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
Visit my previous blog to see rats in action today in California.
Visit ABC Wednesday to see more E posts.