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Archaeology & Anthropology Field Schools

Europe - England - Thornton Abbey Medieval & Monastic Field School, England - 2014

Europe - England - Thornton Abbey Medieval & Monastic Field School, England - 2014

Archaeology Field School Location and Dates

Application Deadline
Start Date 2014-07-06
End Date 2014-08-01

Archaeology Field School Location

Thornton Curtis, North Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

Archaeology Field School Tuition

£780 (Approx. $1,300 USD)

Archaeology Field School Room and Board

Camping, included in the tuition fee

Archaeology Field School Travel

Archaeology Field School Description

Thornton abbey was founded as an Augustinian priory in 1139 by William Le Gros and over the next two centuries expanded into one of the richest houses in England. In 1539 the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII although it continued to be used as a college of secular priests until 1547 when it was finally suppressed by Edward VI. After passing through ownership of the Bishop of Lincoln and the Tyrwhitt family the abbey was acquired in 1603 by Sir Vincent Skinner. He demolished many of the church buildings to provide building material for a newly constructed mansion situated close to the medieval gatehouse. According to the antiquarian Abraham de la Pryme, no sooner had the house been completed that it "fell quite down to the bare ground without any visible cause". In part as a result of this disaster, Skinner fell into bankruptcy and died in a debtors’ prison in 1616, although his widow continued to live in the former abbot’s lodging which was converted into a more modest dwelling.

Despite having one of the largest and best preserved monastic enclosures in the country, surprisingly little work has taken place at the abbey. The estate was acquired by Charles 1st Earl of Yarborough in the early 19th century, and he was responsible for excavating the church in the 1830s. Following portions of the site coming into state care in 1938, the Ministry of Works cleared some of the cloister area. However, since this date no excavation has taken place and the majority of the site remains in private ownership. Between 2007-2009 English Heritage undertook a detailed field survey of approximately one third of the monastic enclosure which highlighted the remarkable level of preservation of the many earthwork and subsurface features.

Since 2011 The University of Sheffield has been undertaking a five year research programme on the abbey precinct. This not only aims to undertake a complete topographical and geophysical survey of the monastic enclosure, it also include targeted excavation of the identified medieval and post-dissolution features in order to gain a better understanding of the site’s long history.

During the 2014 season we will be concentrating our excavation in the area identified last year as the possible location of the medieval hospital of St James. Trenches will target a building identified as the hospital chapel and hall, as well as the surrounding area.

Students attending the field school play a central role in continuing the geophysical and topographical survey of this area, as well as taking part in the excavation of the trenches. Whilst all work is supervised by experienced staff from the University of Sheffield, volunteers get to take part in all the key activities.

Archaeology Field School Additional Information

Field School Setting/Conditions

Rural england with easy access to transport links

How is the project area accessed each day

10 minutes gentle walk

Number of years this Archaeology Field School has been in operation

Directors and Instructors

Dr Hugh Willmott, University of Sheffield

Specialized skills you will have the opportunity to learn

Excavation, GPS and geophysical survey, environmental sampling, artefact handling

On rain days will there be lab work?


Will there be additional organized activities?


Will there be additional organized activities?


Is travel restriced during free time?


Archaeology Field School Contact Information and Website

Field School Website:

Field School Contact Information

Dr. Hugh Willmott
Department of Archaeology
University of Sheffield
Northgate House, West Street
Sheffield, S1 4ET

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