Eyam is perhaps best known
for its selfless decision to self-isolate in order to prevent the spread
of the bubonic plague of 1665. In an attempt to halt the onward spread
of the contagion, the villagers volunteered to quarantine themselves.
They were successful; no-one in the surrounding area was infected by the
villagers. However, by the summer of 1666, when the plague lifted,
almost three hundred had died, three-quarters of the population.
In those days, even with the
need for social distancing, it was unthinkable that the villagers should
be separated from their God. And so it was that both denominations
joined to worship in an outdoor church throughout the plague.
Somewhat different from the 2020 quarantine when all churches locked
their doors and services were held on-line.
Each year on the last Sunday
in August, a memorial service is held in the outdoor "church" where the
villagers had gathered centuries earlier. It starts with a
gathering at the church proper, then wends its way though lanes and
pathways down to the cave church, a natural amphitheatre, where a
memorial service is held. Most of the villagers wear traditional,
period costumes so it is not only a moving event, it is also remarkably