Wharram Percy deserted medieval village is a fantastic day out for all the family. There are lots of things to see and explore at this incredible historic site.
Wharram Percy deserted medieval village
One of the biggest medieval villages in Britain, Wharram Percy is a sight to behold. It’s one of the best preserved villages we know of – and there have been around 3000 deserted medieval settlings discovered in the UK.
For over 60 years, archaeologists have been learning more about the village and what life must have been like for its residents.
When you visit, make sure you take a look at the fantastic remains of the medieval church, and take time to wander around the foundations of the two manor houses and peasant houses that can still be seen today.
Before you jump in the car and barrel over to the deserted medieval village, make sure you’re prepared. It’s about a ¾ mile walk away from the nearest car park over some steep, and sometimes muddy, terrain. It’s not ideally suited for wheelchairs or pushchairs.
Dogs are very welcome on the site, but they need to be kept on a lead. It’s the Yorkshire Wolds, you never know when stray livestock might wander across your path!
History of Wharram Percy
Wharram Percy was certainly occupied for almost 600 years, though there is evidence to suggest Bronze and Iron Age occupation. The large, Saxon settlement was founded around the 9th or 10th century.
Records of the town can be found in the Doomsday Book. The land was shared between three different owners at the time, Lagnamm, Carli and Ketilbjorn, who historians believe to have Viking ancestry.
The development of the medieval village
The village prospered most during between in the 10th, 11th and 12th century. This is likely a result of the occupation and land ownership of the Percy family at the time. It’s from this family that the site takes its name.
The Percy family began acquiring the land in 1086 after William the Conqueror had confiscated Wharram from Lagnamm, Carli and Ketilbjorn. By 1176, Norman Baron, William de Percy, owned the majority of the village land. Then, in 1254, the last piece of the land was sold to William’s descendant, Peter Percy, giving the Percy family complete ownership of the village.
The Percy bloodline continued to develop the village for many years. They demolished the south manor in favour of a northern building and created more houses. The population increased to around 200 residents.
Wharram Percy’s decline
While remaining prosperous for many years, the village suffered many problems before it was eventually abandoned. In the 1300s, current owner Peter Percy II died without leaving a male heir to take up the management of the land.
Peter II’s eldest daughter, Eustachia, was taken in as a royal ward, which allowed the Crown to manage the land in her stead until she turned 14. In 1327, she took over control of the land. She later married and had a son of her own, but the village had suffered greatly. Large parts of the land were uncultivated and the two watermills were no longer in use.
After the death of Eustachia’s husband and son, the land passed to a distant relative in 1367. Henry Percy from Spofforth took control, and although no Percy was in residence, the village began to improve. Up to 30 houses were lived in, land was cultivated once more, fishing brought income to the village and one watermill started turning again.
The end of Wharram Percy
The Spofforth Percy family branch later sold the land to Baron William Hilton. As the price of wool began to rise throughout the country, Hilton evicted families and destroyed their houses to make room for more sheep in the 1500s. That signalled the end of village life.
A large farmhouse was built in 1674 and, with several demolitions and remodels, has stood on approximately on that spot ever since. In 1850, the building was converted into labourers cottages which were occupied until 1976.
Wharram Percy deserted medieval village is a fantasic place to visit. It’s cared for by the English Heritage, but the site is free to all.
You’ll find it at: Centenary Way, Wharram-le-Street, Malton, North Yorkshire, YO17 9TD.
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