St George's medieval chapel 120m south of York Castle
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- York (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SE 60516 51300
Reasons for Designation
A medieval chapel is a building, usually rectangular, containing a range of
furnishings and fittings appropriate for Christian worship in the pre-
Reformation period. Chapels were designed for congregational worship and were
generally divided into two main parts: the nave, which provided accommodation
for the laity, and the chancel, which was the main domain of the priest and
contained the principal altar. Around 4000 parochial chapels were built
between the 12th and 17th centuries as subsidiary places of worship built for
the convenience of parishioners who lived at a distance from the main parish
church. Other chapels were built as private places of worship by manorial
lords and lie near or within manor houses, castles or other high-status
residences. Chantry chapels were built and maintained by endowment and were
established for the singing of masses for the soul of the founder. Some
chapels possessed burial grounds. Unlike parish churches, the majority of
which remain in ecclesiastical use, chapels were often abandoned as their
communities and supporting finances declined or disappeared. Many chantry
chapels disappeared after the dissolution of their supporting communities in
Chapels, like parish churches, have always been major features of the
landscape. A significant number of surviving examples are identified as being
nationally important. The sites of abandoned chapels, where positively
identified, are particularly worthy of statutory protection as they were often
left largely undisturbed and thus retain important information about the
nature and date of their use up to their abandonment.
The below ground remains of St George's chapel 120m south of York Castle survive well and extensive remains from the medieval period are known to be preserved. From the excavated remains and documentary references it is known that the chapel was a large masonry building of a high architectural standard, which would have served to express the prestige and status of its owners. The monument provides an opportunity to compare the ritual practices and use of the building by three different Christian organisations in the medieval period and its change to a social institution in later years.
The monument includes the buried remains of a medieval chapel known as St
George's Chapel. It lies in the north east of St George's Field at the
neck of a peninsular between the rivers Ouse and Foss, 120m south of York
Castle. The chapel is known from documentary references and is depicted on
maps in the 19th century. Limited excavations in 1991 demonstrated that
significant remains of the structure survive below ground.
The chapel was built in the 12th century as a chapel for York Castle. It
was separated from the castle by a water-filled moat, which was formed by
damming the River Foss, with access being via a bridge lying to the north.
It has been suggested that the chapel was located outside the castle walls
because it was on the site of an existing pre-Norman ecclesiastical
building possibly associated with the Anglian settlement of York, elements
of which have been identified some 200m to the east. In 1246 a royal
chapel was built within the gatehouse of Clifford's Tower and the original
chapel was granted to the Knights Templar who by this time owned much of
the land between the River Ouse and Fishergate to the east. The Knights
Templar were suppressed in 1312 and the chapel reverted to the crown. It
was then a Royal Free Chapel, known as `the Kings Chapel'. It was endowed
with property to support the chaplain, including a close immediately
adjoining the building. During the 1330s, other buildings adjacent to the
chapel were used as workshops by the King's armourers and smiths. By the
mid-15th century the chapel had deteriorated through neglect but gained a
new lease of life in 1447 when it became the base for the St Christopher
and St George Guild of York. This was a religious brotherhood of lay
citizens which gave its members an opportunity to undertake charitable
works, offered a social life and group support and also provided them with
a suitable funeral and perpetual prayers for their souls. There were a
number of such guilds in York, two of which, St Christopher and St George,
originally founded in the late 14th century amalgamated in 1447. They were
among the more influential and wealthy in York; the St Christopher Guild
was able to provide half the cost of building the new guildhall for the
city in 1445. By 1533 there were over 200 members both in and around the
city. In 1549, during the reign of Edward VI, guilds and chantries were
suppressed and the property of St Christopher and St George, including the
chapel, was obtained by the City Corporation.
In 1566 the upper parts of the chapel were dismantled for reuse elsewhere
and a timber building was erected on the surviving walls. By 1576 the
former chapel was in use as a house of correction and by the 1630s it was
In the 16th century, along with the chapel, St George's Field to the south
and west of the chapel was also granted to the City Corporation partly for
the bleaching of cloth. This was to have an influence on the subsequent
uses of the building. There are references to the building being used for
weaving, including worsted weaving in the 1630s and cloth production
during the Civil War.
In the 18th century it was a private workhouse employing paupers in the
cloth trade. The River Foss was canalised in the 18th century and a deep
basin up to 5m deep was excavated right up to the east wall of the chapel.
In the late 18th century parts of the building were used as The Windmill
public house. The building was finally demolished in 1856 initially to
provide access to a wharf on the west bank of the River Foss.
It is known from the Ordnance Survey map of 1852, drawn whilst the
building was still standing, that the main body of the chapel was a
rectangular structure measuring 16m north west to south east by 25m north
east to south west. The surviving remains were identified in three small
trenches dug in 1990 to evaluate the survival of the chapel. These
revealed significant remains of the medieval chapel surviving around 1m
below current ground level. The excavations uncovered the southern wall of
the chapel. This was built of large squared limestone blocks and was 0.7m
wide and at least 2m high. The stone work on the exterior face of the wall
was of a higher quality than the interior. Within the chapel building a
series of at least three separate floor levels were found and on the
exterior, to the west, medieval structural debris were revealed. Evidence
of the 16th century restoration and post-medieval uses of the building
were also uncovered. These included brick built walls, floors and internal
divisions. Overall the limited excavations demonstrated that medieval
deposits at least 2m deep survive throughout the monument and that
substantial and significant remains of the medieval chapel, survive
The surface of the road and the pavement, the modern wall and signs are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features
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.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Archaeological Evaluation at St Georges Field Car Park, (1990)
White, E, The St Chistopher and St George Guild of York, (1987)
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