The History and Antiquities of Eyam

By William Wood (1903)

Transcriptions by Andrew McCann, © Copyright 1999


This place of village sepulture has invariably and deeply excited the notice of tourists.

“Green is the churchyard, beautiful and green,
Ridge rising gently by the side of ridge:
A heaving surface”.

The towering leafy linden trees which encompass the Churchyard, were planted at the suggestion of one of the Wright family, Eyam. They have, however, been deemed a nuisance and one half were felled about fifty-five years ago to the great regret of the parishioners in general. Nothwithstanding this regard, it must be admitted that the lopping down of every other tree has greatly improved the Church as a striking feature in the landscape, besides adding much to the rural beauty of the Churchyard.

Among the most prominently interesting objects of this place of village graves is the tomb of Mrs. Mompesson,

“Where tears have rained, nor yet shall cease to flow”.

The tomb which is in front of the east end of the chancel, is somewhat antique in appearance, having at the several corners chamfered stone pillars: the top of the tomb bears this inscription:

Catherina uxor
Gulielmus Mompesson
Hvivs Ecclesiae Rects
Filia Randolphi Carr
Nuper de Cocken in
Comitati Dvrelmensis
Sepulta Vicessimo
Quinto die Mansis Augti
Ano Dni 1666

On the west end of the tomb in an hour glass, between two expanded wings, intended to represent the rapid flight of time; underneath is inscribed:-


On the other end of the tomb is a death's head, resting on a plain projecting tablet, below which are the words, nearly obliterated:-


This tomb has recently been partly restored. Miss Seward mentions its once being encompassed with metal palisading, now believed to be a mistake, for the stone pillars at the corners of the tomb have no indication of such a monumental adjunct.

A little west of Mrs. Mompesson's tomb stands the richly ornamented stone cross, which has been, and still is, the subject of much conjecture. Of the origin and antiquity of crosses there are a variety of opinions. This splendid and richly embellished relic of antiquity is about eight feet high, although about a foot of the top of the shaft is broken and lost. A variety of figures are embossed thereon, with many singular symbolical devices. On the arms are figures blowing trumpets, others are holding crosses, one is holding a book and on the western side of the shaft is a figure representing the Virgin and Child. Runic and Scandinavian knots liberally adorn its sides. In a word, it is considered to be the most splendid cross in England and it has therefore found a place in the sketch book of almost every lover of antique.

Rhodes in the Peak Scenery states that the top part of this cross lay in the Churchyard covered with docks and thistles when Howard, the philanthropist, visited Eyam; and that he caused it to be placed on the dilapidated shaft. This is a mistake; the top part may have been some time from its proper place, but it was before Howard's time. This venerable relic of antiquity was a few years ago raised up and place upon a kind of pedestal for its better preservation and appearance.

Saxon Cross

Whether this cross has stood in the Churchyard always is very doubtful. Tradition mentions two other places of its former occupation, on the old Manchester and Sheffield roadside, Eyam Edge, and on the open space of ground in the middle of the village, still called “The Cross”.

Miss Seward, in a letter of reply to Mrs. Blore, of Edensor, Derbyshire, has the following remark respecting this cross:- “It is from this letter that I first learn that it was my beloved father who discovered the curious antique cross and placed it in the Churchyard of that village, Eyam”.

On the north side of the Churchyard under the shade of linden trees, stands the very neat and appropriate monument in memory of the late Richard Furness, the poet, his wife and two of their infant children. The monument was originally erected in memory of his wife, but since his death it has been renewed, elevated and enclosed with metal palisading. The upper stone, with four polished sides for inscriptions, is surmounted by a wreathed urn, capped with a small piece of wavy stonework , representing a flame - emblematical of love. On the east side of the stone (intended for inscriptions) is the following from the pen of the poet, in sweet remembrance of his dear wife:-

“Love like a pilgrim came
With hope, and raised this urn
Where Elegy's sad muse
Long lingering shall mourn,-
Shall pour ambrosial dews
T'embalm the virtuous name
Of Frances, the wife of Richard Furness, who died Aug. 12, 1844,
Aged 52”.

The front, or south side of the monument, contains a record of the birth and death of the poet, and the following stanza, selected from The Tomb of the Valley, a short poem by the deceased poet:-

“Richard Furness, Born at
Eyam, August 2nd, 1791, Died at
Dore, December 13th. 1857.
Land of my fathers! how I love to dwell
On all the scenery barren as thou art,
Still hast thou genuine charms, or some sweet spell,
That binds thy beauties to my ravished heart:
That spell shall never break, till death's sure dart,
Shall reckless strike this penetrable crust,
And oh! 'tis sweet to think my baser part,
Shall then be mingled with my mountain dust,
Rocks, hills, my monuments to be - no chiselled bust”.

