Cemeteries of the Church and Priory of St Andrew, Fishergate


Cemeteries of the Church and Priory of St Andrew, Fishergate
list of authors
G. Stroud
R. L. Kemp
list of contributors
P. Watson
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Medieval Cemeteries [Volume]
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
Date Available
Digitally available on 6 October 2023
Excavations on the site of the former Redfearn National Glass factory at 46-54 Fishergate, York, took place between February 1985 and September 1986, in advance of redevelopment. In total, 449 separate deposits of human skeletal material were recorded which included 412 intact inhumations belonging to either the cemetery of the Church of St Andrew or the later Gilbertine Priory of the same dedication.

Of these 412 inhumations, 402 were examined in the laboratory. The following observations were made for each individual, where appropriate: bones present; preservation; age at death; sex and stature (if adult); various measurements and non-metric traits; dental and skeletal pathology. The results were then used to provide information on demography and disease, considering the skeletons as two separate burial populations: 131 individuals buried in the 11th/12th century cemetery, assumed to be that associated with the Church of St Andrew, and 271 individuals buried during the period of use of the priory, between approximately 1195 and 1538.

There were approximately equal numbers of males and females recovered from the earlier cemetery. Just over one-third of those buried had died before reaching adulthood; of those, over half had not survived beyond the age of five. There was a clear tendency for the younger children to be buried towards the western end of the excavated part of the cemetery. An unusually high number of males were thought to have died before the age of 30, some of whom were buried in double graves. On close examination, it was found that several of them, as well as other, older, individuals, showed evidence of unhealed blade injuries. In total, nineteen of the 48 males buried during this period appeared to have suffered a violent death.

The burials dating to the period of use of the priory showed a different demographic profile with fewer children and with just over three times as many males as females. There was also considerable variation across the site and through time. Most of the children were buried in the cemetery to the south of the church, while an area to the east, also outside the buildings, contained almost exclusively males and may, therefore, represent the canons' cemetery. Certain dental and skeletal anomalies suggested family groupings within the cloister alleys and the nave.

There was some evidence for different disease patterns occurring both chronologically and spatially on site. The frequency of dental caries, for example, was low in individuals from the earlier cemetery, well within the normal range for that time, whereas in the later period individuals buried within the monastic buildings were found to have a much higher number of carious teeth than those outside the walls. Evidence of iron-deficiency anaemia was significantly higher in females and children in both periods, while males and females appeared equally likely to fracture a bone during life. The burial of males who had suffered a violent death continued during the later period, and included one burial in the chapter house and three in the cloister garth, all with unhealed blade injuries. Several cases of possible tuberculosis were identified, although none of any other specific infectious disease. Joint disease was a common finding in the older individuals.

Finally, the results from the site were compared with results from other cemetery excavations of similar date in other parts of the country. The biased sex ratio at St An drew's was found to mirror that from other monastic sites, as did the presence of possible family groupings within the church, although there appeared to be little consistency regarding age distribution. Moreover, interesting parallels for some dental and skeletal pathologies were found.
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York Archaeological Trust
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