The History and Antiquities of Eyam

By William Wood (1903)

Transcriptions by Andrew McCann, © Copyright 1999


It appears that at the time of the compilation of the Doomsday Book there was no church at Eyam; but in all probability one was erected soon after, for it is recorded that A.D. 1284, William de Morteyne was owner of the living or benefice, the value of which A.D. 1291, was £13 6s. 8d.

In an old deed without date, but witnessed by Serlo de Belegh (Beeley) who was dead in the early part of the reign of Henry the Third, Eustace de Moretien, Lord of Eium, grants to Richard de Stafforde, for his homage and services, three oxgangs of land with other privileges “in villa de Eium”, namely one oxgang which Richard, father of the said Richard had held, and another which Adam de Hilbourne had held, and another which the grantor had given him of his own demesne to be held by the free service of finding “a lamp burning before the altar of St. Helen the Virgin in the Church of Eium by the year whilst there should be divine service in the said Church”.

This Eustace de Moretien's son Eustace confirms his father's grants in “Ahium” by deed without date, but also attested by Serlo de Belegh and others.

An inquisition taken after the death of William de Morteyne, 12. Ed. 1, mentions his having been possessed of the Manor and Church at Eyam and tenements at Foulowe (Foolow).

In 1382, the living belonged to William Lord Furnival; in 1535, to George Earl of Shrewsbury, Sir Patrick Cheney was Rector, and the particulars of the then yearly value of the benefice as follows:-

Mansion and Glebe0120
Tythe, Corn and Hay4100
Wool and Lamb6130
Small Tythes068
Offerings and Easter Roll244
Synodals and procurations0107
Clear proceeds13155

A few vestiges of the old Church, built in all probability by one of the Morteynes, only now remain.

Some of the relics of the old edifice consist of the garguiles or grotesque figures projecting from the top part of the present tower, almost all the door and window casings, the beadings round the top and bottom of the present tower, and many remnants of a variety of crosses, in the facings of modern erections on the south side.

Almost every part of the building is comparatively modern, the north part is of the reign of Henry the Second, the south or front part of Elizabeth, the chancel and tower were re-erected about the commencement of the seventeenth century.

At the east end of the north aisle there is a window of the fourteenth century still containing a few squares of painted glass.

The tower is square, nearly sixty feet high, surmounted with a small battlement and four ornamented pinnacles about five feet in length. Four bells occupy the top part of the tower, where ten might be hung conveniently. they have the following inscriptions:-


Nearly in the middle of the west side of the tower there is a stone something less than the adjoining stones with the following letters and something like the following figures inscribed thereon:-

CH.IC.I 1615 MBT

This stone, among the Solons of the village, has been the subject of numberless conjectures. The letters are evidently modern in style - not much more than two and a half centuries old; the probable date of the erection of the tower. They are most probably the initials of the then church-wardens, this is almost certain from the C.W. at the head of the other letters.[1]

Notwithstanding the architectural defects of the Church, it has, however, one classical ornament that would add to the splendour of some of our magnificent cathedrals. It is the sun-dial, placed immediately over the principal doorway of the Church.[2]

This complex piece of mathematical ingenuity, which is one of the finest of the kind in the kingdom, was delineated by Mr. Duffin, clerk to Mr. Simpson, formerly a worthy magistrate, of Stoke Hall, near Eyam.

The churchwardens under whose superintendence it was carried out, were Messrs. Froggatt and Mettem, in 1772.

The workmanship was executed by the late Mr. William Shore, of Eyam, an ingenious stonemason.

The following is a brief description of its admirable contents, by an able hand at gnomonics:- “It is a vertical plane declining westward, and from certain mathematical principles connected with conic sections, the parallels of the sun's delineation for every month in the year, and a scale of the sun's meridian altitude - an azimuthal scale - the points of the compass, and a number of meridians are well delineated on the plane from the stereographic projection of the sphere. The plane being large, the horary scale is well divided; the upper or fiducial edge of the style of brass, and an indentation therein, representing the centre of the projection, casts the light or shade of its point on the hyperbolic curves and other furniture of the dial”.

The interior of the Church consists of nave, chancel and north and south aisles.[3]

The erection of three galleries has lamentably destroyed the original architectural beauty of the Church. Eight pointed arches - three on the north side, three on the south side and one at each end - supported by plain, octagonal and clustered pillars, once adorned the interior of this edifice. Two only now visibly remain. How deplorable that the whims and fancies of some persons should be allowed to destroy the ornaments and designs of our pious and venerable forefathers.

An ancient stone font lined with lead, still in its wonted place, strongly reminds us of past times. There are also a few relics of Catholic times. At the north-east extremity of the north aisle are the remains of a confessional. An aperture in the wall is still seen, through which, it is said, were whispered the confessions of sins: or rather an opening through which the Host was viewed at a distance. From an adjoining wall there projects a half-circular stone with a hollow or cavity in the top, which was once a receptacle for holy water.

