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The EMAS autumn study tour will be to Yorkshire. We will be based in the historic town of York, with its many interesting archaeological sites and medieval buildings.

Yorkshire has a magnificent range of archaeology, much of it set in beautiful countryside. Sites that we will visit include the Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications; the complex Roman site at Cawthorn; the early medieval church of St Gregory’s Minster, the important collection of Anglo-Scandinavian sculpture at Lythe; Medieval Castles and monastic houses and a host of other interesting sites of all periods.

Places for this study tour may be limited, so if you are interested we recommend that you fill in one of the forms at the bottom of this page to request further details either by email. or by post.

The Guide for this trip will be David Beard.

Richmond Castle


Monday, 1 November

Pick up at Madame Tussauds, Marylebone Rd
Repton Church and Viking overwintering site of 873

St. Wystan's Church is justly famous for its Anglo-Saxon crypt. The crypt was built in the 8th century and was constructed over a spring, which means that its original function might have been a baptistry.

It was later converted into a mausoleum for King Æthelbald of Mercia before his death in 757. Later, King Wiglaf (died 839) and his grandson Saint Wigstan (died c.849) were buried there.. After the burial of Wigstan, the crypt became a place of pilgrimage

In 873 the Viking Great Army overwintered in Repton. Having taken over the church the Vikings constructed a huge D-shaped enclosure. One side of this enclosure was defended by the river Trent, the other sides were defended by earthworks. The tower of the Anglo-Saxon church was used as a gatehouse.

Anchor Church

A recent survey carried out on the cave system known as Anchor Church suggests that it may be the former home of a ninth-century king, which would make it the United Kingdom's oldest intact domestic interior.

The work carried out by archaeologists from the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) and Wessex Archaeology indicates that this hermitage once housed Eardwulf, an exiled ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria.

Arrive York

Tuesday, 2 November

St James Church, Nunburnholme

The church has a Norman Nave and an Early English chancel both, alas thoroughly restored 1872 - 3. The west tower was rebuilt 1901 - 2.

However, it is not the church itself, that is the glory of this place, but the Anglo-Scandinavian cross shaft in the sanctuary. Pevsner describes it as "the most elaborate figural cross shaft in the East Riding". It was discovered when the south porch was demolished in 1872. It dates from the late 9th - early 10th centuries and displays a splendid seated warrior holding a Viking sword.

The village takes its name from a priory of Benedictine nuns which was situated at the opposite end of the village to the church. Now, only earthworks remain.

St Oswald's Church, Lythe

There has been a church at Lythe since at least the 13th century, although the present building is the result of extensive renovations in 1769, 1819, and 1910.

During the work on the tower in the early 20th century, a number of Anglo-Scandinavian carved stones were discovered, A selection of these stones are now displayed in a permanent exhibition, and the remaining stones are stored in the modern crypt.

It is obvious from these stones that there was an important Viking Age cemetery here, and it has been suggested that the churchyard contains some graves dating as far back as the 10th century.

Gisborough Priory

Gisborough Priory was founded by Robert I de Brus (c.1070-1142) as an Augustinian House following Rule of St Augustine, a set of principles attributed to St Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430).

The members of the priory were regular canons. The members of these communities were distinct from monks, whose lives were governed by the rather stricter Rule of St Benedict. Unlike monks, Augustinians were generally ordained priests and carried out duties beyond the walls of their priories.

The importance of Gisborough can be seen from the fact that Prior Cuthbert, who headed the priory from c. 1145 to 1154, was part of the delegation that travelled to Rome to oppose the appointment of William Fitzherbert as Archbishop of York.

Helmsley Castle

Helmsley was granted to Robert, Count of Mortain after the Norman conquest, but there is no evidence that he built a castle here. In 1120 Walter l'Espec contructed an earthwork and timber castle at Helmsley. This had double ditches surrounding a rectangular inner bailey.

In 1186 Robert de Ros started work on the stone castle. He built two main towers, the round corner towers and the main gateway on the south side of the castle before his death in 1227. The castle passed to his older son William, who built the chapel in the courtyard.

After William's death in 1258, his son, Robert inherited the castle. He built the new hall and kitchen, and strengthened the castle - which may have included the south barbican which was constructed between 1227 and 1285. He also constructed a wall dividing the castle into north and south sides, with the southern half for the private use of the lord's family.

