Lost villages in Malta

When consulting historical books or documents on Malta, it is not unusual to come across the unfamiliar names of villages which no longer exist. The list is a long one, probably in excess of 80 villages or hamlets but, apart from the occasional chapel and the odd building still standing, most have disappeared with, at best, only a few cisterns and limestone blocks to mark the spot where a community once lived and thrived.

The reasons for the disappearance of so many villages may be surmised partly from the geographical position of the Maltese Islands in centre of the Mediterranean, which  up to the end of the 16th century was a prey to Barbary corsairs and Islamic invaders, and partly from demographic movements brought about by economic and social changes.

Les villages disparus à Malte

Until the establishment of the Order of St John in Malta and the decisive defeat of the Ottoman invasion of 1565, Malta* was subjected to regular military and piratical forays in which coastal villages were often sacked  and most of the inhabitants carried into slavery. It was the exposure to such raids which must have persuaded the survivors to move to the comparative safety of  the larger villages on the higher ground of the island, not to mention the fortified towns of Birgu and Mdina.

The movements occurring after the 17th century are more likely explained by social progress in the larger villages, reflected by the improvement and expansion of churches, shops, taverns and medical facilities. These would undoubtedly have served as a magnet to young families seeking to escape the sparse or non-existing services within their tiny community

A few villages did not quite disappear but expanded instead and merged with others to form a larger village. Among these are Hal Dwin, Hal Mula and Hal  Muxi which form part of present day Zebbug. Others, though depopulated, are still accessible and bear physical evidence of their former existence. Hal Millieri is best known with its two intact chapels of the Annunciation, famous for its mediaeval murals, and St John the Evangelist. Hal Xluq, besides a functioning chapel, also boasts a farmhouse and a two-storied building, together with several wells marking the sites of former habitations. However, the vast majority of villages, particularly those deserted before 1419, have disappeared so completely that even their location is unknown.

Documentary evidence of many villages exists in the form of notarial documents and parish registers. The latter, if they existed locally, would have been transferred to the nearest parish when the village was abandoned. Siggiewi, for instance, holds the records of Hal Xluq in which it is still possible to trace the inhabitants of the village through their baptismal and marriage records.

Archaeological excavation is bound to throw more light on the nature and location of  the lost villages, and may also produce some evidence of the day to day life of their communities. Without a doubt, a visit to such as Bir Miftuh, Hal Millieri and Hal Xluq is an evocative and rewarding experience for anyone with any interest in Malta's rich past.

*Although Gozo also shared Malta's fate and indeed lost its entire population on at least one occasion, none of its villages seems to have disappeared possibly because, since most already occupied high ground, there was nowhere else to go. However evidence of a Neolithic settlement on Nuffara may indicate the presence of a continuing community and there could well be other such sites on the island.

Name of VillagePresumed LocationApproximate date of abandonmentNotes
Ħal Antun (Ħlantun) Żurrieq * before 1419  
Ħal Armanin Qrendi* / Mqabba* 1530-1800  
Ħal Arrig Ħal Extrême-Orient before 1419  
Ħal Bajda Ghaxaq before 1419  
Ħal Bajjada Rabat* before 1419  
Il-Baqqari* Żurrieq* 1419-1530  
Ħal Bettus   before 1419  
Il-Bidni* Marsaskala 1419-1530  
Ħal Binsignur   before 1419  
Bir Miftuħ* Gudja*    
Ħal Bisqallin Żejtun*   Survives as part of Żejtun
Ħal Biżbud Żejtun*   Survives as part of Żejtun
Ħal Bonakkurs   before 1419  
Ħal Bordi / Burdi Lija / Mosta* 1530-1800  
Ħal Brabar Ta' Qali before 1419  
Il-Bubaqra* Żurrieq*   Survives as part of Żurrieq
Ħal Dejf Naxxar* before 1419  
Ħal Dimekk Mosta* 1419-1530  
Ħal Dragu Mġarr* / Mosta* 1419-1530  
Ħal Dwin Żebbuġ   Survives as part of Żebbuġ
Ħal Far Ħal Far before 1419  
Ħal Farruġ Luqa 1530-1800  
Ħal Fuqani Tarxien / Luqa before 1419  
Ħal Ġawhar Gudja* / Marsaxlokk* before 1419  
Ħal Ġer Swieqi* before 1419  
Ħal Għabdirżeq / Għorab Ħal Far before 1419  
Ħal Għadir / Tmin Żejtun* / Marsaskala* 1419-1530  
Ħal Għaqrux Dingli / Siġġiewi* before 1419  
Ħal Ghanżur   before 1419  
Ħal Għattar Salina / Burmarrad* before 1419  
L-Għażara* Wardija / Burmarrad* 1419-1530  
L-Għemieri* Rabat* / Binġemma 1419-1530  
Ħal Għorab/Għabdirżeq (Massar) Ħal Far before 1419  
Ħal Għul Dingli / Baħrija* Għabdirżeq  
Ħal Ġwann Żejtun*   Survives as part of Żejtun
Ħal Ħanżira   before 1419  
Ħal Ħarrat St Thomas's Bay before 1419  
Ħal Hellul Tarxien / Żabbar* 1419-1530  
Ħal Ħobla Mosta* before 1419  
Judecca Mdina   Not a village but the Jewish Quarter of Mdina
Ħal Kalleja Mosta* 1530-1800  
Ħal Kaprat Attard 1419-1530  
Ħal Kbir Siġġiewi* 1530-1800  
Ħal Kirċipulli Ta' Qali before 1419  
Ħal Lew Żurrieq* / Qrendi* 1530-1800  
Ħal Mann Lija / Mosta* 1530-1800  
Il-Marikatu* St Paul's Bay / Wardija 1419-1530  
Ħal Massar (Għorab) Ħal Far before 1419  
Ħal Masur Fawwara before 1419  
Ħal Mellieħa Mellieħa before 1419 Resettled  after 1800
Ħal Millieri Żurrieq* / Mqabba* 1530-1800  
Ħal Miselmiet/Muselmiet Naxxar* before 1419  
L-iMsida* Msida* before 1419 Resettled  after 1800
Ħal Mula Żebbuġ   Survives as part of Żebbuġ
Ħal Muxi Żebbuġ   Survives as part of Żebbuġ
Ħal Niklusi Qrendi* before 1419  
Ħal Permut   before 1419  
Ħal Pessa Mġarr* / Mosta* 1419-1530  
Ħal Qadi Gudja* before 1419  
Ħal Qadim Żurrieq* before 1419  
Il-Qallelija* Binġemma 1419-1530  
Ħal Qdieri Siġġiewi* / Rabat* 1530-1800  
Ħal Risqun   before 1419  
Ħal Saflieni Tarxien 1530-1800  
Ħal Sajjied Birkirakara* 1419-1530  
Ħal Sajd Żabbar* / Marsaskala* before 1419  
Ħal Samudi / Sammut Madliena 1419-1530  
Ħal Sejjieħ Qrendi* before 1419  
Ħal Sir Mosta* 1530-1800  
Ħal Spital ou Ħas Saptan Gudja* / Birżebbuġa before 1419  
Ħal Tabuni Siġġiewi* 1419-1530  
Ħal Tartarni Dingli 1530-1800  
Ħal Temtem   before 1419  
Ħal Tigan Birkirakara* 1419-1530  
Ħal Tmin / Għadir Żejtun* / Marsaskala 1419-1530  
Ħal Xejba   before 1419  
Ħal Ximbir   before 1419  
Ħal Xluq Siġġiewi 1530-1800  

* These villages do not take the Ħal or Rahal prefix