A huge part of how this album came about is due to my partner Tim and his sister Sally having their own Eyam story to tell. You’re very welcome to read it here

The story of Eyam aka ‘The Plague Village’ in the Peak District of Derbyshire, is fairly well known in the North of England.

After receiving a bale of infected cloth from a London ravaged by Bubonic Plague in 1665, this deadly and virulent disease took hold on Eyam’s own residents, killing over a third of them in its onslaught. The other villagers, who had quickly realised what was going on, managed for the next fourteen months to organise and isolate themselves to stop it spreading further.

I didn’t set out to write a historical piece and the music certainly isn’t trying to recreate the styles of the day. I just couldn’t help but be extremely moved and inspired by the stories I’d heard, one in particular from those Plague times but also a more modern tale from generations later involving two people I love very much, my partner and his sister. They lived nearby for a while as children and Eyam’s always been a special place to them. They wouldn’t find out just how much until recently when they discovered they were direct descendants of those same people who lived and died there in those terrible times.

I wrote a couple of pieces of music as a sort of gift to them and a thank you for sharing and showing me this beautiful and thought provoking place through their eyes. Everything else spiralled from there.
For those that have chosen to tell Eyam’s story in modern times, it’s often presented as a grisly and ghoulish horror story, which is partly true but there’s also a wider story of human resilience, kindness and what happens when good people come together to strive and survive.

Of all the many tales of self-sacrifice and bravery from back then, one that stands out even more than others is that of the Incredible ELIZABETH HANCOCK – a ‘normal woman’ reacting to extraordinary circumstances.

She and her husband John were poor farmers living off the land they rented on RILEY LANE to the east of the village. When the plague eventually struck down her neighbours, a family of seven, she tended to them as best she could until the last one was gone, before John and six of her own children succumbed and tragically died of the disease too. Unable to help her lest they also became infected, villagers from across the valley would watch from their safe vantage points, as over eight summer days as she, the FIGURE ON THE HILL, buried her husband and each of her babies in turn.

Elizabeth survived and it’s widely believed that eventually when the time was right, she made her way to nearby Sheffield to live out her days with her eldest son Joseph who’d left Eyam to work in the steel industry before the Plague struck. The Hancock family graves stand on Riley Lane to this day and are a testament to Elizabeth’s own resilience, courage and devotion to her family.

Photo: Brian Phillimore

The telling of history tends to favour the rich and powerful, and many people like Elizabeth, as well as others in Eyam and many others through the ages often get overlooked due to their social status, or become a reflection of societal attitudes of the time depending on when their stories are written or discussed.

To visit gorgeous Eyam and spend time at the Riley Graves has had quite a profound effect on us all, my partner Tim (Hancock), his sister Sally and her extended family especially. The music I have written for WOMAN OF EYAM wasn’t planned well in advance but came about, happily, by circumstances colliding.

Although it’s been tough at times keeping body and soul together and find the resources to record and get everything finished – if this album helps to spread and preserve Elizabeth and Eyam’s legacy even further, then I know we will all be extremely proud indeed.’