University of Sheffield

Great Famine priest a great find for University of Sheffield

Mon 17 Apr 2017
By Aaron James

A university's found the 700-year-old remains of a priest who may have starved to death in the Great Famine.

Archaeologists at the University of Sheffield found the bones at Thornton Abbey in Lincolnshire, as well as the priest's gravestone.

It listed his name as Richard de W’Peton, thought to be abbreviated from Wisperton, and said he died on 17 April 1317 - exactly 700 years ago.

It also had inscribed on it the Bible verse Philipians 2:10: "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth."

Researchers at the University believe Richard de W’Peton was 35-45 years old when he died and stood at around 5 foot 4 inches tall.

University of Sheffield
Richard W'Peton's remains


Emma Hook, a PhD student who discovered the priest on a dig, said: "Although he ended his days in the priesthood, there is also some suggestion that he might have had humbler origins in more worldly work; his bones show the marks of robust muscle attachments, indicating that strenuous physical labour had been a regular part of his life at some stage.

“Nor had his childhood been easy; his teeth show distinctive lines known as dental enamel hypoplasia, indicating that his early years had been marked by a period of malnutrition or illness."

The team at Sheffield are now exploring to what extent Richard de W’Peton was affected by the Great Famine of 1315-1317, which killed millions of people across Europe, and whether his remains could shed more light on the period.

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