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19 April 2014
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Myths and Legends
Living with the plague

Taking the credit?

Memorial stone
Thomas Stanley memorial stone
© Courtesy of Derbyshire County Council Cultural and Community Services
In an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty it is remarkable that only two people left Eyam during the quarantine. The close knit community suffered a huge loss as 76 families were affected by the plague, with around 260 victims dying from a population of around 800.

Mompesson takes the limelight in accounts of Eyam’s plague episode, whilst Stanley’s role is hugely underplayed and unfairly forgotten. It is argued that Stanley’s popularity and long-standing relationship with the community made him equally, if not more influential than Mompesson, who had not yet earned trust and respect from the parishioners. Other problems arise in casting Mompesson as the major player in isolating the village.
Stained glass window
Window showing Mompesson and Stanley
© Eyam Parochial Church Council
Despite insisting all villagers remain in Eyam, his own children had been sent away to Sheffield in June 1666 – at the height of the village’s death toll, though just before the quarantine had been agreed. According to William Woods’ account written in the 1800s, Mompesson also urged his wife to leave with his sons, but she decided to remain by her husband’s side. Her tragic death from the pestilence in 1666 enhances the saintly reputation of Mompesson, but in comparison to Elizabeth Hancock who buried her husband and six children in just eight days, Mompesson fared lightly.

Perhaps it is the collective response of the villagers who should receive the most recognition, as they made the courageous decision to ensure that those which lived beyond Eyam would not suffer from the same ghastly effects of the plague that claimed their family and friends.


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