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Wharram Percy

Wharram Percy is a deserted medieval village (DMV) on the western edge of the chalk wolds in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The site is about one mile south of Wharram le Street and is clearly signposted from the B1248, Beverley to Malton road. It has been marked on maps since the early 1850s when the surveyors of the first six inch Ordnance Survey map recorded the field above the church as 'site of ancient village'. Wharram Percy is perhaps the best known DMV in the whole of England, although there are several others which are in a similarly good state of preservation. The reason for its celebrity is that it was researched each summer by combined teams of archaeologists, historians and even botanists, from circa 1950 to 1990 following its identification as a DMV by the late Professor M.W. Beresford, of Leeds University, in 1948.

There is a small English Heritage car park. A footpath from it, of about half a mile, leads to the DMV where, in a valley, one sees first an empty brick building and then the shell of Saint Martin's church. There are informative signs by English Heritage throughout the, approximately, thirty acre site. The large scale of the village site only becomes apparent on climbing up the side of the valley where one discovers, on a plateau , humps and hollows indicating the foundations of dwellings and the boundaries of gardens. The Black Death of 1348-9 does not seem to have paid a significant part in the desertion of Wharram Percy although the large fall in population in the country as a whole at that time, must have made relocation to a less remote spot, more likely. The villagers of Wharram Percy seem to have suffered instead, from the changes in prices and wages in the fifteenth century, which gave pastoral farming (of particularly sheep), an advantage over traditional cereal farming. The village was finally abandoned in the early sixteenth century when the lord of the manor turned out the last few families and knocked down their homes to make room for extra sheep pasturage. The church of Saint Martin continued to be used for several centuries more, but congregations declined sharply when a new, more conveniently situated church was built in neighbouring Thixendale in 1870. It gradually became dilapidated and when the lead from the roof was stolen, its fate was sealed. Part of the tower fell down in early 1960 after a storm

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 24, 2011
  • Attribution
    by Paul Lakin