Plague Sunday has been celebrated in the village Of Eyam since the plague’s bicentenary in 1866. It was originally held in mid-August, but now takes place on the last Sunday in August, coinciding with the Wakes Festival (as featured in the novel, Three: A Tale of Brave Women and the Eyam Plague by Jennifer Jenkins) and traditional well-dressing ceremonies. Not only this, for readers of Three, the timing of Plague Sunday being linked to the Wakes will bring to mind Emmott and Rowland’s planned nuptials.
The Plague Sunday service takes place in Cucklett Delph, the location of William Mompesson’s outdoor church services during the plague visitation after the church of St Lawrence was closed due to fears of villagers being in close proximity and spreading ‘plague seeds’ further.
Beginning with the laying of a wreath at Catherine Mompesson’s tomb in the churchyard, a procession then starts from St Lawrence’s Church and makes its way to Cucklett Delph. At 3pm the annual Plague Sunday service begins. Hymns are sung and many villagers dress in seventeenth century costume and act out tableaux of scenes from the village’s year fighting the plague.
At the annual Plague Sunday service, the current vicar of Eyam will also use the same rock pulpit as William Mompesson did over three hundred years ago.
During the Plague Sunday service, the names of all of the victims of the plague are read aloud.
If you choose to attend Plague Sunday in future years, you can follow the procession that leaves from the churchyard at 2pm on the last Sunday in August. You may like to visit Cucklett Delph at a quieter time and spend a few moments commemorated the bravery of the villagers during the plague visitation.