The Plague-Stricken Derbyshire Village

or What To See In and Around Eyam

By Rev J.M.J. Fletcher (1916)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013


Ralph de Cubley. Amongst the Haddon documents, relative to the Derbyshire estates of the Dukes of Rutland, are some which show that “Ralph de Cubbeley, (Temp. Henry III.) gave certain lands, tenements, houses and edifices, with their appurtenances: . . . . for the maintenance of a chaplain to celebrate the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Church of Bakewell”, (in the South transept). He also gave a sum of money “for the maintenance of a lamp burning continually before the altar of the blessed Mary” in the same place.

In the year 1300 Roger de Wyne, Dean of Tamworth, was given the custody of the Church and rectory of Eyam, because of the insufficiency of the rector.

Shorland Adams was educated at St. John's College, Cambridge, where he matriculated in 1620, took the degree of B.A. in 1623-4, and that of M.A. in 1627. He because Chaplain to the Earl of Newcastle, and he was appointed Rector of Eyam in 1630. He lived during the stormy times of the Civil War, when to take either side was a dire offence in the sight of the other. He was a keen Royalist, throwing his influence on the side of the King. Like so many others he had to suffer for his loyalty, and was thrown into prison by the Parliament. He was also Rector of Treeton, Yorkshire. He was ordered to preach a “Recantation Sermon” at York Minster on March 1st, 1644 (by which is probably meant that he was ordered to give up his Churchmanship and his adherence to the King's side) but he refused. He was deprived of both his livings. And five years later he had to pay a heavy fine by way of composition, in order that he might

[Page 56]

be allowed to retain a small estate which belonged to him. So much did he have to suffer for his Churchmanship and for his loyalty.

Amongst the Civil War Tracts is one published by Nicholas Ardron.- It bears the following lengthy Title:-

“The Ploughman's Vindication,- Or a Confutation of some passages preached in divers Sermons by Shorland Adams, sometime Minister of Treeton, in the County of Yorke”.

“In which Sermons he uttered much bitternesse of spirit against all those that sided with the Parliament; as also cherishing the Malignant party, and much animating them to persist in their bloody Designs.

“Herein also is showed the lawfulness of informing against all such incendiaries; and the judgements threatened in holy Scripture against such as know and do not reveal their wickednesse.

“Together with xii Quaeries whether the said Adams (or any such ceremonious Priest) be a Minister of God, Yea or no?” London 1646. (Pages viii, 47).

Two of the accusations brought against Adams by Ardron were “that the said Master Adams is a man who hath been given unto much trouble and many suits in Law, as is very well known at Eam in Derbyshire where he was Rectory, where they tasted of his turbulent spirit to their great trouble and charge, and where they had the same Adams bound unto good behaviour”. (p.36).

“I remember what you said when Master Towler of Sheffield was put out of his Living,- that he was a Foole, for before you would have lost your Living you would have said the crow was white”. An answer to which latter charge is that two years before this tractate was written Adams had been deprived of his own Livings on account of his principles.

[Page 57]

The Rector appears at one time to have aided in pecuniary matters. We know the bitterness of party feeling which is often exhibited nowadays at Election times. How much intensified must the feeling have been when the land was rent asunder by Civil Strife, and it meant war even unto death. The very title of Ardron's Tract shows his bitter feeling.

At the Restoration of the Monarchy, Adams was reinstated in his Livings, but slid not enjoy them long, for he died four years later, April 11, 1664, and was buried in the chancel of Treeton Church.

Thomas Stanley, the Nonconformist Rector of Eyam, was born at Duckmanton near Chesterfield, where and at Staveley, he was educated. He took the degree of M.A. when in his 22nd year. He began life as a Churchman; but apparently through his sympathy with the Parliamentarians during the Civil War he afterwards threw in his lot with the Nonconformists,- “He was not a nonconformist before the wars”, says his biographer, “yet esteemed by the best of them”. After doing some tutorial work, he became preacher at Dore Chapel in the parish of Dronfield, and eight years later at Ashford. In 1644, on the deprivation of Shorland Adams, he was appointed Rector of Eyam, where he continued until 1660, when Adams was reinstated. The death of his wife was a great sorrow to him. “He was a great encourager of weekday lectures,- constant both in preaching and by his presence”. He appears to have continued in Eyam as curate until St. Bartholomew's day 1662, when he “fled” for a time. But before long he was back again in Eyam, where for his earnestness he was deservedly beloved, and where he was maintained by the contributions of his old friends. And he was most helpful to the new Rector, Rev. Wm. Mompesson, during the time of the plague. Some, it is

