The History and Antiquities of Eyam

By William Wood (1842)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2012


COUNTRY villages, in a great measure, afford but few circumstances sufficiently important for historical compilation: indeed, general interest cannot be excited by occurrences of a purely local character; and, therefore, all histories of small places, divested of imaginary incidents, must be strictly confined to the notice of their respective inhabitants. A well-written history of Eyam, a sequestered village in the Peak, would, however, be well worthy of public perusal: this “little mountain city” ____ being “overshadowed by the spirit of old” - hallowed by the ever-present shades of the greatest of moral heroes - encircled with an enduring and a dazzling halo of genius, must ever render it a place of deep, general, and intense interest.

The awful circumstance connected with the local history of this romantic village - its desolation by the plague A.D. 1666, - has, from its occurrence, strongly elicited the attention and notice of a great portion of the sympathizing and thinking public. This may be inferred from the calamitous event having at sundry times called into action the highly classic pens of the following elegant authors: - Dr. Mead, Miss Anna Seward, Allan Cunningham, E. Rhodes, S.T. Hall, William and Mary Howitt, S. Roberts, J. Holland, and a many others, who have, in verso and prose, laudably endeavoured to perpetuate the sufferings of a joint number of mortals, who, like Codrus and Curtius, offered themselves up a self-sacrifice for the salvation of their country.

Highly commendable as are the brief descriptions of these illustrious authors, on this painfully interesting subject, they are, however, respectively deficient in ample detail, - in correct data, - in the enumeration of material circumstances, - and in being compiled from cursory, casual, and erroneous information: defects, which could nave been avoided only by a long residence in the locality. To rectify the mistakes of preceding writers, - to introduce many hitherto omitted circumstances, - to snatch almost from oblivion a great number of incidents, - to collect into one body all the available information connected with that direful visitation, has been my humble attempt; and to whatever degree I may have succeeded, it must not be ascribed to paramount intellectual ability; but solely to having invariably resided amongst the impressive memorials of that awful scourge. Thus circumstances I have also had the advantage of hearing, a thousand times repeated, all the many traditions on that doleful subject.

It is to be regretted that a minute account of the occurrence was not taken nearer the time: and I cannot but sincerely wish, that the task had fallen into far more able hands even now.

The principal part of the following work has already been before the public in a series of chapters, published a few months ago in the Sheffield Iris. To the proprietors of that highly literary and liberal paper, I feel the most grateful sense of obligation. And the obliging favours of a few other inestimable friends are fully and justly appreciated, if here but briefly acknowledged.

An engraving of Cucklet Church, Mompesson's Well, Riley-graves, the Cross, and the Church, would be a great and pleasing addition to this work; but want of means has alone debarred me from thus complying to the demands of public taste.

This may, perhaps, be the most fitting and proper place to say, that in my former work, - “The Genius of the Peak”, a small volume, consisting of a variety of short poems, written in comparative childhood, there is much which my now more mature judgment would gladly expunge.

The frequent use of the egotistical “I”, in this production, may demand some reason or apology; but if I have not failed in other more important matters of taste, I shall not feel much compunction with being taunted on this head. Should the nice critic condescend to scan a few pages of this rather hastily written work, let him bear in mind my inappropriate situation in life for the attaining of philological perfection: and the utter impossibility in my case of bestowing what is so imperatively required in writing a work, namely, almost undivided attention. A few verbal errors (too glaring, however, to be attributed to the writer) I have discovered here and there in this work; but when too late for remedy.

If this, my little production, should be deemed unworthy of notice, let it be remembered that I can truly and justly say,

Me, who never listened to the voice of praise.
The silence of neglect can ne'er appal.” - BEATTIE.

Eyam, June, 1842,THE AUTHOR.

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This information was collated and transcribed by Rosemary Lockie in 2012.

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