Monument record MYO4221 - St. Helen-on-the-Walls


Founded in the late 10th century as a single cell church, it was gradually enlarged over the next 5 centuries, but even in its final phase was only a two-cell plan of nave and chancel. Demolished in circa 1550. The church and over 800 graves have been excavated.


Grid reference SE 6065 5212 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (3)

Full Description

Five stages in the development of the church were recorded through excavation in 1973-4 by York Archaeological Trust.

The first church
Overlay a Roman townhous eof the 4th century, although on a different alingnement, and little survived between the Roman layers and the earliest church. The building was rectangular, measuring about 7m x 6m externally, with wall footing composed of re-used Roman masonry with a floor of thick white mortar. Dating is slender but the structure should probably be assigned to the 10th century.

The second church
The early single cell structure was enlarged by the addition of a rectangular chancel during the 12th century. This measured 6m by 5m externally and had footing, slightly narrower than those of the nave, composed or irregular limestone blocks. A succession of mortar and earth floors which accumulated during the period contained two sherds of Northern Gritty ware and a few sherds of Roman pottery.

The third church
The chancel was extended by 6m and the walls of the nave rebuilt on broader foundations. A number of ashlar blocks found in situon the fottings of the east wall of the old chancel were probably the remains of steps or the base of the rood screen. No floor levels survived.

The fourth church
All but the south and west walls of the nave were demolished in the late 14th and 15th centuries when a rectangualr church meeasuring 19m by 10m was built. This probably had a door on the south side of the chancel and a bellcote or doorway at the west end. It encroached on the graveyard north-west of the third church, destroying a charcoal burial and several other graves. It may be the church referred to in 1424 wich a suffragan bishop of York was instructed to reconsecrate.

The fifth church
In the 15th century the church was extended3m to the west towards an artificual ditch or depession containing timber buildings of the Anglo Scandinavian period. The old west wall was destroyed and part of the north wall possibly rebuilt. This church remained in use until 1550 and parts still standing in 1580.

NMR Information

1 The church of St Helen-on-the-Walls, Aldwark Published for the York Archaeological Trust 1980 by J R Magilton
2 VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION The Cemetery of St Helens-on-the-Walls, Aldwark (York Archaeological Trust 12/1)

Related Events
635654 Excavation ALDWARK (EBOR BREWERY)

NMR, NMR data (Unpublished document). SYO2214.

York Archaeological Trust, 1986, The Archaeology of York, Fascicule 6/1 (Serial). SYO67.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: NMR. NMR data.
  • --- Serial: York Archaeological Trust. 1986. The Archaeology of York, Fascicule 6/1. 6/1.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (4)

Record last edited

Nov 10 2020 4:12PM


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