What’s on : Lectures

Excavations on the site of the former All Saints Church, Peasholme

17 May 2016
Start time
7:30 PM
Tempest Anderson Hall
Ben Reeves and Ruth Whyte

Event Information

Excavations on the site of the former All Saints Church, Peasholme

Ben Reeves and Ruth Whyte, York Archaeological Trust


The recent York Archaeological Trust excavation of the ‘lost’ medieval church of All Saints, Peasholme has accurately located the church and its burials in the heart of the former Hay Market. The ongoing analysis aims to understand the role of this medieval parish church in the landscape and community of the area formerly known as the Marsh. The discovery of high-status medieval buildings surrounding the grave yard provided examples of early stone buildings and evidence of domestic food preparation.

This lecture will explore the initial interpretations by field archaeologist Ben Reeves and osteo-archaeologist Ruth Whyte.  Ben Reeves will introduce the overall archaeology of the site, considering the archaeological landscape, the church and the archaeological potential of the newly discovered buildings. Ruth Whyte will discuss the initial interpretations from the skeletal analysis of more than 700 human burials and consider what we can learn about life and death in the medieval city from the remains of one of York’s poorest medieval parishes.

Member’s report

Ben Reeves discussed the archaeology of the church which was built in a very poor parish in c1200. It closed and was merged with St Cuthbert’s in the mid-16th century. Its ruins were finally demolished in the 1730s when it was lost under later building. Excavations in 1986 found that most of the foundations were missing. More substantial foundations of a chantry chapel extension have now been uncovered, and also remains of what must have been a very fine, and hitherto unknown, Norman building nearby.

Around 750 burials, both shroud and coffin types, have been excavated. Probably up to 1,000 more remain, in a layered sequence, including men, women and children of all ages and conditions – the latter forming c 20% of the likely total. There are distinct clusters of burials, suggesting some areas were restricted to family plots. Badge finds suggest that part of the site may have been used as a Civil War muster ground in the 1640s.

Ruth Whyte is working on a pilot study of 30 skeletons from the site. Statistically too small a sample from which to extrapolate, it has nevertheless provided opportunities to study the incidence of disease, and the age and sex of the individuals. Some individuals had clearly suffered considerable pain from degenerative conditions, such as osteomyelitis, and in one unique case, a large calcified cyst. Future plans are to rapidly assess the remaining skeletons for study, and begin a statistical analysis of the demography and pathology of the population.

Carole Smith