Deserted medieval village
In the United Kingdom, a deserted mediaeval village (DMV) is a former settlement which was abandoned during the Middle Ages, typically leaving no trace apart from earthworks or cropmarks. If there are fewer than three inhabited houses the convention is to regard the site as deserted; if there are more than three houses, it is regarded as a shrunken mediaeval village. There are estimated to be more than 3,000 DMVs in England alone.
Other deserted settlements
Not all sites are mediaeval: villages reduced in size or disappeared over a long period, from as early as Anglo-Saxon times to as late as the 1960s, due to numerous different causes.
Reasons for desertion
Over the centuries, settlements have been deserted as a result of natural events, such as rivers changing course or silting up, flooding (especially during the wet 13th and 14th centuries) as well as coastal and estuarine erosion or being overwhelmed by windblown sand.
Many were thought to have been abandoned due to the deaths of their inhabitants from the Black Death in the mid-14th century. While the plague must often have greatly hastened the population decline, which had already set in by the early 14th century in England because of soil exhaustion and disease, most DMVs actually seem to have become deserted during the 15th century, when fields cultivated for cereals and vegetables were transformed into sheep pastures, often with ridge and furrow surviving under grass, even until today. This change of land use by landowners to take advantage of the profitable wool trade led to hundreds of villages being deserted.
Later, the aristocratic fashion for grand country mansions, parks and landscaped gardens led to whole villages being moved or destroyed to enable lords of the manor to participate in this trend: a process often called emparkment or enclosure.
Perhaps the best-known deserted mediaeval village in England is at Wharram Percy in North Yorkshire, because of the extensive archaeological excavations conducted there between its discovery in 1948 and 1990. Its ruined church and its former fishpond are still visible.
In Northamptonshire, around 100 villages can be classified as deserted, there are articles relating to many of them, such as Onley, Althorp, Canons Ashby, Church Charwelton and Coton along with Faxton, Glendon, Snorscombe, Wolfhampcote and Wythmail.
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- Foster, C.W., ed. (1920). Final Concords of the County of Lincoln: 1244-1272. pp. 50–65, 'Lost vills and other forgotten places'. Retrieved 31 December 2010.
- Christopher Dyer and Richard Jones, eds. (2010). Deserted Villages Revisited. University of Hertfordshire Press. ISBN 978-1-905313-79-2.CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)