Site of 'King Athelstan's Palace', immediately north of the church


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Site of 'King Athelstan's Palace', immediately north of the church
© Crown Copyright and database right 2020. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
Sherburn in Elmet
National Grid Reference:
SE 48851 33616

Reasons for Designation

Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great works of architecture and displays of decoration. Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated, containing a range of buildings, often of stone, including a hall or halls, chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or courtyards. The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century. Many were occupied throughout the medieval period and some continued in use into the post- medieval period; a few remain occupied today. Only some 150 bishops' palaces have been identified and documentary sources confirm that they were widely dispersed throughout England. All positively identified examples are considered to be nationally important.

Anglo-Saxon royal and episcopal palaces were high status occupation sites, which also acted as assembly places and administrative centres. They typically consisted of a number of timber built buildings, the most prominent being a large and elaborate great hall, but also including a number of smaller ancillary buildings. Stone buildings are also known from Anglo-Saxon palace sites. Sites rarely survive as upstanding earthworks, and are normally identified by aerial photography and excavation. The site of this palace is of importance because of its four centuries of use by the Archbishops of York and because of its association with Athelstan, who was one of the most influential and successful rulers of the early medieval period. Evidence of early tenth century occupation, including foundation trenches and post holes for timber buildings, rubbish pits, and other archaeological deposits will survive, together with evidence of the later development of the complex.


The monument, known as Hall Garth, consists of a number of earthworks, including building platforms, wall lines, ditches, terraces and small quarrying scoops. It is identified as the site of the palace built on land given by King Athelstan to the Archbishopric of York. The monument lies on a north facing hillside, the crest of which is occupied by the parish church. Athelstan was the first king to have control over all of the English after overthrowing the Scandinavian kingdom of York in 927. In 937 he defeated an alliance of Scots and Scandinavians at the Battle of Brunanburh and as thanks for this victory he gave the manors at Sherburn and Cawood to the Archbishop of York. The manor house or palace at Sherburn was a high status site and was subsequently used as a hunting lodge by the Archbishops. There is documentary evidence that there was a wealthy Saxon church associated with the palace and the Domesday Book shows no drop in income for the manor, unlike most other areas of Yorkshire. The Saxon church was replaced c.1100 by a larger church which still stands immediately to the south of the monument, but the palace had fallen into ruin by 1361 when the then Archbishop, John Thoresby, ordered its demolition. The stone from the palace was then used in the building of the choir at York Minster. The monument retains a number of earthwork features, typically standing up to 0.5m high. The northern boundary of the monument is marked by a broad, straight,`U' shaped depression about 6m wide with a slight bank on its southern side. This is interpreted as the partially silted boundary ditch of the archbishop's palace. Close to the western side of the monument there is a large pond, about 10m by 20m, surrounded by a slight bank and cut into the rising ground to the south of the vallum. Either side of this pond and to its south, there is a series of low breaks of slope running east to west, so that the rising ground forms three broad terraces up to an old field boundary that runs between the south west corner of the field and the junction of St John's Lane and Church Hill to the east. These terraces extend eastwards to within about 80m of St John's Lane where there is an area up to 30m wide extending from the vallum southwards up the hill to the boundary with the churchyard. This area contains a number of building platforms and the earthworks of wall lines. To the east of these building remains there are a number of broad depressions and, to the south of the old field boundary where the ground rises steeply, there are a number of small quarrying scoops up to 4m wide. Anglo-Saxon occupation around the site was probably more extensive than the area of the monument. However, the position, nature and extent of any further remains are not fully understood and thus they are not included in the scheduling. All modern fencing and the stone walling are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Legacy System:


Books and journals
Le Patourel, H E J, Moated site of Yorkshire, (1973), 127


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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