Wharram Percy is one of the largest and best preserved of Britain's 3,000 or so known deserted medieval villages. It is also undoubtedly the most famous. For over 60 years, archaeologists have pioneered new techniques here to understand what life was like in the village and why it was eventually deserted.
Perched on the side of a remote and beautiful valley in the Yorkshire Wolds, the village was continuously occupied for six centuries before it was abandoned soon after 1500. Today you can trace the outlines of many lost houses on a grassy plateau above the substantial remains of the church and the millpond.
Read more about Wharram Percy's history.
Before You Go
Access: It is a long walk (about ¾ mile) from the car park to the site, parts of which are steep and muddy. The site contains rugged terrain which can be challenging, and it is not suitable for wheelchairs or buggies.
Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome.
Please be aware: Farm livestock is likely to be present on the path.
Plan a Great Day Out
Wharram Percy is only a 25 minute drive from the riverside ruins of Kirkham Priory. There is a small shop at the priory serving light refreshments. There is also a picnic area.
7th century ADVillage Beginnings
The village may have begun as a scatter of small buildings or temporary huts for sheep farmers.
Parish and field boundaries are reorganised, leading to the foundation of a proper village, with a wooden church perhaps later rebuilt in stone.
Find out more about the history of Wharram Percy
William the Conqueror confiscates and redistributes Wharram land. One piece is given to William Percy, ancestor of the Northumberland earls and dukes.
The Percys acquire more land, and the village name changes to Wharram Percy. The South Manor and a row of peasant houses are constructed and the church is completely rebuilt.
Peter Percy I probably demolishes the South Manor, builds the North Manor and adds two rows of houses.
The Scots raid and burn nearby villages. Wharram citizens move away, leaving two-thirds of land uncultivated.
1327-34A Child Owner
Peter II's daughter Eustachia inherits. The Crown controls the estate until she turns 14 and marries Walter Heslerton.
The Black Death reduces the village population from 67 to 45 and kills Walter Heslerton, leaving another minor as heir. The Crown again takes over.
The estate reverts to a distant relative, Henry Percy. Most of the land is back in use, 30 village houses are occupied and there are signs of recovery.
The new Percys exchange manors with Baron William Hilton. Hilton probably never lives at Wharram but replaces the church bell tower’s upper storey.
1458-1527A Village in Decline
The Hiltons shift the village from ploughing to sheep farming and evict families from their houses. The village population drops sharply.
1636End of Village Life
A principal farmstead, mainly used for sheep farming, disappears, marking the end of 700 years of continuous occupation.
The 6th Baron Middleton buys the land.
The southern range of the old farmhouse is converted into labourers' cottages.
Large parts of the former settlement are excavated every summer by volunteers, directed by historian Maurice Beresford and archaeologist John Hurst. Wharram becomes the best-known deserted medieval village in Britain.
Find out why Wharram Percy matters
English Heritage cares for over 400 historic buildings, monuments and places - from world-famous prehistoric sites to grand medieval castles, from Roman forts on the edges of empire to a Cold War bunker. Through these, we bring the story of England to life for over 10 million people each year. The English Heritage Trust is a charity, no. 1140351, and a company, no. 0744722, registered in England.
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- 14% Government funding