Wharram Percy

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The ruin of the parish church at Wharram Percy

Wharram Percy is a deserted mediæval village whose remains may still be seen on the western edge of the chalk Yorkshire Wolds, in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The site of the village is about a mile south of Wharram-le-Street and is signposted from the B1248 Beverley to Malton road.

Wharram Percy may be the best-known deserted mediæval village in the whole of Britain, although there are several others in a similarly good state of preservation.

The earthworks of the village have been known for many generations, and outlines of house platforms were even drawn onto the first Ordnance Survey six-inch maps of Yorkshire published in 1854.[1] The reason for its notability is that it was researched each summer by combined teams of archaeologists, historians and even botanists, from about 1950 to 1990 after it was singled out for study in 1948 by Professor Maurice Beresford of the University of Leeds.[2]

Although the site seems to have been settled since prehistory, the village seems to have been most active from the 10th to the 12th centuries. The Domesday Book of 1086 records it as Warran or Warron. The Black Death of 1348–49 does not seem to have played a significant part in the desertion of Wharram Percy although the large fall in population in the country as a whole at that time must have made relocation to a less remote spot more likely. The villagers of Wharram Percy seem to have suffered instead from changes in prices and wages in the 15th century, which gave pastoral farming (in particularly sheep rearing) an advantage over the traditional cereal farming of the village. Wharram Percy was finally abandoned in the early 16th century when the lord of the manor turned out the last few families and had their homes demolished to make room for more sheep pasture.

The village today

Across the fish pond to the deserted village

The site is now in the care of English Heritage.

Although only the ruined church is easily visible above ground, much more of the village layout can be seen in the surrounding fields. English Heritage have no staffing on the site but have installed interpretation panels around the site, as well as an audio tour downloadable, in MP3 format, from the English Heritage website. A guidebook is available from nearby English Heritage sites.

A scientific study published in 2004 of human skeletal remains from the deserted village reveals details of disease, diet and death in a rural mediæval community.

A Tracker Pack for families that covers the site can be hired from Malton Tourist Information Centre.

The Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail passes through the site, and the Centenary Way long-distance footpath passes to the east of the village.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Wharram Percy)


  1. O.S. Yorkshire Sheet 143, 6” = 1 mile, surveyed:1850-51, published:1854
  2. M.Aston, Interpreting the Landscape: Landscape Archaeology and Local History (2002), p.67
  • Wrathmell, Susan (1996). Wharram Percy: Deserted Medieval Village. ISBN 978-1-85074-620-1.