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 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 2 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 3 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
- 5 Why you're almost certainly more like your father than your mother
Out-of-touch MPs ‘don’t get it’, says ex-Civil Service chief
Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook CEO's one simple test for who to hire
Bali nine: Welcome to 'Execution Island' – the Indonesian holiday resort where foreigners are sent to die
'A girl is more responsible for rape than a boy': The statement that shocked the world... except India
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...
£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...
£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...
£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...