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Did a Hail Storm Destroy an English Village?


Thorpe in the Glebe, a lost medieval village in Nottinghamshire, holds a mysterious and folklore-laden history.

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The village’s name derives from the Danish word ‘torp’. This means its status as a subsidiary settlement or farmstead dependent on a larger village. Situated south of Wysall, near the Leicestershire border, Thorpe in the Glebe faced a fate of abandonment and depopulation. It left behind intriguing remnants of its past.

Domesday

When the Domesday Book was compiled in 1086 for William the Conqueror, Thorpe in the Glebe was already recorded as waste land. There was no population mentioned. It appeared that the area had been deserted at that time and subsequently resettled, acquiring the name Thorpe Regis or King’s Thorpe. By the 14th century, a church was erected in the village, leading to its new name, Thorpe in the Glebe.

However, the village faced challenging times due to climatic changes and the devastating impact of the Black Death in the 1340s. These events significantly affected Thorpe in the Glebe, as they did many other settlements.

Thorpe
The ghostly mounds where houses once stood are all that’s left.

Poor harvests caused by climatic shifts were followed by the outbreak of the plague. This claimed the lives of approximately 40 percent of the national population. Such calamities would have undoubtedly dealt a severe blow to the village’s prosperity.

Failed Crops

Depopulation became a significant issue for Thorpe in the Glebe, as well as nearby Stanton on the Wolds and other settlements in the region. The reduction in able-bodied men contributed to the decline of these communities. Evidence suggests that Thorpe in the Glebe began transitioning from crop cultivation to sheep rearing by 1440, indicating a shift towards a more agrarian economy.

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As a result, the village saw a decline in the number of dwellings, with only a handful remaining.

Great Balls of Ice

Folklore surrounding the village’s demise offers two popular explanations. One suggests that Thorpe in the Glebe was destroyed by a hailstorm.

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According to this narrative, a violent hailstorm of exceptional magnitude struck the village. It was said to have caused severe damage to its buildings and infrastructure. The storm was said to have been so relentless and destructive that the villagers were unable to rebuild. This is said to have lead to the ultimate abandonment of the settlement.

Map
A survey map of Thorpe. The only remaining buildings are in red.

Another links its fate to the Civil War battle at Willoughby Field in 1648. However, the Wolds Historical Organisation challenges both of these theories.

The first explanation is deemed improbable as the damaged houses would have been rebuilt, while the second is impossible because the village had been deserted for nearly two centuries by the time of the Civil War.

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Instead, the organisation suggests that the decline and eventual disappearance of the settlement were more likely due to depopulation followed by enclosure.

Today, Thorpe in the Glebe exists as a civil parish, encompassing the remnants of the lost medieval village. Its story, shrouded in folklore and speculation, serves as a reminder of the transient nature of human settlements and the impact of historical events on local communities.

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