In 1665 a flea-infested bundle of cloth arrived from London for the local tailor of Eyam. This bundle led to the spread of the bubonic plague throughout the village. Following subsequent deaths, the rector Reverend William Mompesson advised the entire village to quarantine itself to prevent the spread of the disease to neighbouring villages (a rather apt story considering the recent pandemic).
The plague ran its course over 14 months and no one was allowed in or out of the village during this time. Over 14 months, over a third of the population died; 260 villagers out of a population of 750. However, the self-imposed quarantine successfully contain the spread of disease.
The tragic history of this village has not been forgotten and a visit to this picturesque village is one of our top things to do in the Peak District with kids.
And if you’re around the Peak District for Bonfire Night, a visit to Eyam Bonfire is a must, as there is the added twist of burning the rat! A large rat model is paraded through the village with people holding torches and chanting “Burn the rat!” The rat is then placed on the bonfire to burn, before a fabulous firework display.
However, as the topic here is rather bleak, parents will need to decide if it is a suitable topic for their children.
If you’re visiting the village, these are the top things to do in Eyam (pronounced ‘Eem’):
1. Walk around the cottages reading the plaques
Small plaques stand outside cottages detailing the names, ages, and date of death of those individuals who died in that specific home during the plague. The row of cottages next to the church are known as ‘plague cottages’.
2. Visit the grave sites
Families were required to bury their own dead, and as such, there are small grave sites dotted around the village, sometimes right next to the home.
Just a short walk to the East of the village stands a small graveyard known as Riley Graves, so called as they are close to Riley House Farm. Ringed by a low stone wall, this is the resting place of the Hancock family, where Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six of her seven children over a period of eight days in August 1666. She was one of the few survivors, and this obscure grave site is now a National Trust monument.
3. Eyam Parish Church of St Lawrence
The Church of St Lawrence stands at the heart of the village and dates back to Saxon times with its eighth-century Celtic Cross. Inside, there is a book with all the names of those deceased from the plague.
4. Eyam Museum
Eyam Museum is a good place to visit to learn more about this tragic time and a good rainy day activity. A series of information panels, film shows and displays help bring this amazing story of isolation and survival to life. You can also rent an audio trail and follow the plague story around the village from here.
Eyam Museum is open February to November. Adults are £4 and children (over 5) are £3. Check the website for up to date opening times, ticket pricing and to book tickets.
5. Eyam Hall
Eyam Hall is a beautiful Jacobean Manor House, built in 1671 and owned by the Wright family for 11 generations. It was taken over by the National Trust, but is now once again managed by the Wright Family.
Occasionally throughout the year they open for house tours. Check their website for dates.
6. Information and Craft Centre
Opposite Eyam Hall and next to the village stocks (perfect photo opportunity!) is an information and craft centre. This is just a small room with written displays, but if you’re new to the area and the museum is closed, it’s the perfect stop for some background history on the village.
This is also the location of the annual Eyam Makers Market (a lovely Peak District Christmas Market).
7. Cucklett Delf
This is a natural amphitheatre where the church service was held during the plague outbreak in Eyam, as it was believed safer for parishioners to be outside. Cucklett Delf was also the secret meeting place of sweethearts Emmott Sydall, from Eyam, and Rowland Torre, who was from a neighbouring village. They would call to each other across the rocks, until Emmott Sydall herself became a victim of the plague.
Every year on Plague Sunday (the last Sunday in August) a memorial service is held here.
8. Boundary Stone
It’s also worth taking the 1km walk out to the Boundary Stone, which affords stunning Peak District views. This acted as a marker by separating the residents of the plague affected village of Eyam from the non-affected villagers of nearby Stoney Middleton. Here, money soaked in vinegar (believed to kill the infection) was placed by the villagers of Eyam in exchange for food and medical supplies.
9. Mompesson’s Well
Mompesson’s well was used along with the boundary stone for the villagers of Eyam to exchange money for food with other villages. The well was also used to show where the village boundaries where.
10. Enjoy a cuppa and cake, or pop to the pub
Eyam Tea Rooms is a quintessentially English and quaint tea room in the heart of the village. Scrummy cakes, homecooked breakfasts and lunches (including vegetarian and vegan options), and a warm welcome. Check website for up to date opening times.
Across the way is the cosy and characterful Village Green Cafe. Seating is very limited here (although they also have outside seating) and it is advised to call ahead and book in the high season (01433 631293). Only open Thursday to Monday (closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays).
Alternatively, if you’re in need of a pint, head to The Miner’s Arms. This is the only place in the village that harks back to its mining past. It’s where mine owners used to meet. The pub is also said to be haunted by two young girls who died in a fire before it was built.
It’s the only pub in the village and also a B&B. There is outdoor seating out front and the food is good. Check the website for menus and opening times.
11. Eyam playground
If you are visiting Eyam with kids, you may find that all the talk of the bubonic plague and death becomes a bit too much. So why not head to Eyam playground, just opposite Eyam Museum. There’s lots of space to run around here and the views are beautiful, so bring a picnic. There’s also a pump track for kids to ride their bikes.
12. Eyam Moor
Up a short hill to the north of the village is Eyam Moor. Here you’ll find a lovely 6.3 km loop walk across the moors and down in to a valley, and back up again. It’s quite steep in places, so suited to families who have done a bit of hiking. You can park for free here, which is the start of the walk.
Route map and photos of the walk are detailed in our Eyam Moor walking guide.
Where to park in Eyam
Road side parking is very limited in the village. But there’s lots of space at the FREE car park opposite Eyam Museum. There are public toilets here. Click here for Google Maps location. Postcode is S32 5QW.
If you are looking to teach your children more about the history of Eyam during the plague, check out this ‘KS2 All About Eyam and the Plague Pack‘ on Twinkl.