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Archaeology & Anthropology Field Schools

Europe - England - Thornton Abbey Medieval & Monastic Field School- 2013

Europe - England - Thornton Abbey Medieval & Monastic Field School- 2013

Archaeology Field School Location and Dates

Application Deadline
Start Date 2013-06-30
End Date 2013-07-26

Archaeology Field School Location

Thornton Abbey, Ulceby, North Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

Archaeology Field School Tuition and Credits

Sponsoring College/Institution

University of Sheffield

Academic Credit

A full certificate of participation can be issued in lieu of formal credit

Archaeology Field School Tuition

$1500 total for the 4 weeks

Archaeology Field School Room and Board

Accommodation (in the form of camping), all food, materials and pick up and drop off at the local train station are included in the field school 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, in collaboration with English Heritage, has been undertaking a five year research programme on the abbey precinct. This not only aims to complete the topographical and geophysical survey started by English Heritage, it will 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 2013 season we will be continuing our excavation at the site of the abbot's lodge, in an area that has seen no previous survey or excavation work. In previous years we located and excavated the monastic great barn, a 16th century bakehouse and Tudor formal garden. Our second main trench will be at what is now thought to be the site Sir Vincent Skinner's great Jacobean mansion.

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

Archaeology Field School Type

Medieval, historic, excavation, survey

Time Period


Field School Setting/Conditions

The site is in a pretty rural location, but within easy reach of local towns and transport links

How is the project area accessed each day

The site is 5 minutes walk from the campsite and domestic area

What is the daily schedule for the field school

Sunday-Friday 9am-5pm

Number of years this Archaeology Field School has been in operation
Is there a professional certification for this field school


Directors and Instructors

Dr Hugh Willmott MIFA FSA

Specialized skills you will have the opportunity to learn

Open area excavation
Site recording
Topographical survey (total station and real time GPS)
Geophysical survey (resistivity & magnetometer)
Artefact processing & 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?


Other resources students will find useful

Read the 2011 Interim Report

Watch the video!

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
United Kingdom

Field School Contact E-mail:
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Field School Contact Website:

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