Wharram Percy is the most famous and intensively studied example in England of a 'Deserted Medieval Village.'
Between 1950 and 1990, large parts of the former settlement were excavated by volunteers, directed by the historian Maurice Beresford and the archaeologist John Hurst (1927–2003).
The medieval village
Excavations and documentary research showed that Wharram Percy originated as a village at some stage between the 10th and 12th centuries. It flourished from the 12th to the 14th centuries, despite suffering losses in the Black Death of 1348-9. The village’s final decline came in the later 15th century, probably through forced eviction of its inhabitants by the Hilton family, who wished to turn the former village into pasture for sheep. The last four families were removed between 1488 and 1506.
Though the site contains standing 18th century farm cottages and the ruins of the medieval church of St Martin, the sites of many other buildings can be traced either as excavated footings or as ditches and banks, especially the buried footings of chalk-stone walls. Though the annual excavations at Wharram ceased in 1990, the study of these visible remains continues to the present day.
The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.