Monday, 6 August 2012

Deserted Medieval Village

Wharram Percy is perhaps the best-known Deserted Medieval Village in the whole of England, although there are several others which are in a similarly good state of preservation. The reason for its celebrity is that it was researched each summer by combined teams of archaeologists, historians and even botanists, from circa 1950 to 1990 following its identification in 1948 by Professor Maurice Beresford of the University of Leeds It is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book as Warran or Warron.

Although the site has apparently been settled since pre-historic times, the village seems to have been most active from the tenth to the twelfth centuries. 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 (particularly of sheep) an advantage over traditional cereal farming. The village was finally abandoned in the early 16th century when the lord of the Manor turned out the last few families and knocked down their homes to make room for extra sheep pasturage.

Nearly 700 well-preserved medieval skeletons, excavated in the church and the northern part of the churchyard, have been studied by scientists and have provided detailed information about the lives of the villagers. For example, nitrogen isotope analysis has indicated that children were commonly breast-fed for up to two years, probably contributing to the relatively low incidence of infant mortality. DNA tests on skeletons showing signs of tuberculosis indicated that infection had come from other humans, perhaps in towns, rather than from the cattle with whom the medieval peasants shared their houses.

There was also evidence that medieval surgery could be unexpectedly advanced. An 11th-century male skeleton showed a heavy blow to the head with a blunt instrument. The wound was treated by 'trepanation', the delicate cutting away of bone to relieve pressure on the brain, after which the patient evidently lived for several years.
English Heritage 

The de Percy Family, Whitby & Wharram Percy

In 1070 William de Percy was engaged on works connected with the rebuilding of York Castle after its destruction by the Danes and in 1072 he took part in the Conquerors expedition to Scotland. At the Domesday survey he was tenant in chief in the three ridings of Yorkshire, in Lindsey, with a small holding in Nottingham and of Humbledon Hants which he had received with his wife (Emma de Port). He was also an under tenant of the Earl of Chester in Whitby and in Catton and in the city of York and of the Bishop of Durham in Scarborough and Lund.

He built the castle at Topcliffe and before 1086 he refounded the monastery at Whitby. He was among the Barons present when the Conqueror heard a plea relating to property of the Abbey of Fecamp and he witnessed charters of William II in the period before 1095. In 1096 he set out on the first crusade and died and was buried at Mount Joy near Jerusalem. (This was also the ancient burial site of Samuel of the Old Testament and the hill today is called Nebi Samwel) just 10 km's NW of Jerusalem. Following Williams dying wishes Sir Ralph Eversly a Knight carried his heart back to England and it was buried at Whitby Abbey.

 William had sons Alan, Walter, William, Richard and Arnolde. William became the 2nd Abbot of Whitby in 1102. From Richard sprang the Percies of Dunsley. Arnolde de Percy witnessed his father William de Percy's charter to Whitby and from him came the Percies of Kildale and Kilnwick Percy.William de Percy had 2 brothers. Serlo de Percy became prior of Whitby Abbey and Picot de Percy was a tenant of William at Bolton upon Dearne and Sutton upon Derwent. Picot de Percy donated the church at Bolton Percy to Nostell priory. His son Robert de Percy gave the church at Sutton upon Derwent to Whitby Abbey witnessed by his son William. There was further issue from this branch of the family for in 1266 Piers de Percy held Wharram Percy in Chief and had other lands in Sutton upon Derwent, Carnaby and Bolton Percy which all came under the Percy fee. Piers de Percy was of the direct male Percy lineage, which apparently became extinct in 1168.

Map of the Wharram Percy site

Yet meet we shall, and part, and meet again, Where dead men meet, on lips of living men. - Samuel Butler

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