Monument record MYO1078 - ST MARY'S ABBEY REMAINS CHURCH

Summary

The now ruined St Mary's Abbey was originally founded as the minster of St Olave at Galmanho before 1055, but had been re-established by 1068 as a Benedictine monastery as part of an exchange of land between the Archbishop of York and monk Stephen of Whitby. The plan of the Norman church and some of the claustral buildings were revealed in excavations in the 1820s. Following a visit by William Rufus circa 1086-9, the church was found to be too small for the brethren and William granted land adjacent to the church to expand the abbey. A new church was built and rededicated to St Mary. It was the first monastic establishment founded in Yorkshire after the Conquest and became one of the wealthiest abbeys of the order. The monastery also had a mitred Abbot who sat in the House of Lords. In 1539 the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII and acquired by the Crown for the northern headquarters of the King's Council; subsequently the land was used as private gardens as part of the King’s Manor. The Yorkshire Philosophical Society acquired the gardens in 1828 in advance of construction of the Yorkshire Museum on the site in 1830. The gardens were landscaped by architect Sir John Murray Naysmith and opened to the public in 1835. The chief portions remaining are the late 13th century north aisle with arcading and traceried windows, the adjoining west wall and doorway, most of the 13th century precinct wall, towers and gatehouse. The present hospitium is a modern restoration.

Location

Grid reference SE 5988 5214 (point)
Map sheet SE55SE
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire

Map

Type and Period (8)

Full Description

Formerly known as: Remains of St Mary's Abbey MUSEUM GARDENS. Abbey church, now ruined. 1089, 1270-94. Magnesian limestone incorporating some re-used Roman gritstone. PLAN: 8-bay nave, 3-bay transepts, 9-bay east arm, all aisled: central tower originally. EXTERIOR: east arm: base courses of buttressed east end and north wall exposed. Transepts: to north transept, base courses of east wall and fragment of north wall and buttress exposed. To south transept, base courses of east wall and buttresses survive; lower courses of west wall visible including buttress with moulded bases of triple attached angle shafts. South-west buttress now contained in basement of the Tempest Anderson Hall (qv). Nave: north side on bold plinth, articulated by 2-stage buttresses. Bay towards western end contains moulded doorway with 2-centred arch springing from piers of alternately attached and detached shafts with decayed capitals, beneath hoodmould on stops: on each side are narrow pointed blind arches. Windows similarly arcaded with alternately 2- or 3-light arched windows, originally with traceried heads, flanked by recessed pointed blind arches. Arcade carried on detached shafts, mostly missing, with stiff-leaf capitals, largely decayed, the outer sides dying into flanking walls: window mullions originally multi-shaft piers with moulded capitals, now decaying. Sillstring below windows. On south side, lower courses of 5 bays and fragments of buttresses with splayed angles and triple engaged shafts are visible. West front: on moulded plinth, buttressed and arcaded in three tiers of trefoiled blind arches springing from tripled shafts with moulded or foliate capitals under crocketed gables. North side of west door arch survives, of 5 orders, one attached, four detached, enriched with vine trail mouldings. Decayed north jamb only of the west window survives. Remains of 3-light west window to north aisle had moulded arch on jambs of engaged shafts and with moulded soffit. INTERIOR: east end: plan of church of 1089 set out in stonework on the ground. North aisle bays articulated by lowest courses of triple engaged shafts rising from wall bench. East respond of north arcade has five filleted or keeled shafts. On south side lower courses of four arcade piers of octofoil plan with filleted and keeled shafts
reconstructed. Crossing: north-west pier asymmetrical on plan intact to springing height, with multiple filleted and keeled shafts, moulded bases and stiff-leaf capitals. Remaining three piers rebuilt to height of 5 courses. North transept: lower courses and vestiges of wallbenches of two north bays of west wall survive: both bays arcaded in two pointed arches with hoodmoulds, each over twin subsidiary arches springing from shafts, now missing, with moulded capitals and with moulded uncusped roundel in the spandrel. Third bay has 2-centred arch of 3 moulded orders to nave north aisle. Above, one bay of triforium survives, with 2-centred arch of 2 orders over blind arcade of 4 trefoiled lights and quatrefoil tracery. South jamb of middle bay window has 3 engaged shafts with decaying moulded capitals and bases. Nave arcades: of north arcade, nothing survives: of south arcade, base courses of one octofoil pier with one trefoiled shaft towards south aisle. West responds are multiple shafted, keeled and filleted, and with triple roll-moulded bases and foliate capitals. North aisle wall is articulated by full-height triple engaged shafts with moulded bases and foliate capitals. Each bay arcaded as for north transept, with tripled arches rather than two: north doorway blocked with railings, incorporated in arcading, has stilted segmental rere-arch beneath hoodmould to inner face. In westernmost bay is plain blocked doorway to vice. In upper stage, external window detailing repeated on inside. South aisle wall survives only in base courses of 3 bays, fragments of wallbench, flight of door steps and base of one triple shafted pier. West end: west doorway flanked by 2-arched arcades as in north transept and by single trefoiled arches as on exterior of west end. Scheduled Ancient Monument. (An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York: RCHME: Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse: HMSO London: 1975-: 8-12).
Listing NGR: SE5988752148

