Fountains Abbey, North YorkshireYorkshire and the surrounding regions are home to a wealth of fascinating medieval sites and resources. At IMC 2022, excursions will take you to secular and religious sites across the North of England.

Excursion tickets can be purchased when you register online.


The Castles, Bars, and Walls of the City of York

The Castles, Bars, and Walls of the City of York

Sunday 03 July
Price: £25.00
Meeting Point: Entrance of York Railway Station at 10.00, Excursion ends at approximately 14:00

Off with his head, and set it on York Gates; So York may overlook the town of York.

William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3, Act 1, Scene 4.

The city of York still retains what are regarded as the finest remaining circuit of medieval city walls in Britain. Throughout the Middle Ages, York was one of the most important administrative and political centres of northern England. Standing for most of their length of over 4 km (2 ½ miles), the walls and enclosing an area of some 106 h.a. (263 acres) have long been seen as a symbol of its strategic significance, defensive capacity, and continuing civic pride. Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, on earthen ramparts which were created in the 9th-11th centuries, some lengths hide Roman origins. The walls were pierced by four major gates, or Bars, which still survive (one with its barbican) and six posterns (of which two survive), as well as retaining 34 interval towers (from a total of 39). In 1922 the walls were designated a ‘scheduled ancient monument’, thereby gaining legal protection.

This excursion will tour the remains of the city walls and Bars, exploring the functional and symbolic aspects of these structures and the relationship between the medieval fortifications and earlier Roman and Anglo-Scandinavian defences. We will then follow the circuit of the walls, from the royal entrance at Micklegate Bar (where the head of Richard, Duke of York, surmounted by a paper crown, was exhibited following his death at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, as mentioned by Shakespeare) to the Roman defences and ‘Anglian Tower’ in the Museum Gardens. From here we will re-join the walls at the oldest surviving bar of Bootham and follow the behind the Minster and Archbishop’s Palace, taking in the Monk Bar. Leaving the walls at Layerthorpe Postern, we will visit the ‘Red Tower’ and the surviving barbican at Walmgate. We will then visit the sites of the two castles of York, including Clifford’s Tower and ‘The Old Baile’, before completing our circuit of the walls. Following completion of the excursion, participants will then be free to explore the rest of the city of York for as long as they wish, as there is a regular rail service back to Leeds. There are many attractions of interest, from York Minster and the Yorkshire Museum (with its fine medieval collections) to the Jorvik Viking Centre and the surviving medieval streets and alleys, including the ‘Shambles’.

Delegates signing up for this excursion should wear sensible and appropriate footwear as there will be a significant amount of walking on uneven surfaces and climbing of steep stone steps. We regret that disabled access is limited, so please enquire in advance about this. It would also be advisable to bring raincoats and sunblock.

The excursion will be led by Kelly DeVries (Professor of the Department of History, Loyola University, Maryland, and Honorary Consultant to the Royal Armouries) and Robert C. Woosnam-Savage (Visiting Researcher in the School of History, University of Leeds, and Curator Emeritus, Royal Armouries).

To get to the meeting point for this excursion, attendees should take a direct train from Leeds railway station to York. Trains depart every 20-30 minutes throughout the day, with a journey time of 30-40 minutes (slower routes are also available). You can check train times here via National Rail Journey Planner. A return ticket is usually cheaper. Tickets can be bought in advance and are usually cheaper, or can be purchased on the day.

Leeds Historical Walking Tour

Leeds Historical Walking Tour

Sunday 03 July
Price: £10.00
Departs Parkinson Steps: 14.00
Arrives Parkinson Steps: 16.30

Today’s visitor to the great commercial and industrial city of Leeds can scarcely conceive that once it was a minor medieval agricultural settlement. At the time of Domesday Book in 1086, ‘Ledes’ was a small manor on the north bank of the River Aire. In 1207, Maurice Paynel founded the historic street of Briggate upon which the burgage plots of the medieval borough are still evident. Over the years, Leeds expanded to become one of the most prosperous woollen cloth-making and marketing towns in Georgian England and then one of the greatest industrial cities of the Victorian Age. The municipal buildings built during this period, including Cuthbert Brodrick’s magnificent town hall and the Leeds City Museum, still dominate the centre of town.

