Excursions

Yorkshire and the surrounding regions are home to a wealth of fascinating medieval sites and resources. At IMC 2019 excursions will take you to secular and religious sites across the North of England, as well as to museums where you can get up close with medieval artefacts.

All excursions depart and return from Parkinson Steps (the main entrance to the Parkinson Building) – check each listing for timings and prices. Excursion tickets can be purchased when you register online, while any remaining tickets will be sold during the IMC from the Events & Excursions desk in Parkinson Court.

The Castles of Sheriff Hutton and Pickering

Sunday 30 June
Depart 10.00, arrive 19.00
Price: £42.50

This excursion to the attractive North Yorkshire village of Sheriff Hutton and the market town of Pickering, the latter situated on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, will allow participants to visit three castles, together with two local churches which contain fine examples of medieval art.

Two castles lie in Sheriff Hutton. The site of the original motte and bailey castle, possibly built in about 1115 by Ansketill de Bulmer in the Forest of Galtres, still remains, but it is the towering remnants of the stone castle that dominate the local landscape. The excursion allows privileged access to the now privately-owned remains of the later castle begun by John Neville who, given a license to crenellate in 1382, built it to showcase the power of the Neville family. In doing so he created one of the grandest castles in northern England. A short walk from both of these castles is the 14th-century Church of St Helen and the Holy Cross. It contains the effigy of a boy, supposedly that of the Yorkist heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, Richard III’s only son by his wife Anne Neville. Whether the effigy really does represent Edward will be discussed.

In Pickering participants will visit Pickering Castle, which can be traced from its original Norman timber and earth motte and bailey construction of about 1070, probably during the ‘Harrying of the North’ campaigns, to its final early 14th-century form of stone, its roots to be seen in the high 11th-century motte at its heart. The castle, honour, and Forest of Pickering belonged to the Crown from the Conquest until 1267 when Henry III gave the castle to his son Edmund ‘Crouchback’, Earl of Lancaster. The excursion will also take in the remarkable Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul which is celebrated for its surviving wall paintings of the second half of the 15th century. Pevsner described them as ‘one of the most complete series… in English churches and they give one a vivid idea of what ecclesiastical interiors were really like’.

This excursion will once again be led by Kelly DeVries (Professor of the Department of History, Loyola University, Maryland and Honorary Historical Consultant to the Royal Armouries) and Robert C Woosnam-Savage, FSA (Curator of Armour and Edged Weapons, Royal Armouries, Leeds).

Sensible footwear is recommended, as there will be a significant amount of walking on uneven and muddy surfaces and climbing steep stone steps. It would also be advisable to bring raincoats and sunblock. Packed lunches will be included.

Fountains Abbey

Sunday 30 June
Depart 11.00, arrive 19.30
Price: £41.50

Fountains Abbey is one of the best preserved and most important medieval Cistercian monasteries in Europe. It is also one of the most intensely studied, both historically and archaeologically. An adoptive daughter-house of Clairvaux, it is in fact a succession of three monasteries, two of which can still be identified from the standing ruins, which demonstrate the Cistercians’ developing concept of architectural planning. Built first of timber in 1133, it was replaced by a modest stone monastery between 1136 and 1144, and was then rebuilt on a massive scale from the mid-1150s as the mother-house of a substantial family.

This tour will examine the church, cloister ranges and buildings both east and west of the claustrial nucleus, looking particularly at the development of the buildings through time and placing them in the context of evolving Cistercian planning.

The guides for this excursion are Glyn Coppack (Archaeological and Historical Research), and Stuart Harrison (Ryedale Archaeological Services), who have been working on a detailed study of the site and its significance in the international Cistercian canon for the past 40 years. Packed lunches will be included.

Learn more at the Fountains Abbey website

Tuxford Museum of the Horse

Monday 1 July
Depart 13.00, arrive 19.00
Price: £24.50

From the early growth of the industrial revolution to the invention of cine film, horses have been key players in many parts of our history. In the Middle Ages they were used amongst all classes, carrying knights into battle, charging in tournaments, and assisting farmers in the fields. The Museum of the Horse explores this legacy in detail, using over 1000 horse-related items to chart the history of travel, mining, agriculture, war, and sport.

The museum represents the lifelong collection of Sally Mitchell, an authority on sporting art and author of The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists. With a keen interest in horse related objects, Sally’s collection has been grown over 60 years, beginning as a small collection of horse shoes and now comprising a nine-room museum.

