At the end of August 1665 bubonic plague arrived at the house of the village tailor George Vicars, via a parcel of cloth from London. The cloth was damp and was hung out in front of the fire to dry, thus releasing the plague-infested fleas. On September 7th 1665, George Vicars, the first plague victim, died of a raging fever. As the plague took hold and decimated the villagers it was decided to hold the church services outdoors at nearby Cucklett Delf, a natural amphitheater. On the advice of rector William Mompesson and the previous incumbent Thomas Stanley, villagers stayed within the confines of the village to minimize the spread of the disease to other villages.
To minimize cross infection, food and other supplies were left outside the village, at either the Boundary Stones, or at Mompesson’s Well, high above the village. The Earl of Devonshire freely donated food and medical supplies. For all other goods, money, as payment, was either purified by the running water in the well or was left in vinegar soaked holes. Because of the high risk of infecting the grave-diggers, family members buried their own dead. Twelve months after the death of George Vicars, the plague was still claiming its victims, and Catherine Mompesson, wife of the recently appointed rector William Mompesson, aged 28, died of the plague. She had loyally stayed with her husband and tended the sick, only to become a victim herself.
The Plague in Eyam raged for 14 months and claimed the lives of at least 260 villagers. By November 1st, 1666 it had run its course and claimed its last victim. Eyam’s selfless villagers, with their strong Christian convictions, had shown immense personal courage and self sacrifice. They had prevented the plague from spreading to other parishes, but many paid the ultimate price for their commitment.
Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank You for the courage and faith of the villagers of Eyam, in their lives and in their deaths. Your Son taught us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Yet, the Anglican Communion is torn asunder by heresies, greed, and power plays.
Lord, have mercy. Charist, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
We need Your assistance. Help us, in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, to learn and to model a spirit of generosity, humility, and self sacrifice. Amen.
Hat tip: SF