‘Very Remarkable’ Clues Found Linking Medieval Farmhouse to Rievaulx Abbey

Community archaeologists unearth medieval farmhouse Photo: JB Archaeology

An archaeological dig in the North York Moors has revealed evidence pointing to a high-status medieval farmhouse with close links to the Cistercian monks of nearby Rievaulx Abbey.

Experts were surprised by the richness and quality of the finds, including jet rosaries, ceramics and glazed tiles.

Located four miles outside Helmsley, the site was known to be the site of a medieval granary built shortly after Rievaulx, founded in 1132, and run by the abbey until its dissolution by Henry VIII in 1539.

Despite this established history, a recently completed dig has unearthed some astonishing archaeological finds. The excavation was jointly funded by the North York Moors National Park Authority, the farmer and a local archaeologist.

Trials of monastic grange Photo: NYMNPA

Trials of monastic grange Photo: NYMNPA

Trials of monastic grange Photo: NYMNPA

Miles Johnson, historic environment manager at the National Park Authority, said: ‘While it’s not surprising that we’ve found evidence of medieval farming, the prestige and variety of artifacts uncovered indicate that this is a place of great economic importance. reflecting the state of the abbey.

“For archaeologists to find a cellar and what we think are glazed roof tiles from a medieval farmhouse from this period is almost unheard of. Some findings also concern the iron smelting process, which clearly took place on site and in fact there was also an iron hunting arrow”.

An iron arrow Image: JB Archaeology

An iron arrow Image: JB Archaeology

An iron arrow Image: JB Archaeology

The excavation of the community was led by archaeologist John Buglass, founder of North Yorkshire-based JB Archaeology, with close involvement from Keith Emerick, Inspector of Ancient Monuments at Historic England. Sixteen volunteers took part in the excavation, contributing the equivalent of 129 days in six weeks.

Buglass said: “This is one of those unexpected excavations that shows how much we can still learn from sites we thought we understood.

Trials of monastic grange Photo: NYMNPA

Trials of monastic grange Photo: NYMNPA

Trials of monastic grange Photo: NYMNPA

“Through the hard work of volunteer archaeologists in and out of the National Park, we have managed to add significant insight to our knowledge of the Rievaulx monastic granges.”

Emerick added: “This is a truly remarkable discovery. While we know the whereabouts of many monastic farm sites, relatively little is known about them. The excavation of such impressive remains and associated finds adds a huge amount to our understanding of the medieval world.

The excavations, which have involved only a small part of the site, are now completed, but the work of analyzing the finds and interpreting the materials recovered will continue over the next year.

As successful farmers, the Cistercian monks of Rievaulx Abbey have made a significant impact on the landscape of the North York Moors. They developed large-scale grazing on the moors and stimulated the rapid growth of the wool trade which became so significant in England’s later history. The monks even diverted the River Rye on more than one occasion to allow for their developments.

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