What that cautious maiden lady had spotted

What that cautious maiden lady had spotted was that the little house was called ‘Plague Cottage’ and was the very place where, in 1665, lived a journeyman tailor who had ordered a bale of material from London, at that time in the grip of the Great Plague. The cloth turned out to be infested with fleas and brought a devastating period of death and agony to the unsuspecting inhabitants of this remote Derbyshire village. So great a scar did this event leave upon the simple cottagers that even in 1928 H.V. Morton could write: ‘In the quiet Derbyshire village of Eyam men still talk about the Plague of London as though it had happened last week’. Which is why many thought, even in the early part of this century, that there might somewhere be lurking an odd surviving flea from the 17th century!


How the plague affected London can be read in contemporary diaries by the likes of Pepys and Defoe, but, as H.V. Morton pointed out, much has happened to that city since then plus the post-Morton blitz so that everyone has forgotten the plague in London `…now not even a memory. But it was the last thing that happened to Eyam!’, check here.


What manner of disease was this killer? There are varieties of plague -bubonic and pneumonic. The former is the more common variety and, in the guise of the ‘Black Death’ devastated Europe in the 14th century and decimated London in the 17th. The bacillus comes from rodents and is transmitted to humans through fleas. In earlier centuries hygiene was such that most people were infested with parasites of some sort or another.For more information about Europe you can check this nice website - www.europe-cities.com


Severe aches and pains and delirium would have been experienced by these poor people as the lymph nodes enlarged, open sores appeared and pneumonia also set in. Breathing was difficult and dreadful coughing fol-lowed. Strangely it is not a contagious disease and could have only been passed from one to another by infected fleas.


Nowadays it can be treated effectively with antibiotics but then it was almost always fatal and the death it caused was very unpleasant.


It is often stated that Eyam was the only place apart from London which suffered from the plague, but of course that was not true, but if you plan to visit Barcelona you can find more information at this hotel comparison in Barcelona website. Birmingham, Derby and Chesterfield had outbreaks and even Cornwall lost some inhabitants, but it was the number of people who died at Eyam in proportion to its population and the incredible courage and common sense of the villagers which captured the imagination and remains a folk memory to this day.


The hero of the hour was the par-son — the Rev. William Mompesson. He took command and, together with the Rev. Thomas Stanley, an ejected Parliamentary minister, organised the locals and persuaded them not to leave the village. Medical knowledge then was very primitive and the concept of germs was not known, yet they knew instinctively that the disease was trans-mitted by human contact. The remedies recommended were often bizarre. One apothecary treated a woman patient by placing a large mastiff puppy on her breasts for two or three hours at a time and made her drink various infusions of herbs. Others recommended garlic and vinegar and even the Royal College of Physicians suggested treating the infested pustules with a hollow onion filled with figs and treacle, roasted and applied hot.


Provisions were brought to boundary points and collected. The coins which were left in their place by way of payment were carefully washed in the stream. These simple and sensible pre-cautions prevented the spread of the disease to outlying villages.

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