What is a Deserted Medieval Village (DMV)?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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A deserted medieval village or DMV is a ghost settlement, an abandoned location where partially erected houses and crop marks remain but inhabitants have long moved on to other places. England ranks number one in the world for its number of DMVs; at last count, it was estimated that over 3,500 DMV were spread around the country.

The term DMV may be misleading, as not all deserted villages date from medieval times. Some settlements were abandoned as late as 1950, while others have been deserted since the 5th century. One of the world's most famous DMV is Wharram Percy in Yorkshire, England. Wharram Percy was the focus of an extensive archaeological investigation that spanned over forty years. Only the ruins of a church are clearly visible aboveground, although the surrounding landscape clearly shows the layout of the original village.


There are many reasons why a DMV became deserted. Many medieval settlements were forcibly abandoned when the local aristocracy decided that landscaped gardens were more important that\n the local inhabitants, and thus forced thousands of residents to move on and rebuild somewhere else. The Black Plague is responsible for most of the DMVs dating from the 14th century, as the epidemic caused a great and speedy decline of the population in England. Many settlements that survived the plague were then evacuated to make space for sheep pastures and soil exploitation. Many DMVs were deserted due to flooding or intense soil erosion that ruled out farming and agriculture.

DMV hunting is a popular pastime in England. Every year, thousands of people go around the country looking for the lost villages, anxious to photographically document a magnificent example of the country's heritage.

While DMVs are most common in England, other countries have their fair share of them as well. Romania boasts an impressive array of DMVs, especially around Transylvania, although many of these settlements were only abandoned over the last two hundred years. Ghost towns are the American equivalent to DMV, with most abandoned settlements dating back to the Gold Rush era. Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California have over 100 ghost towns, many of which attracts thousands of tourists every year.


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