St Giles medieval hospital, post-medieval farmstead and Iron Age occupation site immediately north of St Giles Farm


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of St Giles medieval hospital, post-medieval farmstead and Iron Age occupation site immediately north of St Giles Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
Brough with St. Giles
National Grid Reference:
SE 20990 99602

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 important.

St Giles Hospital, being a small rural establishment, is of a very rarely identified class of monument. The information provided by the investigations in 1988-90 give the monument even greater significance and the surviving remains will retain additional important information.

Farmsteads, normally occupied by only one or two families and comprising small groups of buildings with attached yards, gardens and enclosures, were a characteristic feature of the medieval and post medieval rural landscape. They occur throughout the country, the intensity of their distribution determined by local topography and the nature of the agricultural system prevalent within the region. The sites of many farmsteads have been occupied down to the present day but others were abandoned at various times in the past. Farmsteads are a common and long-lived monument type; the archaeological deposits on those which were abandoned are often well-preserved and provide important information on regional and national settlement patterns and farming economies, and on changes in these through time. The monument includes the remains of two farmsteads, the hospital's home farm on top of the escarpment and the post-medieval farm that occupied the site of the hospital on the river terrace. Excavation has uncovered some of the remains of the later farm providing a good insight into the lifestyle and agricultural developments of the 17th and 18th centuries. Comparison with the remains of the medieval farmstead adds to the site's importance. The survival of areas of ridge and furrow adds to the setting of the rest of the monument.

The monument is only one of a small handful of sites between the Dales and North York Moors where evidence of Iron Age settlement has been positively identified. Although its nature and extent remains unknown, concealed beneath the medieval and later earthworks, it is likely to be a farmstead or small rural settlement, potentially of national importance in its own right.


The monument includes earthwork and associated buried remains of a small rural medieval hospital that overlies the buried remains of an Iron Age occupation site. It also includes the remains of the home farm associated with the hospital together with the surviving earthworks of its field system. The hospital site was reused as a farm in the post-medieval period and the earthworks and buried remains of this are also included in the scheduling. The monument lies on the south bank of the River Swale, north of the modern St Giles Farm, 2km west of Catterick Bridge.

The monument was the subject of detailed study in 1988-90, including the excavation of an area threatened by river erosion. As a result much is known about the site, mainly published by Peter Cardwell in the Archaeological Journal for 1995.

Although it is not known precisely when the hospital was founded, it is referred to in documents from the late 12th century. It was normally known as St Giles by Brompton Bridge as it was established next to one of the few bridges over the Swale. Medieval hospitals were quite frequently dedicated to St Giles, being the patron saint of cripples. Documentary and excavation evidence suggest that the hospital fulfilled two functions: As a residence for `infirm brothers', including lepers; and providing hospitality to travellers with a chapel and probably accommodation. This latter function would have generated a regular source of revenue, although the hospital also held some land that was farmed. A deed of circa 1280 notes that at least some of this land was leased to local farmers. Excavation evidence shows that the hospital site underwent many alterations and changes of layout through its history. Initially only the chapel was stone built, the other buildings being timber framed. The hospital expanded in the 13th century, and took in women as well as men. In the 14th century a stone hall and dovecote were built north of the chapel, probably mainly for the benefit of travellers. A little later at least two more stone buildings were constructed in the western part of the complex. However, following the construction of Catterick Bridge in circa 1422, the fortunes of St Giles appears to have declined. The last documentary reference to the hospital is in 1467, although it had probably largely ceased to function in the 1440s. The site then seems to have lain derelict for about 150-200 years until it was reused as a farmstead with the repair and adaptation of some of the stone buildings, the chapel for instance being reused as a byre. St Giles is first mentioned as a farm in a deed dated 1653-54 when it was owned by John Lawson, an descendant of the main builder of Catterick Bridge. Both the documentary evidence and that uncovered by the excavation suggest that the occupants of the farmstead were relatively affluent with the lifestyle of a gentleman rather than a more common farmer. However the excavation also uncovered a wide range of evidence pointing to the agricultural activities of the farmstead. In the early 18th century the farmhouse was modernised but was then abandoned when the farm was moved to its current site on higher ground to the south. This move took place sometime between 1727 and 1771, possibly following the major flood in 1753.

The hospital and post-medieval farm lie at the western end of a river terrace, at the northern end of a gully that runs down from the escarpment to the south. This gully way was used by a track leading to the bridge with the chapel to its east and the infirmary and other domestic buildings to the west. A series of other tracks approached the bridge from the south east, although most are overlain by later boundary banks thought to be related to the post-medieval farm. One of these tracks is still used and is marked on the 1:10,000 map. No trace of the bridge, which in 1606 was in a state of `great decay', can now be identified, but the medieval road can still be traced in places north of the river. The excavated walls of the chapel still stand up to 0.4m with other structures surviving as upstanding earthworks. This includes a medieval stone building that lay almost entirely outside the area excavated in 1988-90 some 30m WSW of the chapel. The earthworks suggest that there are at least two more major buildings within this area that are still unexcavated. The hospital's cemetery lay mainly to the south of the chapel and only a small proportion of this was excavated, again most still survives undisturbed. To the south east of the chapel there is a further unexcavated building platform and earthworks interpreted as a post-medieval corn drying kiln. On top of the escarpment, just west of the gully, there is another group of earthworks. This is thought to be the remains of the St Giles' home farm, which is thought to have allowed the hospital to be largely self-sufficient. Ridge and furrow originating from the medieval arable agriculture still survives to the west and south east of these earthworks. These areas are also included in the monument.

During the excavation of the chapel, a small area was investigated underlying the medieval remains. This revealed part of a structure and other material including hearth debris and pottery. These remains suggest that a well-preserved Iron Age occupation site of around the third century BC underlies the medieval hospital.

A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are the electric powerline and the telegraph poles on which it is carried, the interpretation boards and their stone supports as well as all modern fences, stiles, gates, water troughs, and sign posts; although the ground beneath all these features is included. Fence lines defining the boundaries of the monument lie immediately outside the protected area.

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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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.

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