On the outskirts of East Yorkshire is a mysterious place once home to a thriving medieval village.

Tucked away in a picturesque valley is a place that can take back in time.

The lost village of Wharram Percy was suddenly abandoned some 600 years ago but tantalising glimpses of the past remain.

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It is a perfect way to spend an afternoon walking down to the valley before coming across the remains of the medieval village.

The village, in the Yorkshire Wolds between Wetwang and Malton, was continuously occupied for about 600 years.

It was founded in the 9th or 10th century and flourished between the 12th and early 14th centuries, when members of the noble Percy family lived in the village.

But by the early 16th century it was almost deserted, as a result of gradual abandonment and forced evictions. Rumours it was ravaged by the plague or some other devastating disease appear wide of the mark.

Wharram Percy with the church and mill pond
Wharram Percy with the church and mill pond

The ruined church is the last standing medieval building. Around it are the grassed-over foundations of two manor houses and about 40 peasant houses and their outbuildings.

While the village we can see the remains of today was built in the 9 th or 10 th century, there was a settlement there as early as 50 BC. Part of this evolved into a larger farmstead which was abandoned in the 5th century.

You can trace the outlines of many lost houses on a grassy plateau above the substantial remains of the church and the millpond.

There is a car park at the top and a path taking you down into the valley and across an old railway line.

You cross a small stream and through another gate before walking uphill before the site of the village emerges.

To your right are the distinct outlines of the old peasant buildings and there are information boards dotted about telling you more about the residents of the village and the lives they led.

Down to the left are a number of trees and, during autumn, there is plenty of fruit to pick.

The village is even mentioned in the Domesday Book where it is referred to as Warran or Warron.

The name Percy comes from the family that owned the land during the Middle Ages.

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Since 1948 the settlement has been the focus of intensive research, which has made it Europe’s best-known deserted medieval village

There is a cottage which was built for agricultural labourers in the 19th century.

But it was used by archaeologists during the height of excavation works in the mid-20th century and became an area of great activity as the area’s secrets were unearthed.

Inside the medieval church at Wharram Percy
Inside the medieval church at Wharram Percy

Watch out though, there is a bee’s nest in here and the swarms can be quite large in summer.

Further on is the ruined medieval church and graveyard which still echoes of the past.

Beyond the church you will come to a lovely idyllic mill pond which you can walk around.

There was speculation the village disappeared after residents were decimated by the Black Death.

But, while the village was hit by the plague with some deaths likely, the real reason for the demise appears to be more mundane.

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After various personal tragedies within the Percy family, alongside attacks by the Scots at nearby Thixendale and the Peasants’ Revolt in the 14 th century, their grip on the village began to loosen.

The area was taken over from the Percy family by the Hyltons who decided sheep farming was more profitable than arable crops.

That meant much less labour was needed and, therefore, the villagers gradually disappeared.

But the legacy now left is a lovely area to visit rich in history and with plenty of countryside to enjoy.

The abandoned village of Wharram Percy
The abandoned village of Wharram Percy

You can stick around and soak up the history before heading back to the car park.

Alternatively, you can carry on through a kissing gate by the pond which takes you up further into the Wolds towards Thixendale and embark on an eight-mile circular walk.

The site is owned by English Heritage but access is free and open all year.

Getting there: - from Hull Head up Beverley Road and on to the A1079. Carry on the A1079 until you get to the Killingwoldgraves Roundabout and turn on to the A1035 towards Driffield which merges into the B1248.

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Keep to the B1248 all the way to Wetwang. Turn left on to York Road and, once through Wetwang, turn left back on to the B1248, following the signs for Malton. Keep going until you see the signs for Wharram Percy on the left.

Parking: There is parking at the top of Wharram Percy.

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