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


John Nightroder, founder of the Carmelite Monastery at Doncaster, was a native of Eyam.

Anna Seward, (1742-1809) the poetess, sometimes called “the Swan of Lichfield”, was born at Eyam, where her father was Rector, on the 12th of December, 1742, and was baptised there on the 23rd day of the same month. When quite in her infancy, she was introduced by her father, who was of a literary turn of mind, to the works of Shakespeare and Milton; and she could repeat, though of course she would not be able to understand the meaning of what she was saying, passages from the Allegro, before she was three years of age. The scenery of her native village, and the beauties of the immediate neighbourhood had an influence upon her poetic imagination; and, after

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her father had been promoted to a Residentiary Canonry at Lichfield, and the Cathedral city had become her home, she loved to return to Eyam from time to time during the summer months. She continued to reside at Lichfield after her father's death, and there she died on March 25th, 1809. She made Sir Walter Scott her literary executor, and he published her poetical works, with extracts from her literary correspondence, and a biographical notice, in 1810. During her day she had a considerable reputation; but that is a thing of the past. Perhaps the best specimens of her composition are a “Monody on Major Andre”, and an “Elegy on Captain Cook”.

Another, now unheard of, poet was Peter Cunningham, the son of a naval officer, who for fifteen years, (1775-1790), during the latter portion of Canon Seward's time, was Curate of Eyam. Here amongst other things he wrote poems on “Chatsworth”, “The Russian Prophecy”, (Cf. Gent : Mag : July, 1785, p. 531); and “The Naval Triumph” (of Rodney over the French Fleet, April 12, 1782), copious extracts from which will be found in Rhodes' “Peak Scenery”. His pen was in great request for poetical epitaphs, and, a century ago, Eyam churchyard contained a considerable number of gravestones on which were inscribed his memorial verses. Time however has obliterated many of these. His interest in his people, and more especially in the education of the younger members of his flock, was long remembered gratefully in Eyam; and he left, to the regret of the whole Parish, in 1790, shortly after the death of the Rector, Canon Seward. For a time he acted as chaplain at Smyrna, but was not long before he returned to England. He undertook the duties of a curacy in the neighbourhood of the metropolis. He was presented to a small living in the country, but his sudden death prevented him from enjoying it for long.

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Another Eyam celebrity was Richard Furniss, (1791-1857), Born in the village; after an apprenticeship at Chesterfield he started as a currier at Eyam, in 1813, and shortly afterwards made a runaway marriage with the daughter of the Vicar of Hathersage. In 1821, he migrated to Dore where he became master of the Free School; and there he continued, fulfilling various parochial and other offices, during the remainder of his life. His most important work, a satirical poem, entitled “The Rag Bag”, was published in 1832 and in this and his other longer work, “The Astrologer”, will be found some vigorous lines, descriptive of the scenery around Eyam. His poetical works were collected together and published in one volume, with a biographical introduction by Dr. Holland. He was buried in Eyam churchyard, Dec. 18, 1857.

William Wood, (1805-1865), will always be remembered as the historian of Eyam. He was born Dec. 6, 1804. He married Sarah Pursglove June 9, 1831. In 1837 he published “Genius of the Peak, and other Poems”. In 1835 appeared the 1st edition of “The History and Antiquities of Eyam”. During his lifetime, a 2nd edition appeared in 1848, a 3rd in i860 and a 4th, considerably enlarged and illustrated, was ready for publication at the time of his death in June, 1865. The first edition of “Tales and Traditions of the Peak” was published in 1862. Some number of editions of this work, as well as of the “History” have been published since he died, June 27th, 1865. His last resting place in Eyam churchyard is marked by a heavy ugly tombstone which stands about twenty yards to the north of the east end of the Church.

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OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in March 2013.

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