Remembering Eyam’s Plague Victims: Plague Sunday

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.

Plague Sunday 1907

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.

Image courtesy of

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.

The Plague Sunday procession begins at St Lawrence’s churchyard with the laying of a wreath on the tomb of Catherine Mompesson
Many villagers dress in seventeenth century costume for Plague Sunday. Image courtesy of
In 1665-1666 the then rector of Eyam, William Mompesson, preached to his congregation from the rock pulpit that was part of a natural amphitheatre at Cucklett Delph. Villagers remained at a distance from each other as they listen to his sermons and the village church was closed.

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.

The limestone pulpit at Cucklett Delph

During the Plague Sunday service, the names of all of the victims of the plague are read aloud.

Reverend William Mompesson ensured all the victims of the plague would be remembered, faithfully scribing their names into the parish record alongside the date they perished. In this image of the parish register, you can see how the names of the plague victims have been identified by a pointing finger. Image courtesy of:
An ornate copy of the list of plague victims can be viewed within the church of St Lawrence, Eyam
This video from Plague Sunday 2017 features the reading out of the names of each of the plague’s victims

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.

This map shows how to find Cucklett Delph
If you visit Cucklett Church, be sure to take a moment to also remember lovers Emmott Syddall and Rowland Torre who chose this place to meet safely during the plague epidemic

Published by jenjenkins42

I am an author from a village outside of Rugby in Warwickshire. I love historical fiction. You will find me reading, hanging out with my husband, our two sons and our little dog, baking or walking.

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