Posted by: suemason | July 30, 2009

Journal of the plague weekend


being observations or memorials
of the most remarkable occurrences,
public as well as private, which happened in
London during the last great visitation in 1665.
Written by a Citizen who continued
all the while in London.
Never made public before

So begins Daniel Defoe’s vivid account of the Plague of London.

But I unlike Defoe, I intend to go public. However, if you want private, then money will have to change hands*. These then are my observations of the remarkable occurrences of the weekend, which the Midland Section of the Jowett Car Club planned and executed to the Village of Eyam in the Derbyshire Peak District. Not only that, there was the added attraction of the chance to exhibit our cars and ourselves, at a 50’s style rock and roll exhibition at the nearby Tram Museum of Crich.

You see, in 1665 Eyam was caught up with the whole National Plague Fiasco when a bolt of cloth infested with fleas, was brought into the village and the inhabitants started to go down like flies.

The Vicar, by name of Mompesson, decided that in order to avoid the spread of the disease to the rest of the known world i.e. Cheshire, the villagers should go into voluntary isolation. And so they did, refusing to leave and refusing to let anyone come into the village.

But the Midland Section had no such reservations about inviting strangers to their jamboree. (or ‘off commers’ as Alec Feather used to call us), so the Browns and Masons from the N West section, were able to join up with the group, bringing their own plague to the party by way of two men and their hacking coughs. Swines!
Gathering at the Miners Arms, the Jowett count slowly mounted up as members drove in using various navigational techniques, the best being the excellent map and directions provided by our Group Leader, Nancy White.

Three Javelins and three (red) Jupiters completed the count and we moved onto the time-honoured ceremony of the room allocation. Some of the beds felt as if they could be dated from 1665, though thankfully there was no sign of the fleas that allegedly brought the plague from London, and as far as I know, no sign of the hauntings that the pub is famous for, either.

Eyam is a beautiful stone-built village. The cottages have roses round the door, and plagues in the pretty gardens declaring how many people had died there. Actually I mean plaques. I should learn to mind my p’s and q’s .

On the visit to the local museum, our group, all of whom qualified for concessionary tickets though looking as fit as fleas, learned more about the plague, its symptoms, its heroes and its statistics. And although the graphic descriptions of boils and pustules brought on a few bouts of coughing and a touch of the vapours, none of us developed a ‘ring o roses’. The remedies were quite repulsive and seemed to involve eye of newt and the laying on of toads. Tim and David settled for cough drops.

Next on the itinerary was the visit to Mompesson’s Well. This was the spot where The Earl of Devonshire used to leave parcels of food for the villagers so they didn’t have to go out shopping and infect the neighbourhood. I understand that his generosity didn’t run to free food parcels, and money had to be left in a bowl of vinegar to disinfect it.

(Memo to Morrisons: stock up on the Sarsons: Memo to self: don’t accept filthy lucre for private revelations*)

I suppose if you ask for directions to somewhere from a local youth, the temptation to send you on a wild goose chase, or more precisely send you as the crow flies, is too great. Maybe this is why men wont ever ask for directions: they don’t trust their gender to tell the truth.

Thus three groups set off for the well: Les and Nancy in their Javelin took the easy sign-posted option via the road; Craig and Glenys – you cant pull the wool over their eyes- took the steep meandering footpath uphill through a field of Lamas.

Meanwhile Pauline, Sue and David took the suicide route recommended by the aforesaid local, vertically clambering over park over pale thorough brush thorough brier. But all was well that ended well at the well, and we agreed the exercise had to have been good for us.

And so the weekend unfolded one could say like a bolt of cloth, but that simile might bring me out in a rash of clichés. We had good food, good company and on the Saturday, a good scenic run through the Hope Valley: through Hathersage to Castleton; a trip on an underground boat at Speedwell Cavern; onwards to Edale for tea and an ice-cream stop at Monsal Head. Worse things could only happen at sea.



That evening, Alastair Gregg (Member of the Year) joined us for dinner and reported that Crich was ready to welcome us on the Sunday. He knew this as he had mistakenly gone there in his Jupiter on the Saturday and was the lone (There was a Bradford there too) Jowett representative. Sorry Alastair (Not as sorry as Alastair was).

The six Jowetts arrived at Crich to meet up with more Midland and Northern members with their cars, so Crich had a splendid display of 13 Jowett vehicles from the 1950s and we drove a magnificent parade down the street waving and weaving across tramlines and drawing admiring comments, interest and indeed potential new members.

Full marks then to the Midland Section for their excellent weekend idea. Full marks to Les and Nancy for their faultless organizing, and full marks dear reader to anyone who can name the Jowett members who have a home in Eyam.

Sue Mason
North West Section

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