Secrets of a hamlet devastated by the Black Death
Saturday 11 September 1999
The once-bustling settlement was all but done for by the Black Death in the 14th century. All that remains of the desolate village, 25 miles east of York in the Yorkshire Wolds, are two dilapidated workers' cottages, empty since 1970; the ruins of the old St Martin's parish church and the foundations of about 50 buildings cut into the turf.
One of 3,000 deserted medieval settlements dotted around Britain, the former villages's eerie silence has long held archaeologists in its spell. It was the subject of one of the longest continuous excavations in British arch-aeological history.
Devotees of Wharram become terribly excited when discussing whether the Black Death in 1349 totally obliterated the settlement's people. Forty years of research now suggests there was life in the old place until the agricultural revolution in the 15th century swept away the arable farming (which had given it prosperity) in favour of less labour-intensive sheep.
"Wharram" is thought to be an Old Scandinavian word for "at the bends", describing the curve of the valley in which the settlement was built. Percy was - and still is - the family name of the Dukes of Northumberland, who were lords over Wharram from the 12th to the 14th centuries.
The earliest inhabitants were probably Neolithic farmers. Romans and, later, Anglo-Saxons also occupied the site. The land was given over to sheep for 200 years until it was returned to crop growing in the 18th century.
Wharram Percy will be open from 11am to 2pm today. Follow signs from the site car park on a lane signposted off the B1248, half a mile from Wharram-le-Street.
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Fifty Shades of Grey movie trailer released: First look at Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey
- 3 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 4 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned
Peaches Geldof: Her final day – and her fatal decision
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israel may have committed war crimes, says UN human rights chief
John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...
£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...
£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...