St Nicholas' medieval hospital 550m East of Brick Yard Farm
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1020763
Date first listed: 24-Jul-2002
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: North Yorkshire
District: Ryedale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference: SE 78422 84604
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
A medieval hospital is a group of buildings housing a religious or secular
institution which provided spiritual and medical care. The idea for such
institutions originated in the Anglo-Saxon period although the first definite
foundations were created by Anglo-Norman bishops and queens in the
11th century. Documentary sources indicate that by the mid 16th century there
were around 800 hospitals. A further 300 are also thought to have existed but
had fallen out of use by this date. Half of the hospitals were suppressed by
1539 as part of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Some smaller institutions
survived until 1547 when they were dissolved by Edward VI. Many of these
smaller hospitals survived as almshouses, some up to the present day. Despite
the large number of hospitals known from documentary sources to have existed,
generally only the larger religious ones have been exactly located. Few
hospitals retain upstanding remains and very few have been examined by
excavation. In view of these factors all positively identified hospitals
retaining significant medieval remains will be identified as nationally
The site of the hospital of St Nicholas has been partly excavated but significant remains still survive. Important remains of the internal structure of the infirmary hall are still preserved and evidence of the development of the building and how it functioned are retained. In addition there are important remains of the wider close of the hospital still preserved below ground. The hospital was also associated with the royal castle at Pickering. Taken as whole, the evidence from the excavation, the potential of further surviving remains, and the link with the royal castle means that the hospital offers an important contribution to the study of medieval life in the north of England.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of the medieval
hospital of St Nicholas at Pickering. It is located in the northern part
of the field known as Chapel Close on the south side of Street Lane to the
west side of the town. It is situated on an area of raised, dry land to
the west of the wet and low lying flood zone of the Costa Beck which in
medieval times was also likely to be boggy.
The date of the foundation of the hospital is not known but it is known to have been in existence in 1301 when it was mentioned in the Lay Subsidy Roll. The hospital lay within the Royal Liberty of Pickering and in the 14th century was under the control of the Duke of Lancaster. In 1374 John of Gaunt granted the custody of the hospital with all the lands and assets belonging to it to Roger de Benyngton who held the chantry chapel within Pickering Castle. A condition of the granting was that de Benyngton should pay for the cost of repairs to the hospital and the chapel from his own pocket. It is likely that this led to the association of the hospital with the chapel and hence the name Chapel Close for the location of the hospital.
The remains of the hospital were partly excavated in 1940 by some pupils from Lady Lumley's Grammar School, Pickering. The excavations revealed the stone foundations of a rectangular building that conformed to the usual plan of the infirmary hall of a small medieval hospital. Although the walls only stood approximately 0.5m high the plan, form and internal arrangements of this structure could be clearly understood. The building comprised a rectangular structure orientated east to west with external dimensions of approximately 15.5m by 5.5m. The surviving walls were found to be between 0.75m and 1.37m thick. The building was divided internally into two main areas. The infirmary hall, which housed the hospital inmates occupied the western two thirds of the building and a small separate chapel, a feature of all medieval hospitals, was located at the eastern end. The chapel was separated from the main body of the hall by a stone archway. Within the chapel the excavations revealed an altar step at the eastern end and the rubble core of an altar against the eastern wall. At the western end of the infirmary hall a short wall extending across half of the nave divided off a small room, which has been identified as the lodgings for the warden or chaplain. Stone benches were found along the south wall of the infirmary hall and on both sides of the chapel. The entrance into the hospital was a doorway 1.2m wide in the western end of the south wall. Outside the building a pitched stone path extended south west and a further path headed to the modern road. The excavations were filled in subsequent to the investigations but the remains of the walls and the interior can still be seen as an earth covered rectangular platform standing 0.5m high. On the western end, the top course of the west wall is partly exposed.
There were two broad types of medieval hospital, those which tended to the sick and those which cared for the poor. The buildings at these differed in form and function, one primary difference being that an infirmary hall was found at hospitals for the sick. The presence of an infirmary hall at the Pickering hospital indicates that it was primarily for the sick.
Medieval hospitals were often enclosed within a wider area known as a precinct or close, which was defined by a bank, wall or fence. Within this area would be a range of buildings and features which could include a kitchen, cemetery accommodation for travellers and a medicinal herb garden. At the Pickering hospital the close has been identified by the edge of the dry, raised land which slopes sharply to a shallow ditch along the southern and eastern sides of the area. This ditch served to define the area of the close and also to drain the water from the adjacent low lying flood lands. The western edge of the close is currently unknown but the protected area has been drawn along the edge of the fence line to the west defining an area which measures 70m by 30m. Two shallow ditches extend north to south across the close which are thought to be the remains of original features dividing the close into separate areas. These ditches as well as other earthworks can be identified on the ground and are clearly visible on aerial photographs. Medieval hospitals do not follow any general plan and the precise nature and function of these other features in the close is currently unknown.
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: 35469
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Fox, G E, 'The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Hospital Of St Nicholas Pickering, , Vol. vol 139, (1941), 326-329
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