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Midlands - The Peak District

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Top 100 places to visit in the midlands

7. Eyam Well Dressing Festival

Top 10 ten places to visit in the Midlands - The Peak District

Eyam and the Well Dressing Festival

Eyam is a small former lead mining village, made famous by losing almost half of its population of 750 to the bubonic plague, a calamity that earned it the epithet of "The Plague Village." The first victim was George Vicars, a tailor who is said to have released some infected fleas into his lodgings from a packet of cloth he had brought here from London.
 
Aware of the danger to neighbouring villages, the village rector, William Mompesson, organized a self imposed quarantine, arranging for food to be left at places on the parish boundary. Payment was made with coins left in pools of disinfecting vinegar in holes chiselled into old boundary stones, and these can still be seen at Mompesson's Well, to the north of the village.
 
The Eyam museum tracks through the history of the village and has a good section on the bubonic plague, its transmission, symptoms and social consequences. 
 
Well Dressing 
Well dressing almost certainly dates back to pagan times, when sacrifices were made to gods for maintaining the supply of water. Gradually this changed to hanging garlands of flowers over wells.

The early Christian Church did not object to the pursuit of well dressings despite its pagan origins. However, future generations were not so tolerant  and for many years well dressing was banned altogether.
 
During the reign of  Henry VIII, his Chancellor, Thomas Cromwell, was instructed to arrange the destruction of all the equipment  used in well dressing. At Buxton, the statue of St Anne was dismantled and the crutches and sticks of those people who visited the well seeking to have their disabilities cured were smashed.
 
An altogether different position exists today and well dressing has strong religious links. Many of the pictures have a religious significance, a strictly followed rule by some towns and villages. A religious ceremony is performed, usually inter-denominational, to bless the wells. 
 
Well dressing in Eyam takes place in June, July or August each year. 

Eyam Museum
The distinctive "rat" weather-vane on Eyam Museum reflects the main theme of the display, the outbreak of Bubonic Plague in the village in 1665/6.

Eyam Museum Address:
Eyam Museum
Hawkhill Road
Eyam
Derbeyshire
S32 5QP
England, UK

Eyam Museum Opening Times:
Tuesday to Sunday and Bank Holidays, 10.00 am to 4.30 pm
Last admissions at 4.00 pm
Eyam Museum os open March to November each year - please contact the museum of follow the link below for exact dates which vary annually.

Eyam Museum Admission:
Adult £2.00 
Child / Concession £1.50
Families (2 adults and 2 children) £6.00

T  +44 (0)1433 - 631371

W  Eyam Museum  
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