Imagine that you're stranded on a desert island surrounded by hostile waters.
Eyam's earliest record appears in the Doomsday Book as Aium, becoming later in
the 13th century, Eyum, and is derived from ezum meaning 'at the islands'. Not
literally an offshore island as we would know today, but an area of good farmland
surrounded by moorland or badly drained marshland.
It was into this world that the first impact of the spread of Christianity through
Britain was felt in Eyam when during the 8th century the 'Celtic' cross was erected
as a focal point for the Church's message. From these simple beginnings, the Parish
Church of St. Lawrence has evolved through good stewardship and self sacrifice, and
continues to be a Church for today, seeking to serve the needs of the local community
and communicate the Christian message to thousands of visitors each year.
Other evidence of the earliest church can be found in the Saxon font, a Norman
window at the west end of the north aisle, and Norman pillars that are thought to rest
on Saxon foundations. By about 1350, the Norman structure had been replaced by a
church in the decorated style with a chancel and north and south aisles, all much smaller than they are today.
During the 17th century the tower was rebuilt with four of its six bells, and we would have found the nave decorated with murals depicting the twelve tribes of Israel.
The bi-centennial of the Eyam plague was commemorated in 1866 by doubling the width of the north aisle, and work over the next twenty years included a new porch, renovation of the south aisle, new vestries, removal of the galleries, and replacement of the chancel roof with pitched barrel vault.
There has been little change to the church building in the 20th century. A new stained glass window depicting the plague was installed in the north aisle and a small extension added to the north of the tower in 1988. Major work in 1997 included repair and restoration of the north aisle and chancel roofs, and clerestory windows, which was supported in part by English Heritage.
However, at the beginning of the 1990s, the parish was provided with an incredible opportunity to expand and bring together a wide range of activities which had developed beyond the confines of the original church building. This led to the opening of the Church Centre in 1993 on part of the site of rectory garden. The building provides a large hall, meeting rooms, crèche, office and kitchen facilities. A valuable and developing resource.
And so the timeless message of Jesus Christ, heard first when the 'Celtic' Cross stood in Eyam, continues to be heard by each generation.
The church has its own website which you can link to here.
by Andrew Travis