Derived from English Heritage LB download dated: 22/08/2005

Little is known of the abbey precinct between the end of the Roman period and the
foundation of St Mary’s Abbey in the late 11th century. In the Anglo-Scandinavian period
(c 866–1066) it is thought that the precinct was the site of Earlsburh, referred to in the Anglo-
Saxon Chronicle in connection with Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who died in 1055. He
was buried in the nearby church of St Olaf in Marygate which he is said to have founded.
During excavations of 1952–56, George Wilmott claimed to have found some Anglian potsherds
including one of Ipswich ware; in addition, there was 9th-century metalwork, notably
a strap-end, pin, buckle and ring.
St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1088 on land given to monks of the Benedictine Order
by William II. The plan of the Norman church and some of the claustral buildings were
revealed in excavations in the 1820s. In the 13th century came major rebuilding campaigns
under Simon de Warwick and there was later renewal and expansion of the surrounding
buildings and infrastructure. Dissolution in the 16th century reduced much of the abbey
structure; subsequently the land was used as private gardens as part of the King’s Manor
complex. The Yorkshire Philosophical Society acquired the gardens in 1828 in advance of
construction of the Yorkshire Museum on the site in 1830. The gardens were landscaped by
architect Sir John Murray Naysmith and opened to the public in 1835. In 1960 the gardens
and abbey site passed into the trust of the City of York Council, and it became a free public
park. Since 2002 the Museum Gardens site has been managed by York Museums Trust.
At least three major phases of excavation have occurred within the Abbey Church:
in 1828–29 by Charles Wellbeloved in advance of the construction of the Yorkshire Museum;
in 1901–2 by Walter Brierly who identified the earlier Norman phase in the N transept; and
in 1912–14 by Walter Harvey Brook and Edwin Ridsdale Tate. (YMT 2015)

NMR Information:

[SE 59945217] Remains of St. Mary's Abbey [G.T.]
Benedictine, founded AD 1088-9)
[SE 5976 5204] Tower [G.T.]
[SE 5984 5206] The Hospitium [G.T.]
[SE 5998 5234] Tower [G.T.]
Abbey Wall [G.T.] [4 places]
[SE 5994 5228] Tower [GT] (1)

St. Mary's Abbey of Benedictine Monks was founded 1098-9. Extensive remains include the church nave, most of the 13th century precinct wall, towers and gatehouse. The present hospitium is a modern restoration. A scheduled ancient monument. (2-4)

The remains of the abbey and precint wall are in a good state of preservation. GPs AO.63.111.4 and AO.63.111.5 show the North and North West aspects of the abbey church,GP.AO.63.111.6 shows the SW aspect of the precinct wall and tower at SE 5998 5234,and GP AO63. 111.7 shows the remains of the gateway from the S.E. (5)

The remains of the Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary are the ruins of a Bendictine Abbey. The first monastic establishment found in Yorkshire after the Conquest. Refounded in 1098 by William Rufus and dedicated by him. It became one of the wealthiest Abbeys of the Order and had a mitred Abbot who sat in the House of Lords. Monks from St.Mary's founded Fountains Abbey. The chief portions remaining are the late C13 north aisle with arcading and traceried windows, the adjoining west wall and doorway, and extensive foundations. The richly carved late Norman vestibule to the Chapter House and the calefactory fireplace exist in situ under the Tempest Anderson Hall of the Yorkshire Museum (q.v.). A.M. (RCHM Vol IV, Monument 4).
(6)

St. Mary's Abbey SCHEDULED York- SE 601523.
St. Mary's Abbey " " " precinct wall. (7)

Listed. (8,9)

After the Dissolution, part of the complex was retained for use as an administrative centre of the Council of the North,and remained so until 1641. (10)

1 Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 1:250 1961.
2 A history of Yorkshire: the city of York 357-60 edited by P M Tillott
3 Medieval religious houses : England and Wales 82 by David Knowles and R Neville Hadcock
4 VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION 106 List Ancient Monuments 1961 (Ministry of Works)
5 Field Investigators Comments F1 RL 04-JUN-63
6 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest DOE (HHR) City of York, North Yorkshire, June 1983, 31-32, 249-250
7 List of ancient monuments in England: Volume 1, Northern England; Volume 2, Southern England; Volume 3, East Anglia and the Midlands by Department of the Environment, Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings London
8 Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England Part 32 North Yorkshire (May 1987) English Heritage
9 Medieval religious houses in England and Wales 82,487 by David Knowles and R Neville Hadcock
10 The history of the King's Works, volume 4 : 1485-1660 (Part 2) 355-64 by H M Colvin ... [et al]

Related event: (UID 613515) INVESTIGATION BY RCHME/EH ARCHITECTURAL SURVEY
Architectural Survey
14-NOV-1995 - 14-NOV-1995


YAT, 1987-88, INTERIM 12, 12/1 p8 (Serial). SYO39.

Bertram Hyde Ltd, 2005, St. Mary's Precinct Conservation Management Plan (Unpublished document). SYO1736.

York Museums Trust, 2015, Shallow suprises: Excavations in the ruins of St Marys Abbey (Article in Journal). SYO1895.

York Museums Trust, 2015, South Bowling Green, Museum Gardens (Unpublished document). SYO1796.

Sources/Archives (4)

  • --- Unpublished document: Bertram Hyde Ltd. 2005. St. Mary's Precinct Conservation Management Plan.
  • --- Unpublished document: York Museums Trust. 2015. South Bowling Green, Museum Gardens.
  • --- Article in Journal: York Museums Trust. 2015. Shallow suprises: Excavations in the ruins of St Marys Abbey.
  • --- Serial: YAT. 1987-88. INTERIM 12. 12/1 p8.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (14)

Record last edited

Sep 9 2021 3:36PM

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