This tour will trace the history of Leeds from medieval settlement to one of the most important business centres in the United Kingdom. A significant amount of walking will be involved, so participants are advised to wear comfortable footwear.

This tour will be led by distinguished Leeds historian Kevin Grady.

This excursion is on foot and starts at the Parkinson Building.

Ripon Minster

Ripon Minster

Tuesday 05 July
Price: £37.50
Depart Parkinson Steps: 13.00
Arrive Parkinson Steps: 19:15

The medieval cathedral of Ripon, begun in the 12th century and enlarged just before the Reformation, has at its heart an Anglo-Saxon crypt, which formed part of the Roman-style basilica built by Wilfrid (634-709). It is the oldest built fabric of any English cathedral and has been in continuous use since Wilfrid’s day.

This is the 1350th anniversary year of the dedication of the basilica and crypt, and it is being celebrated by the cathedral through a varied liturgical, historical, cultural and social programme. Here we can still see how Wilfrid tried to recreate ‘Rome in Ripon’, and how the early Christians experienced pilgrimage to the relics of saints, moving through the dark and disorienting underground passages until the cubiculum was reached and the reliquaries could be seen, gleaming in the candle-light.

The present cathedral now standing above witnesses architecturally to the Romanesque and the Gothic over more than 400 years, but it is also filled with images which bring alive its connection with the early saints of Anglo-Saxon England, the formative period of Christianity in England, in which Wilfrid played such a leading role, not least in being spokesperson for the Roman party at the Synod of Whitby in 664. It is famed for its 15th-century carved misericords, its Art Nouveau pulpit, its screen, and for its association with some notable modern figures: Lewis Carroll, who found inspiration in the misericords for the rabbit hole down which Alice disappears in Alice in Wonderland; and the fact that Wilfrid Owen, killed on the western front in 1918 a week before the Armistice, was stationed in Ripon earlier that year, spent what was to be his last birthday quietly in the cathedral, where he also wrote and revised many of his great poems.

The excursion will be led by Joyce Hill (Emeritus Professor, University of Leeds, and member of the Ripon Cathedral Chapter) and Jenny Alexander (Reader, Department of Art History, University of Warwick).

The visit will begin in a nearby medieval building (Thorpe Prebend), now the cathedral’s educational hub, where Professor Hill will give an illustrated talk on Wilfrid’s basilica and crypt. From there, after some light refreshment, we will make the short walk to the cathedral.

For more information on Ripon Cathedral, please visit www.riponcathedral.org.uk.

This excursion includes coach transfer to and from Ripon.

Kirkstall Abbey

Kirkstall Abbey

Wednesday 06 July

Price: £22.00
Depart Parkinson Steps: 13.30
Arrive Parkinson Steps: 17.15

One of the best-preserved examples of a medieval Cistercian monastery in England can be seen within two miles of the International Medieval Congress. A daughter-house of Fountains, Kirkstall Abbey is remarkable for both the quality and extent of its preservation. Large parts of the church, chapter house, cloister, south range, and abbot’s lodging survive up to roof height. Complementing these impressive standing remains is the guest house, a rare survival in monastic precincts, which has been excavated extensively so that its structural developments are understood in great depth.
Despite its extensive architectural and archaeological remains, Kirkstall has received little scholarly attention, and the importance its material culture holds for understanding medieval religious life has consequently been neglected. However, the guesthouse has recently been the focus of extensive archaeological and historical enquiry, and a subsequent AHRC-funded cultural engagement project has ensured that the findings of this research will be made freely available. This work has highlighted the importance of the guesthouse for the social life of the abbey, revealing how the monastic community provided hospitality to guests and entertained them within the precinct. New information concerning finds from the guesthouse, such as dress accessories, provides greater clarity regarding the identity of guests and what they did while at the abbey; the animal bones, meanwhile, provide an indication of the food eaten by guests and enable comparison with monastic fare. As a result, the guesthouse can now be set in the wider context of Kirkstall’s structures, which have been the subject of a number of modern restorations, which permits a more holistic appreciation of the life in the abbey during the Middle Ages.

