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Dispossess the swain
January 22, 2008 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Wharram Percy [1996 vintage Web] was a Yorkshire Wolds village that survived for more than a millennium before being suddenly depopulated. Was it plague, Viking raids or William the Conqueror's Harrying of the North that drove the people from the land? No, it seems it was the sheep. The main link provides an overview of some of the findings about the village and medieval English peasant life [BBC radio programme] emerging from the decades of archaeological research into Wharram Percy.
posted by Abiezer (16 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is Harold's work, no doubt.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:18 AM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Oh no, Horace, you cheeky young scamp thee, 'twas Maurice Beresford, God rest 'im.
posted by Abiezer at 11:26 AM on January 22, 2008


Intereresting stuff. Land clearances of smallholders and tenant farmers would become increasingly common in the ensuing centuries and would provide the Americas with waves of colonists (some of whose descendents would pretty much invent the industrial revolution, so yay us). But these unfortunates were a little early for that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:28 AM on January 22, 2008


Another victory for the enclosure movement.
posted by rdone at 11:38 AM on January 22, 2008


Wasn't there a Python (Monty) bit about killer sheep?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:58 AM on January 22, 2008


That's a really interesting story. Thanks Abiezer. Reminds me of many an hour spent watching Time Team back in the day.

There were quite a few bits of the story linked as "the sheep" that made me laugh.

Archaeologists think that the last inhabitant of Wharram Percy was either a vagrant or an inhabitant who refused to move out, who was killed when a dilapidated house collapsed on him whilst he slept.

This is why being a knee-jerk contrarian is bad. Sometimes everybody is running away for a reason. See also: every time a volcano has been predicted to go off and then the eruption is delayed a few days.

The church still had a roof and was in a good state of repair until 1949 when a robber stole the lead from the roof.

"Eh, excuse me, where are you going with that roof?"
"What roof?"
"The one you're carrying."
"Oh! That roof! Nowhere really. Just taking it for a brisk walk, its morning constitutional."
"Morning constitutional?! But it's one o'clock at night!"
"Well, y'see, this is an Australian roof. It's morning for it."
"I see. Well alright then. Cheerio pip pip!"
"Have a nice one."

On one wall of the house is a sign saying "Wharram," which was taken from the nearby railway station in the 1940s, when all road and station signs across Britain were removed to confuse a possible German invasion force.

"Oh no! Ve have run into ze sea. Ve thought ve vere going to London but ve just vent over the cliffs of Dover!"
posted by Kattullus at 11:59 AM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't quite decide whether we're despicable as a species for doing things like stealing important parts of historical relics (or using stone from ancient monuments to erect the equivalent of an era's McDonalds) so that the relic is lost, or whether it's nature's brilliant way of ensuring renewal and rebirth.

I lean towards despicable, but there you have it.
posted by maxwelton at 12:09 PM on January 22, 2008


I've spoken to many Europeans who stole metal after WWII because they would have starved to death without the money from the copper/lead/whatever. So there's that to consider too.
posted by stinkycheese at 12:17 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


George_Spiggott: [American colonists,] some of whose descendents would pretty much invent the industrial revolution, so yay us

George - that's really interesting, as here we're taught that the Industrial Revolution began in Britain (with Ironbridge lauded as its birthplace). When the US is mentioned at all, it's more about societies with lots of cheap labour not having such a pressing need for mechanisation. Is teaching on the IR significantly different over there? What's the American equivalent of Ironbridge?
posted by Leon at 12:32 PM on January 22, 2008


You fuck one sheep.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:00 PM on January 22, 2008


Leon, no doubt you're you're right; it was really just a throwaway remark, which can be safely ignored, inspired by all the people of Scottish descent (see Highland Clearances) who seem to have been busy inventing things during the industrial revolution. Not the product of assiduous research, more raw boosterism.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:32 PM on January 22, 2008


Pity; I was hoping the US equivalent was going to be all about railways across the continent.
posted by Leon at 4:22 PM on January 22, 2008


Actually, my teachers heavily emphasized Lowell and its mills.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 5:00 PM on January 22, 2008


I was quite impressed by Jan de Vries' concept of the "industrious revolution," but I'm very much an amateur in these things.
posted by Abiezer at 5:05 PM on January 22, 2008


Good post, thanks.
posted by flummox at 6:19 PM on January 22, 2008


Land clearances of smallholders and tenant farmers would become increasingly common in the ensuing centuries and would provide the Americas with waves of colonists (some of whose descendents would pretty much invent the industrial revolution, so yay us). But these unfortunates were a little early for that.

What did America do to them to make them leave for Manchester?
posted by vbfg at 1:37 AM on January 23, 2008


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