Yesterday, it didn’t look like the forecasted rain was going to make an appearance so we piled into the car to drive around part of the Yorkshire Wolds – Hedgehog Hollow country – to get some more photos.
It was a lovely drive out, stopping to take the occasional photo of stunning rolling countryside, and it was a bit of a mystery tour, arriving at each junction and hubby asking ‘right or left?’ We picked up signs to the English Heritage site of Wharram Percy which is somewhere we’ve wanted to visit for ages so we ended up there. You can find details about it on English Heritage’s website here.
Bit of history for you here: There are roughly 3,000 known deserted Medieval villages around Britain but this is one of the most famous because it’s one of the largest and best preserved. For the past 60 years, archeologists have worked on this site, keen to understand more about this era and why the village was deserted.
Wharram Percy can be found in a valley, surrounded by stunning Yorkshire Wolds countryside. It’s quite a remote site but was occupied for six centuries before being abandoned in the early sixteenth century (around 1520 they reckon).
You can read the full history on English Heritage’s website here and it seems a combination of various tragic and unfortunate circumstances around lack of heirs in the Percy family, forced eviction, famine and the plague resulted in the downfall of a once-thriving village. There’s also an interesting blog post about the ‘ghost village’ here from fantasy author Angus Watson.
I’d heard tales of Wharram Percy being haunted and about dogs in particular, who tend to be more attuned to these things, having strong reactions when visiting the area. So I did some research on this.
There’s a short but interesting clip from presenter Clive Anderson on YouTube about a grisly discovery archaeologists made when excavating the site in 2017 which you can watch here – a pit containing 137 human bones from 10 different people. A little strange when there’s a church with a graveyard and the villagers would all be christians and therefore buried there.
Frustratingly this clip didn’t explain why the archaeologists thought the pit was there so I did some further digging. There still isn’t a definitive answer for this discovery. There is evidence of decapitation and dismemberment with many bones being broken and/or burned after death. The only plausible explanation for the moment is that this may have happened because of Medieval folklore. Back then, it was believed that the dead could rise and spread disease or violently attack the living so this gruesome way of disposing of the bodies (presumably of those who’d died from the plague?) may have been a way of preventing that. Eek!
The Clive Anderson video shows amazing arial footage where the full extent of the remains of the village can be seen; something you don’t appreciate when on foot. Definitely worth watching to see that.
I wanted to find some ‘evidence’ of ghost encounters but all the posts I found seemed to focus on the village being abandoned and the bones rather than anything specific from visitors. I’m sure if I’d spent longer looking, I’d have eventually come across something but I have a huge to-do list today so I’ve abandoned that search!
Did we feel anything spooky? No. Just hunger pangs because we hadn’t expected to visit Wharram Percy and should have been hunting out lunch when we got distracted by a visit there! Ella (our sprocker spaniel) showed no reactions either. When I was at 19, I went to the Isle of Wight on holiday and visited Golden Hill Fort, a former army barracks near Freshwater. It’s now apartments but it was open to visitors back then and was reputed to be haunted. I felt something very strongly there which spooked me big time so I had wondered if I was susceptible to things like this… but Wharram Percy didn’t affect me at all.
My 14-year-old daughter claims to like horror films and spooky books so we got her to stand by the farmhouse which is still standing but boarded up. We couldn’t resist winding her up as she posed in the blocked-up doorway. ‘Just stand by the woman and little girl,’ hubby instructed. ‘You don’t have to hold the little girl’s hand,’ I added. Hubby then couldn’t resist photoshopping the image when we got home! (Look closely at the doorway). Mwah ha ha ha!
I’d definitely recommend a visit to Wharram Percy. It’s £2 for parking unless you’re an English Heritage member (which we are). It’s a 3/4 mile walk there which is mainly downhill although that means uphill on the way back. It’s mainly a gentle slope, though, with just one slightly steeper part.
You’ll then cover a bit more ground wandering round the site itself which is a bit hilly, as you can see on one of the photos below. It’s a lovely walk with lots of wildflowers and pretty countryside to look at as well as the remains of the site, although I realised after I got home that I’d only taken photos of the intact buildings and not the ‘footprints’.
My daughter now has an idea for a story inspired by Wharram Percy. It’s actually quite a brilliant idea and made me excited for her when she mentioned it. I just wish she’d get beyond chapter 1! She has started writing so many stories then abandoned them because it takes too much effort. Probably not going to follow in my footsteps!