The Church and Gilbertine Priory of St Andrew, Fishergate


The Church and Gilbertine Priory of St Andrew, Fishergate
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R. L. Kemp
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Medieval Defences and Suburbs [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. They uncovered an extensive area of a late 10th-12th century settlement (Period 4) and the relatively well-preserved Gilbertine Priory of St Andrew, founded in 1195 and dissolved in 1538 (Periods 6 and 7). A scatter of pits and post-holes in the south-western part of the site and one post-in-slot structure in the south-eastern part were identified as belonging to an initial phase of occupation (Period 4a). A possible timber church with a clay floor and an associated cemetery overlay these settlement traces in the south-west of the site (Period 4b). The burials included a group of young adult males with blade injuries who may all have been buried at the same time. These burials were covered by a series of deposits, possibly debris from the preparation of building materials for the erection of a stone church in the second half of the 11th century (Period 4c). Roman Millstone Grit was re-used in this structure, which seems likely to be the St Andrew's church mentioned in Domesday Book in 1086. Burials continued in the adjacent cemetery area throughout the 12th century (Period 4d). Evidence for a second Period 4b structure was found in the south-eastern part of the site in the form of beam slots and an internal cobble layer. Artefactual and environmental evidence from Period 4 pit fills shows that the settlement was domestic in nature, and that the site was probably not intensively occupied. The excavated settlement may have been part of a larger ribbon suburb which grew up along the line of the former Fishergate. This settlement went out of use in the late 12th century when St Andrew's church was granted to the Gilbertine Order in 1195 and work on the priory commenced. The postulated stone church may have been retained for service whilst domestic quarters were being erected. The remaining monastic buildings soon followed, all built of freshly quarried limestone.
The new priory church of St Andrew's was located to the south of the cloister and comprised an aisleless nave, central crossing area, short transepts with eastern chapels, and a presbytery. The other priory buildings included a chapter house and dormitory to the east and a northern refectory, all linked by an alley and arranged around a cloister garth (Period 6a). A west range had presumably been destroyed by the modern factory. There were cemeteries to the south of the nave and to the east of the presbytery/chapter house. Burial also took place within the church, chapter house and the cloister alleys. Most burial areas included women and children as well as men, with some evidence for family groupings. However, that to the east of the church contained almost all older adult males and may have been the monastic cemetery. The cloister alleys were rebuilt and strengthened in the late 13th or early 14th century (Period 6b). In the mid 14th century the church was demolished and rebuilt as a smaller aisleless buttressed structure (Period 6c). At the same time the east range was partly rebuilt on a smaller scale, incorporating what remained of the chapter house. The function of chapter house may have been transferred to the truncated north transept. The ground floor of the north range, previously used for storage, was converted for use as either a refectory or private apartments. A contraction in the monastic population may account for the reduced size of the complex. However, considerable funds must have been expended on the new buildings: a symmetrical eastern facade seems to have been deliberately created and the new church may have been quite a grand structure. A documentary reference to funding of building works at the priory by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1335 may provide a context for the excavated remains; it is possible that the north range was converted into private apartments for his use when Parliament was held in York during the 1330s. The priory underwent minor alterations between the late 14th and early 16th century, the ground floor of the north range being adapted for use as stables or a store (Periods 6d—f). The demolition of the priory took place in 1538 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. A limekiln was constructed in the cloister garth to burn stone into lime during the demolition process. The north range was not as thoroughly robbed as the rest of the complex, perhaps acting as a store. The west range may have served as living quarters, and 16th century domestic rubbish deposits indicate secular occupation of the site after the monastery was dissolved. Architectural fragments, floor tiles, roof tiles and wall plaster from the priory are discussed in this report, as are the historical and environmental evidence. The window glass and all other finds will be discussed in forthcoming fascicules in AY 17. The pottery from the site is published in AY 16/6 and the animal bones in AY 15/4. The anthropology of the excavated burials is fully discussed in AY 12/2.
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York Archaeological Trust
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