top of page
  • Writer's pictureMelissa Speed

Eyam Museum and Village

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

Famous as ‘The Plague Village’, visitors to Eyam can learn about the 17th-century plague and more at the museum and explore the historic village.



Don't need accessibility info? Jump to The Visit to find out what it's like to visit Eyam and read about some of its histories.


Locations


Eyam Museum, Hawkhill Road, Eyam, Hope Valley, Derbyshire S32 5QP


Eyam Village

Points of Interest: Eyam Parish Church and the Plague Cottages, located on Church Street S32 5QH

The Riley Graves accessed via Riley Lane*

The Boundary Stone accessed via Lydgate*

*These two historic sites are accessed on foot via lanes and grassy paths and include stiles. I found them inaccessible with my mobility limitations, but I include them here as they are relevant to the history of the village.

Access


Parking is available opposite the museum using either the paid car park (charges apply to all users) or using the free car park which is a slightly longer walk away.

The museum has ramped access but does not have power-assisted doors. Spread across two floors, the museum has a stairlift but does not currently have any way of getting a wheelchair upstairs. Visitors requiring the use of the stairlift are recommended to contact the museum ahead of their visit to arrange an early or late time slot to enable easier navigation, as there is a one-way system in place.


Wheelchair users can see photographs of the upstairs exhibition and access all the information in a downstairs room, simply contact the museum in advance and they will do all they can to make your visit as enjoyable and informative as possible.


Chairs are available on both floors should you need to sit down.




The Plague Cottages are private residences but have signage in the front gardens to mark where the plague began and visitors are welcome to read the signs from the footpath. The footpath is accessible and the cottages are a short distance from the museum. A leaflet can be picked up from the museum which has a small map of the sites.

On foot/by mobility device: turn right out of the museum and then left at the end of the road onto Church Street, follow the road as it bends and continue towards the church, the cottages are located on your left just before the church. Roadside parking may be possible by the church.





The Church has tarmac paving enabling easy access to the church and to the gravestones connected to the plague, as well as a good view of the Anglo-Saxon cross. Other parts of the graveyard involve narrow paths and uneven ground.




The Riley Graves are accessibility-challenging.

Though it may be possible to get near enough by wheelchair to view them from the lane, the lane can get very muddy. It is a long walk from the nearest car park, the nearest road is resident-only parking. They are in a field accessed via a stile.




The Boundary Stone is accessed via lanes and grassy paths, again a challenge. A link showing a walking route for those able will be provided further down the page in the ‘For More on the Sites’ section. A replica of one of the stones can be seen in the museum but is currently on the first floor.

Facilities can be found within the village, with free public toilets located in the car park opposite the museum. There are several places to eat and drink, as well as accommodation and shops. More details can be found on the village website linked further down the page.

Changing Places toilets can be found in Chesterfield, Matlock, and Sheffield but there are sadly none nearer to Eyam.


The Visit

With a fascinating, sad history, Eyam is a picturesque village in a beautiful part of the world. A friend and I had long wanted to visit to learn more about its plague history, and I’m so glad we have now been.

When the plague broke out here in 1665 after delivery of infected fabric from London was made to the tailor, it soon spread through the village. The tailor‘s assistant, George Viccars, was the first to succumb before the disease claimed Viccars’ stepsons, neighbours, and the tailor Alexander Hadfield himself.

Though the spread slowed down during the winter months, it spread with even greater rapidity in the spring and summer of 1666. 78 people died in August alone, with a total of 260 deaths across the fourteen months in which the village was affected.


But it’s not just the number of plague-related deaths that make Eyam famous. The villagers went to great lengths to prevent the disease from spreading to the neighbouring villages.


Quarantine was agreed upon, with no one leaving the village. Vinegar was placed in holes made in the boundary stones, in the hope that it would sterilize coins left as payment for provisions that would be left there. People agreed not only to worship in the open air but to bury their own dead. It can be hard for us in modern times to understand how big an ask this was from a religious point of view, and virtually impossible to comprehend what it must be like to bury your own dead, but religious burial in consecrated ground was of huge importance to most people in Britain at that time.


Two stories are particularly heartrending:


  • Emmott Sydall was a girl from Eyam, engaged to Rowland Torre who lived in the neighbouring village of Stoney Middleton. Every day the two walked to the river at Cucklet Delf, a dale on the edge of Eyam, just to catch sight of each other across the water. One day, Rowland waited but Emmott didn't show. Rowland kept returning in hope of seeing her, but she never came. He later learnt what he must have already known in his heart — Emmott had died in April 1666


  • Elizabeth Hancock had to bury the bodies of her husband and six children in the space of eight days, dragging the bodies from her house on Riley Field to the space where she would lay them to rest


The museum tells their stories and the rest of the history of the plague through their exhibition, which includes informative panels, representations of villagers, and more.


Staff are welcoming and are keen to accommodate visitors with access needs as much as they are able to within the limitations of the building. I'm happy to report that they hope to make improvements to the museum in approximately two years that will enable greater accessibility. Until such changes can be made, it is still worth visiting the museum and the village to learn more about its remarkable history and see the cottages where it all began.



The museum also has artefacts and information about other periods of the village's history, including the local lead mining industry.



The church has a grave and gravestones of three people who were instrumental in preventing the spread of the plague. It also has a beautiful Anglo-Saxon cross.



Although I was unable to visit the site of the Riley Graves, my friend did and said how visiting the site enabled her to get a better understanding of the physical challenge Elizabeth Hancock faced in getting the bodies across the field and burying them. Of course, we can never understand what it must have been like for her mentally. Anyone visiting the site, which is cared for by the National Trust, is politely reminded that this is a burial place and is asked to treat it with reverence.




Top Tips


  • Contact the museum in advance if you are a wheelchair user or require the use of the stairlift


  • Be aware that New Road, from which Riley Lane is accessed, is closed to vehicles from the B6251 and only open from the village as far as there are residences


  • Parking is not permitted on New Road, visitors will have to park in the village and approach Riley Lane via New Road on foot/by mobility device


  • Be aware that there is an admission charge at the museum



For More on the History


Read an overview of the plague in Eyam from the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35064071


Visit the museum's website: https://www.eyam-museum.org.uk/


Access the museum's resources: https://www.eyam-museum.org.uk/resources



For More on the Sites


Visitor information for the museum: https://www.eyam-museum.org.uk/visit-us


You can email the staff at the museum at the following addresses:


Eyam Village website, for information on facilities, events, and more: https://www.eyamvillage.org.uk/


A map of Eyam, provided by the museum: https://www.eyam-museum.org.uk/assets/files/Map-of-Eyam.pdf


For Eyam Church: https://www.eyamchurch.org/


For the National Trust Heritage Records for the Riley Graves: https://heritagerecords.nationaltrust.org.uk/HBSMR/MonRecord.aspx?uid=MNA112094


For a walking guide of Eyam including the boundary stone and Riley Graves, check out this comprehensive guide (including pictures) from Let's Go Peak District: https://letsgopeakdistrict.co.uk/eyam-and-stoney-middleton-walk-5-5-miles/



Final Note


Another place of interest in Eyam is Eyam Hall, which has recently reopened following closure during the pandemic. I plan to visit later this year.


Until then, happy travels!



*Disclaimer: This blog is written as a travel blog with a disability focus and history theme. It is intended to entertain and inform but is in no way a comprehensive guide and I do not attempt to provide a full accessibility guide for any site. Readers planning to visit any sites should check site websites or contact sites directly for up-to-date information on opening times, facilities, accessibility and other required information.




Comments


bottom of page