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Archive for September, 2007

Hound Tor 2

Friday, September 14th, 2007

DSC_0024.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

The reason for the famine was that the weather was atrocious. All through the summer it rained and rained, both in 1315 and 1316, and the harvest was very poor. Not only was there little grain, the tiny amounts that could be harvested were unnutritious. What grain there was wouldn’t store well, but fell prey to various fungal infections.

In a vain attempt to improve it, the villagers built kilns to dry it. The idea was to gradually roast the grain so that all dampness was driven off. Modern research suggests that it would have been unsuccessful, though. For all their efforts, the villagers continued to starve until they left and went to the lowlands.

Hound Tor medieval village.

Friday, September 14th, 2007

DSC_0021.JPG, originally uploaded by michael_jecks.

There are few places which are quite so evocative as the medieval villages which were deserted in the fourteenth century. And there are many. Later, it was often because from about 1349 the places were denuded of people after the plague struck. Many vills lost over fifty percent of their folk in the space of a few weeks, and the places both weren’t viable, and held too many appalling memories for the poor devils who’d lived there. Some actually shut themselves off from the rest of the world, intentionally quarantining themselves as soon as plague appeared, so that they might not spread it to other places. The courage of such people is astonishing.

This wasn’t evacuated for that reason though. Hound Tor, high on the hills, was a moderately flourishing little vill, with its own dammed river, and many good sized houses. It was deserted in 1318 or so, almost certainly as a result of the devastation wrought by the Great Famine, which killed off so many people from 1315 to about 1321 that entire vills like this were unviable. The people died of starvation, or they fled to slightly more prosperous places, ekeing any sort of living they could.