In the summer of 2011 we were on a road trip, driving our way through Derbyshire when we happened to stop in for a unscheduled tea break in the little village of Eyam (pronounced Ee’m). Secluded amongst the Peak mountains, with the late sun inviting us to explore, we were immediately struck by the beauty of this Romantic village and the tragic story of love and loss that it had to tell.
We heard, for the first time, of Emmott Sydell and Rowland Torre – filled with all the hopes and dreams of a young couple. Then, in the summer of 1665, forced to endure with bravery and courage almost beyond comprehension the onset of the Plague in the village.
Such were the compelling details of this true love story, tinged with folk lore and the superstitions of the 17th century that we were moved and inspired to write an EP of songs dedicated to their memory.
Tales of Eyam – the Story
“Tales of Eyam” centres on the story Emmott Sydell, a maiden from Eyam, and Rowland Torre, a young flour miller from the neighbouring village of Stoney Middleton. In September 1665 they had recently become engaged and they plan to marry the following summer. But then without warning the Bubonic plague arrives in her village, brought by the fleas on the damp cloth of a Taylor from London.
Within days her family and others in Eyam are affected and everyone becomes afraid. Over the next two months Emmott loses 6 members of her family to the Plague. Superstitious rumours of cures and remedies for the disease spread through the village, but all are in vain. Emmott and Rowland continue to meet in secret, but only calling to each other from a distance in the relative safety of the outdoors.
In the spring of 1666 the villagers of Eyam are desperate, fearful and confined within the boundary of their parish so as not to spread the plague. Cut off from the outside would, they have effectively agreed to quarantine themselves even though it would mean death for most of them. Emmott and Rowland meet in secret,
calling to each other from a distance.
The Vicar Mompesson starts to hold his church services outside, in the Dell, in the hope that the open air will reduce the chances of people spreading the disease. During Sunday service Emmott, surrounded by birdsong and the quiet of nature, struggles to come to terms with the grief, isolation and loneliness she has endured over the past months. Sadly, four days later she too is stricken with the Plague fever. She dies on 20th April 1666.