CHATSWORTH & EYAM PLAGUE VILLAGE
It had been a lovely clear evening and even though I was a few miles away from Matlock the opening salvo of fireworks shook the ground, so I think they have a good display there. For someone travelling in a smaller vehicle it would be a fun thing to see. I had decided against visiting the Arkwright Mills. They weren’t open until eleven anyway and the next place I had marked out was the little village of Eyam. Strict Lady was duly programmed and she retraced our route of the evening before, but this time took me through Chatsworth Park.
It is a truly beautiful piece of landscape, and we were travelling early on a quiet sunny Sunday morning. The trees were beginning to take on their tints, it must be milder here that the area around Macclesfield as the clouds were not strong, but a heavy dew from last nights light frost lay on the grass turning it silver. The mists from the river in the valley was rising in gentle curls and catching amongst the stands of parkland trees. The rooks cawed in the trees, and it was just too hard to resist when we passed the sign saying entrance. I had intended to visit on another occasion, but it seemed that fate had drawn me here and so in we went.
Checking on the internet after we had parked up it seemed that neither the house nor gardens opened until eleven, but it was a magnificent place to sit and have some early morning coffee, and give those Bakewell Puddings and Pies another testing
Once the house did open of course I was one of the first ones in. I am not sure if it got more crowded later on, but certainly as I looked round I felt relaxed and could take my time. Unlike the National Trust properties and anything owned by the council, privately owned propeties often allow photographs, which in todays world does make a difference to the enjoyment of the visit. And though the rooms with tapestries and fabrics or wallpapers that needed protection from the light were darkened, it was not like some I have visited where it is so dark it is almost impossible to see where you are going, let alone admire the treasures you have come so far to admire and sometimes paid so dearly to see.
Chatsworth is from start to finish completely and delightfully OTT. From the gold leaf on the windows frames to the magnificent ‘water features’ as our gardening gurus love to call them. I had visited back in the early seventies and not being into photography then and purely relying on memory for my memories, the two things which are firmly embedded in my mind are the doors opening from end to end of the main house with a huge mirror at the far end. Sadly the route for visitors now preclude this delight, and the Emperor Fountain which I was lucky enough to see playing for a short while, also I walked right up to the top of the cascade to see how the fountains and cascades were managed. It seemed today that the scooter was not being quite so super, so the trip up the slope beside the house was something I had to forgo, and though the fountain was working sadly it was not the really tall one
The photo showing below is one of the exceedingly fine 'Cravat Carvings' of Grinling Gibbons, usually done in limewood the work is of such equisite fineness as to be almost unbelivable. Just one of the many treasures at Chatsworth, this one on the upstairs landing outside the range of guest bedrooms!
Then after some lunch sitting looking out at the parkland we headed off to find Eyam. I had read of it several times in the past as the village, which, when The Plague struck back in the seventeenth century had selflessly cut itself off from the rest of the world, instead of the natives fleeing and thereby spreading The Plague to other places
Plague had entered the village when the local tailor received a bolt of cloth ordered from London. In those days orders would have been given in writing and deliveries probably taken many long weeks, so the delivery of cloth may have been almost unexpected, perhaps they hadn’t even heard that Plague was raging in London. But within six days the tailor’s assistant, and the tailor and his family were dead. The disease took many lives and eventually precautions were taken by holding only outdoor church services, and allowing families to bury their own dead. Finally they cut themselves off from the outside world to prevent further spread of the disease.
In the fourteen months the Plague took to run its course some 270 villagers had died and only 83 survived. The Rector’s wife, Catherine Mompesson's who had helped the sick and dying, died herself in the very last days of the plague, and her tomb is the centre of the annual memorial service when a wreath of red roses is placed in remembrance.