Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire: Archaeological Survey and Investigation of Part of the Precinct and Extra-Mural Area

Author(s): Marcus Jecock, Andrew Burn, Graham Brown, A Oswald

In 2008, English Heritage’s Research Department carried out detailed archaeological survey and investigation of earthworks in and around the western side of the precinct of Byland Abbey. The survey followed an earlier, rapid, investigation which had thrown doubt on existing interpretations of the monastic water supply and the nature, scale and purpose of features within the precinct. Contrary to previous views that the monks created several large bodies of standing water within and just outside the precinct for flushing latrines, farming fish and powering mills, the survey has shown that the engineering was actually directed at draining what was initially a very wet site, and re-introducing water in a controlled manner via a network of leats fed by springs; two dams that exist just north-west of the precinct seem designed primarily as drainage works and flood defences rather than pond bays, although one doubled up as a millpond; a third, alleged, dam within the precinct is more credibly a post-medieval prospect mound. The survey also produced evidence for pre-monastic cultivation, identified a number of monastic tracks and buildings and cast light on the nature of land-use in the post-Dissolution period. The earthwork survey was complemented by geophysical survey commissioned from ASWYAS in 2009.

Report Number:
Research Department Reports
Medieval Post Medieval Survey Monastery post suppression house Water Management Analytical Landscape Survey


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