[Page 58]

true desired his removal from the village, and petitioned the Earl of Devonshire, who was Lord Lieutenant of the county to that effect. His reply was that “it was more reasonable that the whole country should in more than words testifie their thankfulness to him, who together with his care of the town had taken such care as no one else did to prevent the infection of the towns adjacent”. Later his health failed him, and he died on St. Bartholomew's day 1670. His funeral sermons, preached by Rev. W. Bagshaw, “the Apostle of the Peak”, from Zech. i.5, and Isaiah lvii.I, will be found in “De Spritualibus Pecci”, pp. 65-72.

William Mompesson, Eyam's great hero, was descended probably from a Wiltshire family, which originally hailed from Normandy. He was born about the year 1638, and, like the majority of the Rectors of Eyam, he was appointed to that position when quite a young man; though before coming to Eyam he had been for a few years chaplain to Sir George Saville. About this time he married the gentle lady, who remained with him at Eyam during the plague, and who was one of the victims of that terrible malady. As the inscription on her tomb tells, she was the daughter of Ralph Carr, Esq, of Cocken, Co. Durham. When Mompesson became Rector of Eyam in 1664, he had two little children, George and Elizabeth. At first he appears not to have settled down happily at Eyam; and whether from the lack of society, or because he thought that in so small a place there was not sufficient scope for his energies, for some reason or other, he seems to have been discontented with his position. Scarcely had he been in the village twelve months before the plague began. He determined at all risks to remain with his people during the time of their trial; and his earnest desire, as he looked back upon his past feelings of discontent, was “God grant that I may repent my sad

[Page 59]

ingratitude”. The children were sent away; but his wife remained with him, and succumbed to the ravages of the disease, August 25, 1666. He left Eyam for Eakring, Notts., in 1669, and in 1676 he became Prebendary of Southwell, and, later, also Prebendary of York. The Deanery of Lincoln was offered to him, but he declined the honour, on condition that it should be offered to his friend Dr. Fuller. Mompesson died at Eakring, in 1708, after having been rector there for 38 years, in the 70th year of his age.

Henry Adams, (1671-1675) was in all probability a son of Shorland Adams.[1] He was also Vicar of Laughton, where he died and was buried.

Joseph Hunt has already been spoken of, (page 32).

Thomas Hawkins, (1710-12, 1717), exchanged livings with Alexander Hamilton, (or Hambleton). He afterwards regretted the exchange, and on the death of Mr. Hamilton in October 1717 again applied to the patrons for the Rectory of Eyam, and eventually was a second time appointed Rector, though he died before he reached Eyam. (The value of the Living of Eyam is partly dependent on the success of the lead mining; one penny being due to the Rector for every dish of ore and 2¼d. for every load of “hillock stuff”. At one time the Living was worth £1600 a year, and during Mr. Seward's time it varied in value from £700 to £150). The following extract from the Parish Register will, with the above note, explain Mr. Hawkins' desire to be reinstated in the Rectory.-

“In Mr. Hambleton's time the great veins called the Edge veins were discovered, and the Rectory became to him very valuable. Mr. Hawkins, who had given it up before in exchange for a small living, again apply'd for it to the co-heiresses of Lord Halifax, then young Ladies, afterwards Lady Burlington, Lady Thanet, and Lady

[Page 60]

Bruce. Their guardian, Lord Nottingham, being angry at his not first applying to him, refused him and kept him in suspense, afterwards presented him; the losing of spirits and the journey flung him into a fever, which put an end to his life before he reached Eyam. Then the Rev. Mr. Finch, Lord Nottingham's [b]rother was presented, who quitted the great living of Wigan for it. He was (Canon) Residentiary of York, and there lived. He held Eyam 20 years”.

Alexander Hamilton. (1712-1717). His character, as given upon his Monumental inscription in the Church was “most watchful and kind”.

