, through a parcel of cotton cloth ordered from London by one of the villagers.  By now, everyone knew of the terrible toll the plague was taking every where it appeared.  So the brave and courageous inhabitants of EYAM made an astounding decision. 

 They quarantined themselves from the rest of the nation allowing no-one to enter or leave the village.  Food was left for them on the edge of the village and was picked up and distributed by the curate of the church. They washed everything they used in the fresh spring water from the Derbyshire hills.  But the plague was unrelenting.  It is estimated that probably 75% of the village died from the plague in 1665/6.

Nevertheless, amazingly the plague stopped at EYAM.  It traveled no further north in England, thanks to the unselfish and brave people of the village.







Cottages in EYAM where the plague ran rampant.

Meanwhile, in London,  there was another catastrophe.  The great fire of London broke out.  It spread rapidly, destroying homes, buildings and people.  Samuel Pepys and Daniel Defoe have written eye witness accounts of what seemed to be another tragic event.( go to your library for these accounts.)  But what seemed like a crippling blow was actually a blessing in disguise, for the fire cleansed the City of London of the plague.

Some of the cottages, graves and other markers of the plague can still be seen today in EYAM.  If you go to England, it is a great place to visit.


Horse troughs in use in the village at the time of the plague.

So what about the rat in the top photograph?  I think most people know that it was the rats in London and other cities of Europe that spread the disease, enabled by the communal water pumps.  
So next time you see a rat, think of the thousands of people who died because of the common rat.  But if you like rats, as some people do today, ( I am told they make good pets), remember the people who lost their lives in the GREAT PLAGUE outbreak in the 1660's and remember the stringent, self sacrifice of the people 
of  EYAM     

Visit my previous blog to see rats in action today in California.

Visit ABC Wednesday to see more E posts.


22 comments:

Sylvia K said...

What a terrific post for the day! I love all the history of Eyam that you've shared with us today! Sad and fascinating at the same time! Hope your week is going well!

Sylvia

RuneE said...

A very interesting story from the heartland of England. Rats are not to be trifles with.

snafu said...

I Switched to another page after reading about rats and when I switched back, this post had appeared.
I would reccomend you read Year of Wonder by Geraldine Brooks if you have not already discovered it. It is a novelisation of the events in Eyam village druing that time and although largely ficticious gives a very readable account of their story as they may very well have taken place and is compelling reading. Keep a tissue or two handy though, it is a highly emotional read.

MorningAJ said...

It's a wonderful and atmospheric place. I stayed there years ago on a school field trip. Great post.

Roger Owen Green said...

Beautiful little town. Love the stone work.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

kaybee said...

Fascinating story, Chris. I learned about the bubonic plague in school of course, but don't remember hearing about Eyam. I am going to try and find the book that snafu talked about in our local library.

Jingle said...

what a fun post about the museum...

love the stone walls.

Gayle said...

That was a fascinating and informative post.

Morning's Minion said...

Interesting history. As I read this I thought of the influenza epidemic of 1918. My paternal grandmother lost several family members to that seige. It makes me think how helpless people feel when they can really do nothing to restore their loved ones to health.
I can't seem to work up any enthusiasm for rats--we are trained to think of them as diry creatures.
Mice at least look cunning, but if they get into the house they make such a mess. I wonder what would be the roll of little rodents in a perfect world [?]

VioletSky said...

Perfect segue from Saturday's post!

Wanda said...

What a great post, and so much information. Love the pictures too.

For some reason, I kept thinking of the Pied Piper......and the rats.

photowannabe said...

Fascinating story and information. Thanks so much for this Chris.

claude said...

Interesting post, Chris ! Eyam appears a beautiful village. I saw the rat. I find him very cute.
I prefer they are far from home.
Squirrels are good visitors.

Vernz said...

this is interesting ... love those old structures...
My ABC Wednesday here

Julie said...

ooo ... I do admire stone work like you have illustrated here today. I can wander around villages like Eyam for hours with my camera. Thank you so much for your post today. It is a joy ...

Gerald (Hyde DP) said...

I went to a carnival in Eyam many years ago and had a grand time there.

AutumnLeaves said...

I think back in those days, pre-plumbing, their waste went out into the gutters as well. No wonder there were rats...and plagues! So interesting to read, Chris! Gorgeous stone cottages too!

Leo said...

a very informative post on a very nice village.. :) thanks for sharing..

My ABC Wednesday E

Manang Kim said...

Such a great historical story thanks for sharing. Hubby don't like rats or mice that's why we have barn cats. I so too believe that rats are dirty and they do carry diseases for they live in dirty places. Great post thanks for sharing!
ABC Wednesday~E

Linda said...

I had read Geraldine Brook's book and the pictures add to the story.

Fascinating history.

Linda
ABC Wednesday Team

Tumblewords: said...

Amazing amount of wonderful information in this post - such a story - thank you!

lv2scpbk said...

Wonderful pictures and display of the "E".

On behalf of the ABC Team, thanks for participating.