Our Story

Our visitors are frequently surprised to discover how much the Museum has to offer, often describing it as a ‘tardis’ – seemingly much larger on the inside than on the outside.

We have used the space to explain the Eyam Plague story fully, and also to look at plague more widely throughout history. We look at when and where it happened, where it came from, how it spread, and how many people were killed.

We then bring the story up to date, explaining what we understand nowadays about the plague, where it still happens, and how it can be controlled. We also show, by applying today’s understanding to what happened 350 years ago, why some villagers are thought to have survived; and most surprisingly what we can learn from their descendants in the village today about modern day disease.

The story begins with a pictorial description of events in London in 1665. It goes on to describe the nature of the bubonic plague (black rats bearing fleas, which in turn carry the deadly bacilli) and its spread and effect upon human populations from biblical times(eg. Ancient Egypt) to the Middle Ages (The Black Death), and on to the mid-17th century. The story of the Eyam outbreak itself begins with facsimiles from the Parish Register, wills, and other documents of the time. We also illustrate some of the supposed remedies for the Plague, many of which sound strange to us now.

The story of the plague continues with the description of the arrangements made by Mompesson and Stanley, the Rector of Eyam at that time, who had persuaded the villagers to voluntarilly quarantine themselves to prevent the infection spreading to the surrounding towns and villages. A chart shows the households known to have suffered plague deaths, and their relationship to each other through kinship.

Later in the exhibition you will see a series of displays devoted to the growth and decline of local industries. We tell how the village recovered after the plague. The geology of the area is particularly interesting, and is also briefly described in this section, which also includes a dramatic model of an old lead mine.

Also, on the ground floor, is the recently-opened “Eyam Connections Room”, which is used for temporary displays with local themes, including at present a display on 17th century medicine, and an array of early medical instruments. It also includes a digital presentation, “Eyam then and now” showing how the village has changed over the past 100 years. An extension to the Connections Room contains a major new Heritage Lottery funded display commemorating the outbreak of World War One.