Depopulated England. Visual Evidence

Visual evidence shows English buildings derelict and overgrown in the 18th century. Vegetation grows from the upper edges of walls and roofs. How? Thu 11 November 2021


Boxgrove Priory in 1737 Source: RareOldPrints

Boxgrove Priory (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

Notice anything?

Hint: pay attention to the vegetation growing high on the ruins:

What happened? Source: The Ships of Heaven

More English ruins from the 17th and the 18th centuries sampled from Rare Old Prints' 'Abbeys' collection:


1774: Basinwerk Abbey. Source: RareOldPrints

And 31 years later:

1807: Basinwerk Abbey. Source: RareOldPrints

Basinwerk Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1783: Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire. Source: RareOldPrints

And 48 years later:


1831: Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire. Source: RareOldPrints

Haughmond Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1776: Dryburgh Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Dryburgh Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1784 Chapel of St Pancras Canterbury St Pancrace.jpg

1784: Chapel of St Pancras, St Agatha's, Canterbury Source: RareOldPrints

St Agatha's, Canterbury (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1785: Cleve Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 59 years later:

1844: Cleve Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Cleve Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1786: Haverford West Priory Source: RareOldPrints

Haverford West Priory (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1786: Byland Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 20 years later:

1806 Byland Abbey_P13234.jpg

1806: Byland Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 42 years later:

1848 Byland Abbey_P5482.jpg

1848: Byland Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Byland Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1860: Bayham Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Bayham Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1787-06-19 Burnham Abbey 2 Grose.jpg

1787: Burnham Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Burnham Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1800s Kirkstall Abbey.jpg

1800s: Kirkstall Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

1804: Kirkstall Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 30 years later:

1834: Kirkstall Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

How did so much soil move into Kirkstall Abbey's cellar?

Kirkstall Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1801 Castle Acre Priory_P25383.jpg

1801: Castle Acre Priory Source: RareOldPrints

Castle Acre Priory (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1803: Cerne Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Cerne Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1805: Dunstable Priory Church Source: RareOldPrints

Why is the ground in front of Dunstable Priory's main arch so uneven?

Dunstable Priory Church (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1807: Easby Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And five years later:

1812: Easby Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 39 years later:

1851 Easby Abbey.jpg

1851: Easby Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Easby Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1800: Beaulieu Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 20 years later:

1820: Beaulieu Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Beaulieu Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1824: Bildewas Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

1824 Bildewas Abbey P19824.jpg

1824: Bildewas Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Bildewas/Buildwas Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1829 Bolton Abbey Choir.jpg

1829: Bolton Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 21 years later:

Bolton Abbey P27534.jpg

1850s: Bolton Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Bolton Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1773: Tintern Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 27 years later:

1780: Tintern Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And four years later:

1784: Tintern Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

And 20 years later:

1804: Tintern Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Undergrowth or soil piled up in front of the arch on the right? If it's soil, how did it get there?

And 26 years later:

Tintern Abbey post-1830 perhaps image23.png

1830s: Tintern Abbey Source: RareOldPrints

Tintern Abbey (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

1778 St Marys Abbey York_P24729.jpg

1778: St Marys Abbey, York Source: RareOldPrints

Undergrowth or soil piled up to the right of the people? If it's soil, how did it get there?

And 66 years later:

1844 York St Marys Abbey.jpg

1844: St Marys Abbey, York Source: RareOldPrints

St Mary's Abbey, York (Google Maps), (Google Streetview), (OpenStreetMap), (Flickr images)

"Various states of disrepair..." in 18th century Leicestershire. Source: Pugin's Radical Restoration of St Mary's Wymeswold, Leicestershire


South Gate. 1785. Source: Rye, East Sussex

In Rye's case, we're given a narrative.

From Rye, East Sussex:

the sea and the river combined in about 1375 to destroy the eastern part of the town and ships began use the current area (the Strand) to unload their cargoes. Two years later (1377), the town was sacked and burnt by the French, and it was ordered that the town walls be completed as a defence against foreign raiders.

Something about the sea and Rye's river - the Rother - changed in around 1375. And shortly after that, french invaders burned the town. Shortly after that, new walls were built. Which became ruined and overgrown some decades before 1785. Ruined and overgrown despite the town allegedly being a populated, well-located port on the other side of the English Channel from various wars on mainland Europe.

Locations of places imaged in this piece.

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