After the stanza there is this inscription:-

“This MONUMENT originally erected by the poet to the memory of his wife, was elevated and enclosed by numerous attached friends, in order that they might record their high opinion of the genius of the poet, and the worth of the Man, whose remains rest here”.

This Churchyard has often and justly been styled poetic ground; “scarcely a stone but has its distich commemorative of the virtues of the deceased, and the sorrows of surviving relatives”.

The following epitaph to the memory of Dorothy White, a celebrated sick nurse, is from the pen of Furness:-

“Of honest memory this worthy wife,
In nature's sorrows, smoothed the way to life:
Peace to her ashes! When the labouring earth,
Shall groaning heave her millions into birth,
May she with all the children of her hand,
Receive a portion of the heavenly land”.

The following was written by the highly accomplished Cunningham, Curate of Eyam, from 1772 to 1790:-

“Edward, the Son of Thomas and
Mary Froggatt, who died Dec. 4th, 1779,
Aged 18 Years.

How eloquent the monumental stone,
Where blooming modest virtues prostrate lie;
Where pure religion from her hallowed throne,
Tells man it is an awful thing to die.
Is happiness thy aim, or death thy fear?
Learn how their paths with glory may be trod,
From the lamented youth who slumbers here,
Who gave the flower of his days to God”.

Near the tomb of Mrs. Mompesson, and close by the chancel door, there is a humble upright stone, with the following quaint inscription:-

“Here lieth the body of Anne Sellars,
Buried by this stone - who
Died on Jan. 15th day, 1731,
Likewise here lise dear Isaac
Sellars, my husband and my right.
Who was buried on that same day come
Seven years, 1738. In seven years
Time there comes a change-
Observe and here you'll see
On that same day come
Seven years my husband's
Laid by me”.

Close adjoining the south side of the tower is the burial place of the Sheldons, Eyam, the maternal ancestors of the late Thomas Fentem, Esq., Surgeon, Eyam Terrace. Affixed to the tower, just over the tombs, is a stone containing the following lines, partly from Shakespeare's Cymbeline:-

“Elizth. Laugher, Ob. Feb. 4th. 1741. Et. 24.
Fear no more the heat o' th' sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages,
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta'en thy wages.

I weep thee now, but I too must,
Here end with thee and turn to dust;
In Christ may endless union prove,
The consummation of our love.
Erected by Thos. Sheldon. (Her lover)”

The following epitaph, written by him whom it commemorates, will be recognised as a mutilated quotation from a fine passage in Homer's Iliad. The sense is reversed and in every respect spoiled:-

“William Talbot, died April 16th, 1817, aged 79 years.
Cold death o'ertook him in his aged years,
And left no parents unavailing tears;
Relations now enjoy his worldly store-
The race forgotten and the name no more”.

The present existing tombs and stones in this Churchyard afford no particular instances of longevity, such as are sometimes met with in country places. Two may be noticed as verging near a century:-

“Robert Broomhead, Bretton Clough,
Buried August 9th, 1764, aged 95”.
“Elizabeth Gregory, of Riley, died May 6, 1770,
Aged 92. She was a widow 50 years”.

A headstone north-east of the Church has this inscription and epitaph:-

“In memory of Elizabeth and Mary Wood,
Daughters of William and Sarah Wood,
Elizabeth, died April 8th, 1863. Aged 21 years.
Mary, died July 25th, 1864. Aged 27 years.
Deservedly lamented!

Like two young olives in some sylvan scene,
Clad in the loveliest garb of Summer green,
Were these two sisters, whose endearing love
Hath consummation gained in realms above;
Death's whirlwind came and swept the first away,
Drooping alone the other - could not stay.[1]
All flesh is grass!”

On an old tabular tomb north of the Church there is this inscription and remonstrative epitaph:-

“Here was interred the body of
Henry Merrill, of Eyam, who died August 6th, 1753.

My husband's mind as signified by will,
His brother would make void and not fulfil.
Why doest thou judge thy brother? Why dost
Thou set at nought thy brother? We shall
All stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

This _________ record of his memory was erected by his
surviving wife, Mary Merrill”.

A stone at the east end of the chancel contains the following inscription and snobbish epitaph, the latter is where it should remain - underneath the greensward:-

“To the memory of John Brushfield, who died March, 1752.
The faults you see in me take care to shun,
Just look at home, there's enough to be done”.

How quiet and serene is this lone Churchyard; how fitting a place for meditation; how peacefully the dead seem to sleep!

An addition to the Churchyard of one acre, adjoining the northern part, is only now waiting of fencing, draining and consecration; a long and very much needed accommodation.[2]

[1] Only a few who visit the Churchyard will know that these two young females were the only daughters of the author of this work. Their early doom was to him a source of great grief.
[2] A handsome tomb marks the last resting place of William Wood, the author of this history. A monument also stands nearby in his memory.

Next Chapter => THE RECTORS

This information was transcribed by Andrew McCann in May 1999.

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