St Gregory's Minster

The remarkable Saxon sundial on the church commemorates the rebuilding of the ruined church in c.1055. The inscription on the sundial reads as follows:


Orm Gamal suna bohte Sanctus Gregorius Minster ðonne hit wæs æl tobrocan and tofalan and he hit let macan newan from grunde Christe and Sanctus Gregorius in Eadward dagum cyning and in Tosti dagum eorl.

"Orm son of Gamal bought St Gregory's Minster when it was all ruined and collapsed and he caused it to be made new from the ground for Christ and St. Gregory in the days of Edward the King and in the days of Tosti the eorl."

Wednesday, 3 November

All day in York

The sites in York that we will visit include: St Mary's Abbey; Multangular Tower; Bootham Bar; Minster; Barley Hall; The Shambles; Merchant Adventurers' Hall; Clifford's Tower and the Jorvik Viking Centre. The actual order of the visit will depend on the time of our booking for Jorvik.

The Jorvik Viking Centre

The Jorvik Viking Centre stands on the site of the important Coppergate excavations carried out between 1976 and 1981. At the time, these were the most important Viking Age excavations to be carried out in England.

Following disastrous floods in December 2015, the Jorvik Viking Centre was totally restored. In April 2017, Jorvik reopened with an updated ride experience and state-of-the art galleries showcasing a unique collection of 1,000 year old artefacts.

Thursday, 4 November

Aldborough Roman Site

Isurium Brigantum, one of the northernmost urban centres of the Roman Empire was probably founded in the late first century or early second and was the administrative centre of the area.

Part of the Stone fortification remains visible, the rest of the structure can be seen as earthworks. There are two in situ Mosaics and a small museum on the site.

The Devil's Arrows

The Devil's Arrows are three standing stones in a NNW-SSE alignment. The tallest stone is 6.85 m high, the others being 6.7 m and 5.5 m. The stones are part of a wider Neolithic complex on the Ure-Swale plateau.

William Camden mentions four stones in his Britannia, noting that "one was lately pulled downe by some that hoped, though in vaine, to finde treasure."

Easby Abbey

Easby Abbey is one of the best-preserved monasteries in Britain of the Premonstratensian order. It was founded c. 1152 by Roald, constable of Richmond. After its suppression in 1536 the buildings rapidly lapsed into ruin, before becoming an object of interest for antiquarians and Romantic artists. The grandeur of the surviving buildings testifies to the success and wealth of the abbey.

There is some evidence to suggest that there was a religious community on the site before the abbey was founded. This was possibly an Anglian minster based on the existing church of St Agatha which would have been a college of priests responsible for serving the surrounding parishes.

Richmond Castle

Following William's harrying of the north, the borough of Richmond was given to Alan Rufus, of Brittany. He constructed a castle, which was in the form of a stone-built first floor hall, similar to the earliest phase of Chepstow Castle.

At the end of the 12th century Duke Conan IV of Brittany built a 30 m high keep, which unusually sits over the gatehouse.

In 1158 the Earldom of Richmond was seized by Henry II, who strengthened the castle by adding towers and a barbican.

Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications

Mortimer Wheeler's (1954) account of the history and excavation of these huge ramparts found that it was a centre of some importance to the Brigantians. His view was that it was the rebel stronghold of the Brigantian figure called Venutius, ex-partner of the Queen Cartimandua. Archaeologists who did further work here in the 1980s concluded that it was one of Cartimandua's "estates" - possibly even the original capital city of Brigantia.

The settlement was enlarged and fortified considerably upon the arrival of the Romans in the first century. There were three phases: the earliest Phase I area (Iron Age) covered just under 7 hectares; Phase II was extended to over 52 hectares; and Phase 3 extended the enclosure to nearly 243 hectares.

St Mary's Church, Thirsk

As Pevsner says: "Without question, this is the most spectacular Perpendicular church in the North Riding. Admittedly it cannot compete with the East Anglian Perp, but in its own county it stands out. It was begun in about 1430 and built into C 16 - the tower first (see the straight joints between its E buttresses and the aisle W walls), the chancel after the nave and aisles. The stimulus seems to have been the foundation of a chantry by Robert Thirsk, who died in 1419."

Friday, 5 November

Stamford Bridge

Stamford Bridge was the site of the "other" battle of 1066 when King Harold Godwinson and the English army fought against an invading Norwegian force led by King Harald Hardrada and Harold's brother Tostig Godwinson.

It is difficult to pinpoint the site of the battle, but as we pass through the town on our way to Duggleby Howe, we will make a brief stop. The famous inn sign recalls a legend that the bridge was held by a Viking swordsman who fought off all commers until an Anglo-Saxon crept under the bridge and stabbed him from below.