There are but few monuments or other things of interest in the interior. On one of the wood cross-beams of the roof of the chancel there is a rough carving of a talbot or dog, the crest of the arms of the Earls of Shrewsbury, formerly Lords of the Manor of Eyam and patrons of the benefice of living. Another of these beams contains the letters J.H.S., the initials of Jesus Hominum Salvator. The style or form of the letters is peculiarly antique.

In the chancel there is a mural monument to the memory of John Wright, gentleman, who was buried January 2nd, 1694; and Elizabeth, his wife, buried August 22nd, 1700. The inscription is surmounted by the family arms.

Two others to the ancestors and other relatives of Althorpe Middleton, Esq., of Dinnington Hall, Yorkshire.

One to Ralph Rigby, Curate of Eyam, twenty-two years, buried April 22nd, 1740.[4]

A brass plate to the memory of A. Hamilton, Rector of Eyam, who was buried October 21st, 1717. the inscription is in Latin.

Another brass plate commemorates the memory of Bernard, son of Bernard Wells, who died March 16th, 1648.

An alabaster monument of great beauty perpetuates the memory of Mary, daughter of Smithson Green, Esq., Brosterfield, who died in May 1777.

Another of Carrara marble, a little east of the chancel door, very recently erected, is rich in beauty, taste and design. The tablet contains the names of the Brightmoor family, Stoney Middleton, and is surmounted by a recumbent figure of Resignation. This monument was erected by Barbara, wife of the late Peter Furness, of Eyam, the last representative of one branch of the famous Brightmore family of Whirlow, near Sheffield. She died at Eyam, deservedly esteemed, November 1st, 1861. Underneath the monument a brass plate contains the dates of her birth and death and the names of her immediate ancestors.

On the same side of the chancel, another white marble mural monument records the deaths of Helen Rodgers (one of the daughters of Charles Hargreave, Rector of Eyam), and her daughter, Clarissa Kelly; both died at Demerara - the former May 26, 1850, the latter August 21, 1861.

The eastward side of the arch between the chancel and nave has a small monument to the memory of Colin Watson, grandson of the above Charles Hargreave; died at Sydney, April 16th, 1855, aged 27 years.

In the floor of the chancel there is a stone inscribed with T.B., the initials of Thomas Birds, of antiquarian notoriety: he died, deeply revered, May 25, 1828.

The national arms; full length figures of Moses and Aaron, painted in oil in the reign of Queen Anne; a table of benefactions, the Lord's Prayer and Apostles' Creed, are, with the exception of an organ, all the principal ornaments of the interior of this humble churchwarden mutilated and whitewash-desecrated edifice.[5]

It has been often and justly observed that if a number of persons in succession had, during the lapse of a few generations past, put their heads together to destroy and ransack a village Church, they could not have produced a greater wreck of vandal desecration than the interior of Eyam Church presents at the present day.

It is, however, some consolation to add that a thorough and complete restoration, interiorly and exteriorly, is at the present moment in more than active contemplation; an estimate of the cost has been named and above half the sum already subscribed and before this work comes from the press the required amount will no doubt be forthcoming.

The Rev. J. Green[6] merits great praise for his industry and zeal in this worthy undertaking.

Other influential residents lend a willing hand in furtherance of this object. Thus, then, it may be anticipated that ere long this village will have a Church in greater unison with a place of such a far-and-wide acknowledged historical interest.

The restoration of the Church, A.D. 1865-6 will be a fitting and most appropriate bicentenarian commemoration of Eyam's awful calamity - the plague-in 1665-6, and no doubt some portion of the restored interior will be set apart and dedicated to the time-honoured memory of Mompesson.

[1] In the British Magazine for 1832, vol. 2, there is a facsimile of the inscription.
[2] Now placed over the chancel doorway.
[3] Since this history was first written great alterations have been made to both the exterior and interior of the Church and a complete restoration has been carried out. It has, however, been thought best to leave the original text unaltered, as showing the state in which the Church then was and the various stages through which it has passed.
[4] The night of the funeral of this gentleman was attended with the following singular occurrence: Three clergymen from Yorkshire, returning from the funeral, were lost on the Eastmoor in a snow which fell after the setting of the sun. A shepherd found one on the following morning and with difficulty animation was restored; the other two were dead when found.
[5] August 1864 was the periodical occasion of bedaubing the interior of the Church with white and yellow wash, when Moses and Aaron were removed from the places they had occupied over 150 years, to a place in the bellhouse, as a more fit place for relics of popery. A figure of death with his scythe, at the west end of the nave, suffered ejectment many years since. These pictures are now in the vestry.
[6] Rector from 1862 to 1884.

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This information was transcribed by Andrew McCann in May 1999.

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