The following is taken from a book review, “Books that Hook” by Katie Chamberlain.
LOCATED IN EYAM DEATH RECORD
75 GREGORY, Margaret S 21APR1666 IG plague victim
The dead are everywhere!
The mountainside; the plain; the woods profound;
All the lone dells – the fertile and the fair,
Is one vast burial ground.” Mary Howitt
Following Shoreland Adams’ death in 1664 (see above), Reverend Stanley made his home in the village where he proved to be a popular preacher. Stanley’s Puritan beliefs contrasted strongly with Mompesson’s faith in the Unified Anglican Church.
1665 The Plague ravaged London with one in sixth of the population dying.
1665 Nov 7 deaths
1665 Dec 9 deaths
1666 Jan 5 deaths
1666 Feb 8 deaths
1666 Mar 6 deaths
1666 April 9 deaths
1666 May 4 deaths ( 2 not plague) All but Mrs. Sydall of 8, and all 7 Thorpes had died. Often whole families were stricken, with other whole families untouched. It was hoped that May was bringing the end of the spread of the disease.
May or June In modern times, it would seem that villagers would have left in droves as soon as the plague appeared. However, there was no where to go and they couldn’t leave their only means of livelihood.. There was no where they would be accepted, travel was difficult and expensive so there were few real alternatives to staying in the village. More than one person is known to have camped out away from the village in the fields or on the moor to escape death. As only the affluent could leave, only a few families left in 1665 before the worst of the onslaught.
The Squire, who might have been a man responsible to make decisions for the villagers, lived away from the village. He did help the villagers by providing supplies at drop off points, very carefully chosen so as not to spread the “seed of disease” back to those who conveyed the supplies.
Mompesson and Stanley, the two religious leaders, realizing what the future could bring, met to work out a plan to keep the disease from spreading. Mompesson is often given the greater credit, but it took both men working together to institute the plan. The plan comprised of three decisions:
1. No more organized funerals and churchyard burials would take place. People were requested to bury their own dead in their gardens and orchards or fields. This decision eliminated gatherings of people, time taken from the care of the sick for funerals, and the efficient and fast burial that would hopefully slow the spread of the disease.
2. It was agreed, for the above reasons, that the church should be locked until the epidemic was over, and that services should be held in the open air. Because people didn’t know how the disease was spread, it was assumed that a distance of 12 feel was the minimal safe distance of exposure. Because people still wanted to congregate for religious purposes, Mompesson preached in a natural amphitheater known as the Delph.
3. The greatest decision was to impose a ‘cordon sanitaire’ around the village in an attempt to prevent the spread of the disease beyond its boundaries. If the disease had traveled to the nearby towns, the results would have been appalling. The villagers gave their word not to flee. Many will ask why they did such a thing, and to that there seems only one answer. They were Christian people with a deep conviction, and surely Mompesson and Stanley convinced them that “Greater love hath no man that this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Some of the boundary stones can still be seen in Eyam. There is no doubt that the quarantine was effective in Eyam, as there were no deaths outside the parish.
1666 June The disease began to reach its peak of destruction. 20 deaths
1666 July 56 deaths
1666 Aug This was the worst month with an average of more than 2 deaths a day. 78 Deaths.
Aug 25 Catherine Mompesson, wife of the reverend Mompesson died on the 25th of August and was actually buried in the churchyard (near their home) in spite of the above decision, where there is still a tomb for her remembrance.
Aug 26 The wife of Marshall Howe (the gravedigger/burial man) died. Marshall Howe was immune to the disease because of past exposure, and therefore took on the responsibility of burying the dead, especially when there was no one else to do it. Often, his payment was taken from the empty homes as he buried the last member of the family. His treatment of the bodies was inappropriate. It is thought that he paid for his gain with the death of his beloved wife and son.
Aug 31 Mompesson wrote a touching and sad letter to his children about their mother’s death
1666 Sep 24 deaths
1 Sep Mompesson’s wrote another grief stricken letter to friend and sponsor and patron, George Saville, when he thought himself dying from leg infection, exhaustion and depression. Mompesson never contracted the plague. Stanley also escaped the plague and died a few years later.
11 Oct or 1 Nov The last plague death occurred. It is unsure as to which date this happened.