The Museum of the Horse displays interesting items from across the world, dated from 650BC to present day. Highlights of the collection include one of only three mail coaches left in England and a collection of medieval stirrups, spurs, and horse shoes ranging from 1050-1400. The collection also has numerous saddles from across the world, which were used for different purposes, including several women’s saddles from the early modern period onwards. They give us an idea about how the saddle developed across centuries, especially given the fact that there are very few saddles surviving from the medieval period.

The museum building also has a rich history of its own, and was once an 18th-century posting house. Located on ‘The First Road’ (the first main highway from London to the North), it was known for being a particularly muddy route, but that didn’t stop 74 coaches passing through each day at its peak! Now converted into Britain’s first horse museum, the building also houses an art gallery and coffee shop on its ground floor and sits opposite a 12th-century church.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore the museum with owner and curator Sally, learning more about the collection and the building’s history before taking part in a Curious Objects and Handling quiz. Delegates should note that while the downstairs gallery is accessible, there is no lift access to the museum upstairs.

Explore the Museum of the Horse Facebook page

Calverley Old Hall

Monday 1 July
Depart 13.30, arrive 16.30
Price: £16.50

First owned by the Scots, who soon changed their name to Calverley, Calverley Old Hall was inhabited from as early as the 1160s and was expanded throughout the medieval period, remaining to this day a delightful mismatch of medieval architecture.

For over 500 years the Calverleys remained in Calverley Old Hall, storing their family documents and estate papers in a large chest, the contents of which is now located in The British Library. The papers chart the family’s steady increase in wealth and status, with a series of well-planned marriages and the addition of a solar room, chapel, and north wing strengthening their legacy as the centuries unfolded. From Sir Walter in 1300, a pioneer of the iron industry, to the tragic Walter Calverley of the 1480s (known for the infamous Calverley Murders), the building housed the family up until the mid-18th century when it was divided and sold as cottages.

In 1981, it was acquired by the Landmark Trust, a building preservation charity that rescues historic buildings at risk by letting them out for holidays. Since then the trust has been working hard to restore the medieval building, conducting the restoration in several phases and renting the property out to the public. In 2017 they launched an international design competition to find an architect to revitalise the whole site, and the winning firm (Cowper Griffith) is now working closely with surveyors and historians to prepare for future work. With this in mind, the Landmark Trust launches its fundraising appeal this year with the hopes of starting work on the site by 2020.

The tour will begin at the North House (c. 1630-50) looking at the variety of old stones and carved heads that are part of the walls, before continuing into the Solar Wing (c. 1300), the oldest part of the building that remains and the place where the Calverleys would have lounged during the day. Now undergoing extensive archaeological analysis, the Solar Wing was remodelled in 1400, when the wing was extended and new tie beams with ornamental braces were inserted into the roof. Delegates will then move onto the unusually large Great Hall from the 1480s, before finishing in the rare surviving chapel (c. 1485-95), which was carefully restored in the 1980s. Throughout the tour, attendees will learn more about the building and those who lived there and will discuss the restorations being undertaken by the Landmark Trust with guide and representative of the trust; Kasia Howard.

Delegates should be aware that the ground around the site will be uneven and that sensible footwear is suggested.

Read about Calverley Old Hall on the Landmark Trust website

Towton Battlefield

Tuesday 2 July
Depart 13.30, arrive 18.00
Price: £17.50

On Palm Sunday 1461, in atrocious weather – howling wind, driving sleet and snow – the armies of two disputing Kings of England fought on a plateau of land a dozen or so miles south-west of the great medieval city of York in the North of England. Chroniclers then and historians now dispute the numbers involved in the Battle of Towton, but it is most likely that up to 75,000 fought and as many as 28,000 died in the battle itself and in the rout and massacres that followed.

Towton was an event of the greatest importance for England. It saw Edward IV come to the throne, displacing Henry VI. Had Henry VI’s forces prevailed, England would be a very different country. The Lancastrian line would have continued, and the Tudor line may never have ruled.

With the discovery of a mass grave of some of the fallen in 1996, the brutal reality of medieval warfare was revealed. Archaeological work on the skeletons, and other research on the battlefield itself, has confirmed the location of the battle – an area of land remarkably unchanged by the passage of time.

The walk starts where the Lancastrian forces stood at the start of the battle. The guide will describe the events of the day and lead the group around the area across which the rout took place. Key locations will be viewed, and topics including the combatants, English society, the weapons and armour will be discussed. Both the ‘traditional’ account of the battle, and the more recent reinterpretation of the source material, will be covered during the walk.

This excursion will be led by Chris Berendt (Chairman of Towton Battlefield Society) along with other guides from the Battlefield Society.