The tour provides an overview of the history of the abbey from its establishment in 1152 and gives particular attention to the guesthouse and its importance in monastic life.

This excursion will be led by Katherine Baxter (Curator of Archaeology, Leeds Museums & Galleries).

For further information about Kirkstall Abbey, please visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/Pages/Kirkstall-Abbey.aspx

York Minster and the City's Major Religious Houses

York Minster and the City’s Major Religious Houses

Thursday 07 July
Price: £28.50
Arrive at the West Front of York Minster at 10.00, Excursion ends at approximately 16:00

The city of York is famous for its churches. The focus of this tour will be York Minster, but will also include some of the sites of York’s many religious houses from the medieval period, some of which stand in ruins while others are still used today.

York Minister is one of the largest Gothic Cathedrals in Europe. Though the first church was erected on the site in 627, the minster was founded there in the 1070s by Archbishop Thomas and consisted of a vast basilica without aisles. That was replaced piecemeal until the present minster was completed in the 1470s. York Minster is also known for its remarkable collection of stained glass including the Great East Window, which is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in Britain.

Yet the Minster is also important for what lies beneath ground level. Emergency excavations during the 1970s revealed not only the remains of the former Norman Minster, but also an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and Roman Barracks. More recently, the Undercroft has been developed into an interactive exhibition detailing the history of the site over the last 2000 years, incorporating recent archaeological finds and artefacts seldom seen previously on public display.
After meeting at the west front of York Minster, there will be a tour inside the minster that will point out and explain the development of the building from the 11th to the 15th century. Afterwards, there will be a tour of the cathedral precinct, which will demonstrate how the cathedral close has radically changed over time, particularly since 1814 and point out the surviving prebendal houses and St William’s College. Founded in the 1460s, St William’s College originally housed chantry priests for the minster, but later it became a grand house, and Charles I had his printing presses here during the English Civil War. The tour will also cover other remnants of the medieval cathedral precinct: the sole surviving precinct gatehouse, the 12th century arcade, the chapel of the archbishop’s palace as well as Bedern Hall, the 14th-century dining hall of the Vicars Choral.

After a break for lunch (not included in the ticket price), the tour will continue, taking in the King’s Manor, which was formerly the abbot’s lodging for St Mary’s Abbey, and in the Museum Gardens the remains of St Leonard’s Hospital, the largest and wealthiest medieval hospital in the north of England, as well as the ruins of the church of St Mary’s Abbey. The tour will conclude at Holy Trinity Priory Church, which is within easy walking distance of the train station, although participants may choose to stay in York after the tour has concluded.

This excursion will be led by Stuart Harrison (Ryedale Archaeology Services), who is the Cathedral Archaeologist at York Minster and Glyn Coppack (Archaeological and Historical Research).

For further information about York Minster, visit: www.yorkminster.org/

To get to the meeting point for this excursion, attendees should take a direct train from Leeds railway station to York. Trains depart every 20-30 minutes throughout the day, with a journey time of 30-40 minutes (slower routes are also available). You can check train times here via National Rail Journey Planner. A return ticket is usually cheaper. Tickets can be bought in advance and are usually cheaper, or can be purchased on the day.


About IMC Excursions

  • Places on our excursions are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, so early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment. Please make a note of how participation in excursions will affect your meal requirements, and note also the time of departure from and return to the Parkinson Building, including any travel time, in relation to other commitments, and book accordingly.
  • Participants are advised to wear sensible footwear and come prepared for the weather. The wearing of high-heeled shoes is impractical at most sites and prohibited at some. Most excursions will involve a significant amount of walking and/or standing. Raincoats and sunblock may be required. Please contact the IMC if you have any questions or concerns about a particular excursion. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
  • We ask that those participating in excursions arrive at the given meeting point 15 minutes before the excursion is due to begin. A member of staff will be present in this area to provide information.
  • The IMC administration reserves the right to cancel excursions due to unforeseen circumstances and to alter the schedule at short notice if necessary. Please note that all times are approximate. Prices for the excursions include entrance fees, and donations to the sites, fees for the guides, staffing, and administration costs. Meals and transport to the site are not included in the price unless otherwise indicated.