Duggleby Howe

Duggleby Howe is one of the largest round barrows in Britain, being 37 m in diameter. At some time in the past the top of the mound was levelled and at one time was used as the siting for a medieval post mill.

The barrow is set within a roughly circular enclosure, c. 370 m in diameter, which is formed from interrupted ditches, and is open to the south.

East of the barrow are two ring ditches, probably dating to the Bronze Age. One ring ditch is within the enclosure, the other is outside.

Rudston Monolith

The Rudston monolith is the tallest prehistoric standing stone in Britain, measuring almost 8 metres high, nearly 2 metres wide, a metre thick and estimated to weigh c.26 tons.

It is thought to have been quarried more than 10 miles away in the Cayton Bay area south of Scarborough, although the glacial transportation of a large block of stone that was then later utilised is also possible.

Danes' Dyke Sewerby

Danes' Dyke runs for 4km across the whole of the Flamborough Headland. The bank was constructed from earth, stacked turfs and chalk rubble, much of which would have come from the ditch.

Despite its name, Danes Dyke has no known association with the Vikings and is generally thought to be of prehistoric date.

The Priory Church of St Mary, Bridlington

The priory for Augustinian Canons Regular was founded c.1113 by Walter de Gant and is one of the earliest Augustinian houses in England. The site had formerly been a Saxon church and nunnery, and the newly formed priory had an adjoining convent.

The priory was favoured by royalty and nobility and soon owned lands across Yorkshire. King Stephen granted that the priory should have the right to have the property of felons and fugitives within the town and proceeds from the harbour.

The priory was dissolved in 1538 and the church is now the parish church.

Cawthorn Roman Camp

The monument includes the remains of two Roman forts, one of which has an attached annexe, a Roman camp and a section of medieval trackway. The whole complex is visible as a series of well preserved earthworks.

There are three major elements to the site: a camp of unusual polygonal design overlain by a later fort which is probably datable to the late first century AD and, to the east, a simple fort with an eastern annexe. The westernmost fort is typically square in shape with rounded corners and measures 175m across overall and is orientated north-east by south-west.

In earlier studies this group of sites was interpreted as a group of training and practice camps, although recent re-evaluation of the evidence suggests that permanent occupation of the main forts is more likely.

Saturday, 6 November

Leave York
Selby Abbey

Selby Abbey was founded by Benedict of Auxerre in 1069, and was constructed by the de Lacy family.

In 1256 the Abbey was bestowed with the grant of a Mitre by Pope Alexander IV and thus became a "Mitred Abbey". It lost this distinction a number of times, but its status was confirmed by Archbishop William Greenfield, and Selby remained a "Mitred Abbey"until until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Selby Abbey now functions as the Parish church and is thus one of the relatively few surviving abbey churches of the medieval period.

Mattersey Priory

The Priory was established in 1185 by Roger FitzRalph of nearby Mattersey for the Gilbertine Order, which was the only monastic order to have originated in England.

The Order was founded by St Gilbert at Sempringham, Lincolnshire, between 1131 and 1148. It was originally for women, but also had lay sisters and brothers and canons to serve the spiritual needs of the community.

There were 26 Gilbertine monasteries, but only 11 housed both nuns and canons. Mattersey was a house of canons only, and its layout is similar to that of monasteries of the Augustinian Order, whose modified rule the canons adopted.

Mattersey Priory was suppressed in 1538 when the whole of the order was surrendered to the Crown.

St Mary Magdalene Church, Geddington

The church shows evidence of two phases of Anglo-Saxon build. In the late 12th century, the Anglo-Saxon north wall was pierced to create a north aisle. The south aisle was added in the 13th century.

The chancel was rebuilt in the 14th century and the tower, possibly originally built in the 12th century, was heighten in the 15th century. There are other 15th century alterations - mainly windows, and the church was partly restored in the 19th century and 1904-6.

Eleanor Cross, Geddinton

The twelve Eleanor Crosses were built 1291 and 1295 by Edward I in memory of his wife Eleanor of Castile who died in November 1290. The crosses mark the nightly testing places along the route taken when her body was transported to Westminster Abbey.

Only three of the crosses survive more or less intact -those at Geddington, Hardingstone and Waltham Cross. The others, apart from a few fragments, are lost.

The spectacular Geddington cross is the best of the surviving crosses and it is the only triangular one.

Arrive London Baker Street

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