Deserted medieval village (DMV) sites are former settlements which have been abandoned over the centuries, usually leaving little but the remains of earthworks or a lonely Church. There are believed to be more than 3,000 in England alone. However, not all sites are medieval; villages reduced in size or disappeared over a long period, from as early as Anglo-Saxon times to as late as the 1960s.
Aside form natural processes such as coastal erosion, rivers changing course or flooding, various social and economic factors have contributed to village abandonment over the centuries.
Many were thought to have been abandoned as a result of the deaths of their inhabitants from the Black Death of the mid-14th century. Whilst the plague greatly hastened the population decline and undoubtedly did result in some village abandonments, most DMVs actually seem to date from the 15th-16th centuries and the period of ‘enclosure’. This change of land use by landowners to take advantage of the profitable wool trade led to hundreds of villages being deserted.
Later the aristocrat’s enthusiasm for fashionable grand country mansions, parks and landscaped gardens led to whole villages being moved or destroyed to enable lords of the manor to satisfy the vogue – a process known as enclosure.
Between about 1760 and 1835 a second period of enclosures parliamentary enclosures resulted in bigger, more efficient farms and small farmers were driven from the land and into the emerging big cities.
The notorious Highland Clearances led to a major depopulation of parts of Scotland during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Elsewhere, government demands for land have led to 19th and 20th century village abandonments. These include the open cast mining industry, construction of reservoirs and the establishment of large military training areas
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