Plague Village under Covid-19 – Eyam Plague Sunday and Wakes

Cucklet Delph / Inside Cucklet Church / The Limestone arched entrance to Cucklet Church under pulpit rock

This year on the last Sunday in August, for the first time in many years, Cucklet Delph (top left) was empty. The Plague Sunday service that usually takes place here to commemorate the sacrifice made by the villages of Eyam during the plague of 1665-1666 was cancelled and replaced by an online service due to the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

During the worst days of the plague in the spring and summer of 1666 the twenty-seven-year-old village rector, William Mompesson, held outdoor services in Cucklet Delph in order to maintain social distancing amongst his flock and to try to prevent the spread of the disease. Since the bicentenary celebrations in 1866 a yearly service has been held in the Delph following a procession through the village with the Vicar preaching from the raised mound underneath which lies Cucklet Church which can be seen in the above photographs.

Online Plague Sunday Service / Mini Well Dressings Displayed on Carnival Day / Villagers leaving Eyam Hall Courtyard in Fancy Dress

Plague Sunday coincides with the village’s much older Wakes Week which begins with the blessing of the three dressed wells followed by a week of activities culminating with the town carnival the following Saturday. This year most of the celebrations were curtailed due to Covid-19. As well dressing is a communal activity it couldn’t take place as normal so in place of the large well dressings small individual designs were created and displayed in the village close to the plague cottages on Carnival Day (5th September). The carnival itself was cancelled however the Hope Valley jazz band played in a driveway opposite Eyam Hall and local people donned fancy dress and gathered at the mechanic’s institute for a socially distanced drink.

Text and Photographs by Andrew Robinson.