Hawthorn Hedge under attack

Outside our apartment in Norbiton Hall, we have gardens, with trees, bushes and shrubs, flowers and lawns, making it a pleasant place to live.

Around the grounds we also have hedge rows mostly of hawthorn, and as long as it is cut and trimmed adds something to the ambience of the properties.
Hawthorn Hedge covered with web

Hawthorn Hedge covered with web

But, in the last couple of days, the hawthorne hedge has come under attack, from a hoard of black caterpillars.

They seem to have covered the hawthorn hedge with a thick covering of silky web, and beneath, the leaves are being eaten, leaving bare stalks.
Hawthorn Hedge under attack

Hawthorn Hedge under attack

Hawthorn Hedge caterpillar

Hawthorn Hedge caterpillar

Hawthorn Hedge cluster of caterpillars

Hawthorn Hedge cluster of caterpillars

What are these caterpillars?
What do they become?
Will the hawthorn hedge die?
Anyone any ideas please? Please leave a comment posting.

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