The Honble. Edward Finch, D.D. (1717-1737). The Parish Register has this note:- “1737. In this year as I believe dy'd the Honble. and Revd. Mr. Finch, Residentiary of York. He had been Member of Parliament, and when the living of Wigan became vacant, he resign'd his seat and took orders. He afterwards exchanged Wigan for Eyam, in which he was succeeded by the Honble. and Revd. Mr. Bruce, presented by Lady Bruce, the oldest of the three Ladies of the Manor”. Mr Finch gave the Communion plate to the church, and left money for the poor.

The Honble. Thomas Bruce, M.A., second son of the Earl of Kincardine. “1739, Oct. About this time died in France the Honble. Rev. Mr. Bruce, Rector”. (Parish Register).

Thomas Seward, (1739-1790), travelled in early life as tutor with Lord Charles Fitzroy, third son of the Duke of Grafton. Upon his death in 1739, Mr. Seward returned to England and shortly afterwards was presented by Lord Burlington, to the Rectory of Eyam. In 1740 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Mr. Hunter, Head Master of the Grammar School at Lichfield, whose pupil the celebrated Dr. Johnson had been. At the Rectory at Eyam two daughters were born, Anne, (or Anna), the poetess, in 1742,

[Page 61]

and Elizabeth who died in 1749 at the age of 5 years. In 1754 Mr. Seward was appointed to a Residentiary Canonry at Lichfield, when he removed to the Cathedral city and took up his residence in the Bishop's Palace, (the Bishop living at Eccleshall),- though occasionally in the summer time he visited Eyam. He died and was buried at Lichfield in 1790. He was the author of some number of works. His poems were published anonymously in Dodsworth's Miscellany. In conjunction with Messrs. Theobald and Sympson, he published an annotated edition of Beaumont and Fletcher's works in 1750; and in 1778, 1811, and 1812, appeared a preface by him prefixed to editions of the works of the same authors. In 1716, he published “The Conformity between Popery and Paganism illustrated”; In 1750, an Assize Sermon, entitled “The folly, danger and wickedness of Disaffection to the Government”. (Ps. cxxxiii.l). In 1756 appeared a Fast Sermon, (St. Luke xiii. 4,5), “The late dreadful earthquakes, no proof of God's particular wrath against the Portuguese”; and in 1775, A charge to the Clergy of the Peculiars belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield (Bakewell). A Sermon of his, preached at Eyam, Nov. 19, 1775, is given in the Gentleman's Magazine, LV. 418-9.

Boswell speaks of him as a “genteel, well-bred, dignified clergyman, . . . an ingenious and literary man”. Dr. Johnson is not nearly so flattering:- “Sir, his ambition is to be a fine talker; so he goes to Buxton and such places, where he may find companies to listen to him, and, sir, he is a valetudinarian, one of those always mending themselves”. &c.

The Hon. Robert Eden, (1822-26), was born July 10, 1799. He succeeded to the title, as 3rd Lord Auckland, in 1849. He became Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1847, and Bishop of Bath and Wells in 1854. He retired in 1869 and died in the following year.

[Page 62]

[Page 63]

John Green, (1862-1884), born 1817, died 1899, and was buried at Lower Heyford, Oxfordshire. The restoration of the Church, in 1868 and again in 1882, was due to his energy.

Egbert Hacking, (1884-8), now Honorary Canon of Southwell, and Archdeacon of Newark.

Francis Longsdon Shaw, (1905-), Rural Dean of Eyam. To the present Rector is due the introduction of the annual Plague Commemoration Service on the last Sunday in August. He has built the Church Room, and it is to his energy and generous help that it is made possible for the new Church at Grindleford to be built.

Commemorative Service

Editor's Note
[1] There is no evidence that Henry Adams was Shoreland Adams' son. According to Shorland's entry in Alumni Cantabrigienses, the sons who followed him to Cambridge were Michael, in 1652, and Benjamin in 1663. Michael, who was baptised in 1637 at Eyam, married Mrs Anne Bradshaw at Eyam in 1665, and succeeded his father as Rector of Treeton.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in March 2013.

This is a Genealogy Website
URL of this page:
Logo by courtesy of the Open Clip Art Library