(All images by Andrew Norman, reproduced with permission)
The Peak District of Northern England is an ancient landscape steeped in history and folklore, from fairies and Robin Hood to stone circles and – more ominously – the plague. It’s to that sinister illness that the five grave stones above trace their origins, curious and sombre markers of death amid the pleasant Derbyshire landscape.
While the small settlement of Eyam famously became known as the ‘plague village’ after the devastating disease arrived there in 1665, a lesser known case of the plague had occurred in the nearby village of Curbar more than 30 years earlier.
In 1632, the outbreak claimed the lives of an entire family at Grislowfields Farm. Thomas and Ada Cundy perished with their children Olive, Nellie and young Thomas. Their simple graves, located above Curbar village, are a poignant reminder of their tragic fate.
Exactly who buried the Cundy family is unknown. Their graves remained hidden for years until a local woman identified as ‘Mrs H.’, intrigued by a map reference to the simple burial ground, set about trying the rediscover them.
After scouring the rough ground near the footpath, Mrs H’s efforts were rewarded when she finally uncovered the first stone, marked O.C. – Olive Cundy. Soon all the graves were visible once again, and Mrs H. continued to care for them until moving to Grindleford in 1938.
Thanks to Mrs H, the lonely gravestones of the Cundy family can be visited today, lying near a tiny cottage that had once served as the Curbar lock-up, intended to house Civil War prisoners overnight en route to Sheffield gaol.
Sadly these aren’t the only isolated plague graves in this part of the Peak District. Visit the Riley Graves in Eyam.