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18 June 2014
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Myths and Legends
Living with the plague

Quarantine

Sundial
Sundial, Eyam Parish Church
© Courtesy of Derbyshire County Council Cultural and Community Services
Before the quarantine was imposed, some of Eyam’s residents had already left, including the Sheldon family. Mobility was predominately only available to the landed gentry such as the Sheldons, as poorer tradesmen could ill afford to leave their livelihoods. Once the quarantine had been decided upon, Eyam’s residents had made a commitment in the name of the Lord. Therefore, even though the death rate reached an alarming level, the villagers could not break their bond with their parson.

The ‘cordon sanitaire’ effectively cut Eyam from the outside world and changed normal village life. Instead of going to Bakewell Market and Fulwood for their supplies, Eyam’s residents left money in the stream outside their village in exchange for goods. Such was the fear of catching the plague, vinegar was used as a disinfectant to cleanse the coins of the disease. Another supply of provisions came from the Earl of Devonshire who lived in the nearby Chatsworth House. He arranged for food and medicine to be left at the southern boundary of the village. To try and prevent the spread of the plague within the village, Church services were conducted in the open air. The rising death toll among Eyam’s residents had a devastating and demoralising effect on their family and friends; villagers had to bury their own dead, and even engrave their headstones after the stone mason died.


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