Shepherd's flat


Graves at Shepherd’s Flatt


The poignancy of one incident is without parallel. A family named Mortin lived at the farm known as Shepherd’s Flatt midway between Eyam and Foolow, and nearby lived a widow named Mrs. Kempe, whose children having been in contact with infected playmates at Eyam were responsible for bringing the plague to the two lonely houses. A baby was expected in the former family, and sometime during August ~he period of Mrs.Mortin’s pregnancy expired. Her husband’s frantic appeals for the services of a midwife were bluntly refused. Moreover, the situation was complicated by the eldest child, who, having the disease and being confined to a room, was screaming almost continuously. There was no other alternative but for the harrassed husband to perform the office of midwife, and under these painful circumstances the miracle of incarnation was made complete. Shortly afterwards the mother and her three children died and were buried close to their home. Mortin himself survived and lived for some time in solitude, except for the companionship of Flash, his favourite greyhound. 

Stones erected as memorials of this sad event, and which marked the exact place of burial, are said to have been destroyed about 150 years afterwards. Details of later investigation by a descendant of the Mortin family, somewhat contradicted the above statement and were supplied to the writer as follows :- ‘The names of the children buried by Matthew at the gable end of the house were Robert aged
three, Sarah aged two, and a few days’ old babe, a son. On the plague tally at the end of the shippen, once the old house, Matthew has carved the initials of the older children and then added a small letter “s”, for the little son who died unbaptised.’

This sad story had a sequel, however, which gave it a sunset ending. Some while after the plague had ended, the greyhound suddenly deserted its master who was sitting outside the back door, to form a first-sight friendship with a woman walking along the hillside. Mortin reasoned in his own mind that the faithful animal had mistaken the figure for that of its former mistress. The incident resulted in the formation of a friendship which ended at the altar, for the woman was Sarah Halksworth who had been widowed at the beginning of the Plague.
She is thought to have lived next to the Plague Cottage and that her husband~ Peter, was the third victim.

This story shows how the fragrant flowers of womanhood and sweet buds of promise children- were alike blasted by the whirlwind of death. Within a few months the village had been reduced from a collection of homes sheltering happy and healthy families to one vast charnel-house; for every remaining resident was a mourner and almost every residence a mortuary.






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