There are many wonderful villages and towns to explore here in the UK. Did you know that over 3000 medieval villages have been lost? What happened to them all? How could what were once thriving settlements disappear?
A few lost villages have the odd ruin to show they were once there. Quite often, that can be a ruined church, often the last thing to be pulled down or the materials used elsewhere.
Why are there so many lost villages?
In some cases, disaster has struck. There have been many settlements along the coast that have literally fallen into the sea. That is still happening today with coastal erosion. In Suffolk, Easton Bavents has been washed away by the sea. The last three remaining terraced houses were finally demolished in 2020 before they went over the cliff edge. This was a village recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. This was once a place of some importance; it had been granted a weekly market charter in the 14th century.
In more recent times, some villages have been lost in the name of progress. This happened when reservoirs were built, and entire villages were destroyed and buried under water. I used to live in Derbyshire, where the villages of Ashopton and Derwent had to make way for the Ladybower Reservoir. In 2022 we experienced a drought which brought out many YouTubers to explore the exposed floor of Ladybower and the exposed foundations of the villages, including some super old bridges that have survived around 80 years of being under water.
Some villages also lost out to the military when the land was required for the British Army to use as training grounds for the world wars. In Wiltshire, the village of Imber is one such example. The church is the only building that was spared, and a former resident's last funeral to be held there has recently taken place. The Army allows occasional open days, and a fleet of vintage coaches takes those wishing to visit.
There are also villages where the landowner decided they didn’t want people living on their often newly acquired land. Close to my home, there are the lost villages of Rowley and Wittenham. Thomas Hungerford built Farleigh Hungerford Castle and wanted the land to be a deer park. That seemed to start the decline but not complete destruction. Over a period of time, it became abandoned, and all that is left are some lumps and bumps in the fields.
On Brownsea Island (off the coast of Poole, Dorset), an entire village, Maryland, was lost when the new owner Lady Mary Bonham-Christie closed down most of the employment on the island. The redundant workers had to return to the mainland, and the village was abandoned within the same year. The village was later demolished.
Quite often, it is employment or, rather, a lack of it that has caused the demise of a village. People need work, and if opportunities arise to escape poverty by moving to another village or town, people will take them. Many lost villages result from people not being able to live there anymore if they were to survive.
Do you have a lost village near you? Let me know in the comments.
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I've walked to one of the villages on the Isle of Skye. It was destroyed deliberately to clear the people for the landowners' sheep, in the Highland Clearances. Little trace remains. Tragic.
Very interesting stuff that Roland, would love to read some more about those that have disappeared.