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Local News

Life in the historic Peak District ‘plague village’ of Eyam just 30 minutes from Sheffield

today22/08/2021

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On a grey and drizzly afternoon, South Yorkshire Live took a wander through a Derbyshire tourist hotspot that has erupted in popularity recently – the village of Eyam.

Tucked away at the end of a winding road off the main A623 through Stoney Middleton, Eyam is a village that is as historic as it is picturesque: steeped in rich history that dates back to the Great Plague of 1665.

And, though its past makes for some grim reading, it is actually a village of hope; a village that showcases the very best of the human spirit, of kindness, neighbourliness and sacrifice.

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Eyam has been put on the map as the village that sacrificed itself to save others.

As the Great Plague ravaged the small settlement – brought by fleas in a bundle of cloth sent to the tailor from London – villagers cut themselves off from neighbouring settlements in order to stop the spread of what was the worst outbreak of the plague since the Black Death of 1348.

Their brave act of quarantine helped to save thousands of lives nearby, stopping the transmission of the plague to neighbouring towns and villages – and the city of Sheffield – but it was not without its own tragedy.

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Of the only 800 inhabitants of Eyam, there were 260 deaths in the 14 months that the deadly disease devastated England.

But the villagers’ sacrifice has not been forgotten and is commemorated to this day – with plaques dotted around the village telling visitors the names of the tragic people who perished.

And the Eyam Museum offers tourists an opportunity to learn all about the village and the important role that it played in the management of what was a devastating epidemic.

But life in Eyam is very different now, even though we are living through a pandemic the likes of which none of us have ever witnessed.



The famous 'Plague Cottage' where members of the Cooper family lived
The famous ‘Plague Cottage’ where members of the Cooper family lived

This is part of what has helped Eyam’s popularity to skyrocket in recent months, as the coronavirus pandemic gives tourists and visitors a new and better understand what life may have been like for the 17th century villagers.

“It’s quite ironic isn’t it, you know, with the plague?” Says Louis Price, 19, who has been working at his mum’s cafe in Eyam for the last four years.

Louis says that the village has always been popular with tourists, who love it for its history, but he told South Yorkshire Live that more and more people have been coming to visit recently.



The stocks standing infront of Eyam Hall
The stocks standing in front of Eyam Hall

He said: “At the moment, because of Covid, more people are choosing to come on holiday in the country – it’s meant that more people have been coming to visit.

“When we’ve been open, we’ve been busier than we thought and we found that, even when restrictions were in place, quite a few people were still coming out – even people from places like Manchester and London.”

Louis said that his mum’s cafe, Village Green, has proven so popular with tourists that they regularly come back just for another delicious coffee and home-made scone.

He continued: “I’ve been told by the regulars that we’re more than a cafe, we’re like a hub of the community. We’re always here for the locals.

“People love it [in Eyam], I think everyone loves its history and there’s so much to do, there’s all the walks.

“People come to Eyam because it’s the historical plague village, there are only three cafes but the history is what they come for.”

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Further along the street, past some of the traditional stonebuilt cottages, is Church Street Stores, Eyam’s local village shop.

Sam Slater, 51, has lived in the village for 30 years and she said that her favourite thing about living here is the community spirit – which has not been diminished by rising tourism.

Sam said: “It’s just very friendly and everybody looks out for each other. We need the tourists, it is a tourist village and some people don’t like it but some do. In this line of work, we need the tourists.”

Sam’s boss, Ashley Staniforth, said that he has noticed an uptick in tourism since the Covid pandemic hit.



The charismatic stonebuilt cottages that line the streets of Eyam
The picturesque stonebuilt cottages that line the streets of Eyam

He said: “It seems to have gone that way, we sell lots of Eyam beers with plague names and that seems to be very popular.”

And Sam admitted that, despite living in the village for decades, the history still interests her. She said: “It fascinates me and I live next to two graves, I just find it quite fascinating.”

Tash Rothwell, 21, who works at the nearby Eyam Tea Rooms agrees, she said: “It’s lovely [in Eyam], it’s got lots of history so it’s quite fascinating and is good for the tourists, so we’re dead busy.

“We get a lot of visitors who come for the graves and the well, so it is good for us. It is a lovely village and has a community feel to it, everyone knows each other so I’ve gotten to know the regulars and people who live in the village even though I don’t live here.”

While South Yorkshire Live was in Eyam, we stopped off for a coffee and slice of cake in the Village Green tea room and watched the world go by on the pretty, you guessed it, village green – which is actually cobbled stones.

It makes for a wonderful place to while away a few hours and if you are interested in history, there is no better spot so close to Sheffield!

Will you be visiting Eyam? Let us know in the comments!

Written by: Rother Radio News


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today22/08/2021