1. Wharram Percy – The village eaten by sheep
Set in the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Wolds, Wharram Percy is perhaps the best known deserted medieval villages in the country. It was once a thriving medieval settlement, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times and was recorded in the Doomsday book of 1089 as having four ploughlands, owned by two nobles, called Lagmann and Karli. These lands were confiscated by the Normans and given to the Percy family. The village grew through medieval times which had a church, manor house, hunting grounds, mill and a population of around 200 people at its peak in the 13th Century.
The village’s decline can be put down to misfortune which struck the ruling Percy family and the people of the village. Scottish raids in the surrounding area resulted in the burning of crops and barns around 1322. Several of the population were also affected by the Black Death in 1349, including the sole male heir to the land.
Despite an attempted revival of the village, the future of Wharram Percy was put in doubt when the villagers were evicted by their new landlord, Baron Hilton, who wanted to use the land for grazing sheep because of the rising price of wool. In 1436 the exodus was well under way with only 16 remaining occupied houses. By 1527 the entire village had been converted to arable pasture with only two shepherds living in the settlement, tending to the flock.
The site is now under the care of English Heritage and archaeological digs have revealed the foundations of the houses, vicarage, two manors and streets. The remains of St Martin’s Church is the most obvious feature of the abandoned settlement with skeletons of buried villagers discovered inside. Colloquially Wharram Percy is the known as the village eaten by sheep!
2. Riplingham – The crossroads with a hidden past
Further south in the fields between Beverley and Hull lays the abandoned village of Riplingham. A recent discovery, due to advances in aerial photography has revealed the earthworks of an older settlement near the current tiny hamlet of the same name.
The village of Riplingham was recorded in the Domesday Book as being in the manor of North Ferriby and twenty-seven people were reported to have paid taxes here in 1377.
Excavations carried out in the 1950s and 60s uncovered the foundations of two houses dating back to the 14th Century and historians believe the village could have remained until well into the 1600s.
Nowadays, Riplingham consists of one house at a crossroads between South Cave, Newbald and Welton. It is also noted for its expansive views of Hull and the Humber estuary.
3. Ravenser Odd – The Town Under the sea
Ravenser Odd was an important port located on the South East Coast of Yorkshire near Spurn Point and in its day had more importance than neighbouring Hull and Grimsby. It was founded by the Count of Aumale in around 1235 and quickly established itself as a major fishing, shipping and trading port on the sandbanks of the Humber at its entry point into the North Sea. Ravenser Odd had a harbour, market charter, annual fair and a town mayor. Its industry revolved around the sea and regularly supplied the king with battleships for wars against Scotland. The town continued to grow into the 14th Century, with a quay and prison added to the town. Nothing seemed to stop its rise to becoming the most important port in the whole of the East Coast- except the forces of Mother Nature.
By 1340 major concerns were raised about the impact the sea and estuary were having on the town with regular flooding incidents during bad weather. Six years later two-thirds of the town lay underwater due to a combination storms and coastal erosion. Surviving residents fled mainly to Hull and other nearby settlements, leaving the rest of this once great port at the mercy of the elements.
4.West End- The submerged village
This former flax-making village located north of Otley was abandoned when it was flooded to create Thurscross reservoir in 1966. Parts of the old village can still be seen during periods of drought including the old church, which still has a bell, flax mill and bridge. In its heyday West End was the industrial textile centre of the Washburn Valley before a decline in flax-making which led to people leaving the village and its eventual demise at the hands of a well known local water company.
Below is a video of Thurscross reservoir during the drought of 1995.
5. Whorlton – The Black Death Village
The lost village of Whorlton in North Yorkshire had its own castle, and was a fortified settlement, as mentioned in the Domesday Book. Its roofless ruins still stand to this day with a 14th Century gateway and earthworks dating back to this time. The other thing that remains is what’s left of Whorlton’s 12th Century church of the Holy Cross. Little is known about the actual village itself, apart from earthworks visible from above and that it is largely thought to have been abandoned because of an outbreak of The Black Death. Some historians argue that many of its residents moved to nearby Swainby because it had more industrial activity and power sources.