Find out more on the Towton Battlefield Society website

The Royal Armouries Museum

Wednesday 3 July
Depart 14.30, arrive 19.00
Price: £19.50

The Royal Armouries is the British national collection of arms and armour and Britain’s oldest museum. It contains the finest collection of medieval arms and armour in the UK. This excursion to the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds will begin with a self-guided visit to the public galleries until the museum closes at 17.00, at which time participants will be met by specialist senior curatorial staff. Participants will then have the opportunity to handle original examples of medieval armour and weapons, including some objects discussed in the Royal Armouries panel sessions Medieval Arms & Armour [1529 & 1629]’. Many of these objects are not on general display in the museum, but will be brought out for close examination and discussion.

In order to attend this excursion delegates will be required to bring a valid photo ID with them, such as a driving licence or passport. Delegates should also note that once the museum has closed they will not be permitted to move unaccompanied around the galleries, and will need to remain with the group.

The excursion will be met and conducted by Henry Yallop, Keeper of Edged Weapons & Armour; Bob Woosnam-Savage, Curator of Armour & Edged Weapons; Natasha Bennett, Curator of Oriental Collections; Keith Dowen, Assistant Curator of Armour and Scot Hurst, Assistant Curator of Arms & Armour.

Find out more on the Royal Armouries website

Beverley Minster and Town

Thursday 4 July
Depart 09.00, arrive 18.45
Price: £37.50

In the late 14th-century Beverley was a major port, the tenth largest town in England outside London, its economic prosperity based on wool processing and textile manufacture. Within the eastern part of Yorkshire, it was also a significant ecclesiastical centre, the Minster acting as the mother church for the town and its hinterland, and its shrine of St John of Beverley attracting many pilgrims.

The excursion will explore the ecclesiastical buildings of medieval Beverley, particularly the Minster and St Mary’s. The Minster was founded in the 8th century, and rebuilt several times, resulting in the current superb Gothic building, which is one of the great glories of late-medieval architecture in the north of England. Its place in the religious life of the town will be explored, and new evidence, derived from the masons’ and carpenters’ marks, for the way in which it was built will be examined in detail.

The sites of the medieval friaries will be visited during a walk through the town to St Mary’s church, originally a chapel of the Minster, and considered to be one of the finest parish churches in England. Its architecture displays work from most medieval periods, especially the late-medieval. Inside, carving in the nave reveal the involvement of local people in its building, there is a 15th-century painted ceiling depicting the kings of England, a fine set of carved misericords, and a delightful sculpture of a medieval hare, dressed as a pilgrim. There will also be an opportunity to see the rest of the town, and to discuss the famous 14th-century North Bar, an outstanding example of early brick architecture.

This excursion will be led by Jenny Alexander (Department of Art History, University of Warwick) and Agata Gomolka (Department of Art History and World Art Studies, University of East Anglia), both of whom have recently undertaken research on the construction of the Minster. Packed lunches will be included.

Find more information on the Beverley Minster website

'Of Armed Alabaster': Sir John Marmion and the Marmions of West Tanfield

Thursday 4 July
Depart 13.30, arrive 19.30
Price: £27.50

Located in a picturesque setting alongside the River Ure six miles from Ripon, the church of St Nicholas at West Tanfield is home to a fascinating series of effigies commemorating the local Marmion family. The most remarkable are those of Sir John Marmion (d.1387) and his wife Elizabeth St Quintin, located in the north aisle of the church. Expertly carved from Derbyshire alabaster, the tomb is enclosed by an exceptionally rare wrought-iron medieval funerary hearse.

Found in their hundreds in Britain’s churches, the knightly effigy is one of the most impressive memorials of the Middle Ages. They were designed not only to act as an impressive reminder of the identity and status of the individual, but as a focal point for intercessory prayers designed to speed the deceased’s soul through the torments of Purgatory. In addition, for the scholar of medieval arms and armour, military effigies are an invaluable resource; tracing the development of knightly equipment from the age of mail to that of full plate.

This afternoon excursion will examine the military equipment depicted on the Marmion effigies, with particular attention focused on that of Sir John Marmion. We will also explore the wider history of West Tanfield and visit Marmion Tower; the only surviving part of Tanfield Castle.  On our way back to Leeds we will take the opportunity to stop off at St Michael’s Church, Kirklington in order to view the fascinating mid-14th century effigy of Sir Alexander Mowbray.

The excursion will be led by Keith Dowen (Assistant Curator of European Armour, Royal Armouries) whose current research focuses on military effigies and 14th-century armour.