CMS Field Trip: 18/04/19

On Thursday 18 April, a large proportion of the CMS MA cohort, along with some Medieval Literature and Language and Medieval History MAs, and one PhD student, headed out into the Yorkshire countryside to enjoy a day of medieval architecture, brilliant sunshine, and glorious wall paintings.


We started the day at Rievaulx Abbey, accompanied by Professor Christopher Norton and Dr Stuart Harrison. Turns out, getting there for opening was a great idea, as the site soon got busy with walkers and families enjoying the good weather (and the Easter Holiday). Stuart and Christopher took us around the main church building of the Abbey, paying particular attention to the structure of the building.


This was a great opportunity to discuss recent events at Notre Dame de Paris, and we heard all about the importance of stone vaults, and the effect of fires on ecclesiastical buildings around the world (not least York Minster).


After our mini-lecture, the students explored the site for themselves, marveling especially at the grand Refectory.


Our second stop of the day was at Helmsley Castle, where we heard about the different phases of the site.


The later medieval range was specifically highlighted by Christopher and Stuart as having structural and interior similarities to our own Huntingdon Room at the King’s Manor.


The keep of the castle would have had a distinct D-shape – sadly the curved wall has since been destroyed.

We spent some time in Helmsley to satisfy any hunger cravings, as it was by now most definitely lunch time. The weather continued to oblige, and it felt like summer being able to sit outside to eat.

After lunch we headed to Pickering, and met Dr Kate Giles at the church of Sts Peter and Paul. Those who hadn’t visited the church before gasped in awe on entering the church – and even when you have visited before, the wall paintings are enough to leave you humbled once again.

Kate treated us to a talk on the history of the paintings, their various coverings and restoration attempts over the centuries, and really brought the church alive for us.


The final stop of the day was Stonegrave Minster, village church of Robert Thornton, a fifteenth-century lay scribe responsible for the production of two anthology manuscripts (Lincoln, Cathedral Library MS 91 and British Library MS Additional 31042). Robert’s parents have a memorial monument at Stonegrave Minster, and the Thornton residence at East Newton Hall lies fairly close by the church.

At Stonegrave we had the benefit of hearing from Drs Nicola McDonald and Dav Smith. Nicola is currently researching the life and works of Robert Thornton, while Dav wrote part of his PhD thesis on the church itself.

The students, and us here in the office, had a fabulous day, and would like to extend our thanks to Christopher, Stuart, Kate, Nicola, and Dav for coming along and imparting their expertise on a new generation of medieval scholars!


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