Excursions & Post-Congress Tour

Updated: Tuesday 24 March

It is with great sadness that we have decided to cancel this year’s International Medieval Congress, 6-9 July 2020, as a result of the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). This includes the cancellation of all events and excursions. Read our full statement.

Yorkshire and the surrounding regions are home to a wealth of fascinating medieval sites and resources. At IMC 2020, 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 from, and return to, 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 at the Information and Payments Desk located in the Leeds University Union Foyer.

Post-Congress Tour - Scotland the Brave!

Scotland the Brave!  Castles & Battlefields of Central Scotland

Friday 10 July – Tuesday 14 July

Price: £975.00 based on two sharing; single supplement, £150

By popular request the IMC Post-Congress tour this year heads north, crossing the Border between England and Scotland. In search of wonderful Scottish medieval castles and battlefields we will discover that many of the sites we will be visiting were associated with some of the most fascinating characters of this country’s turbulent past, such as William Wallace and Robert Bruce. This five day tour will provide an opportunity for you to visit, explore and compare some of central Scotland’s most evocative and finest medieval built heritage and battlefields in one trip, including two of the most famous battles of the Scottish Wars of Independence, Stirling and Bannockburn.

Over a dozen sites will be visited, including two of Scotland’s greatest castles, all against the backdrop of Scotland’s spectacular mountain and coastal scenery. The tour will be based in Edinburgh, allowing participants the chance to discover some of the old surviving town houses, pubs, and ‘wynds’ of the Old Town, which has preserved much of its medieval street plan. The itinerary includes:

Caerlaverock Castles                                                                                                                                     

The Castle of Caerlaverock guards the north banks of the Solway Firth and the first castle at this site was built in the 1220’s. This was replaced by the ‘new’ castle, ‘In shape it was like a shield, for it had but three sides’, which was begun in the 1270’s and was famously besieged by Edward I, together with 87 knights and 3000 men, in 1300.

Edinburgh Castle                                                                                                                                 

Edinburgh, capital of Scotland since 1437, has been dominated by its Castle (which holds both the Honours of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny) since at least 1093. Sites within the castle include St. Margaret’s Chapel, the Great Hall, Royal Palace and the magnificent 15th century bombard, Mons Meg, built in 1449 and given as a gift to James II in 1454.

Doune Castle                                                                                                                                  

This castle is probably the best preserved Scottish castle of the 14th century. It was built by Robert Stewart, third son of Robert II. During the reigns of James I, II and II, the castle was often used as a Royal retreat from Stirling and also as a dower house by various queens of Scotland. It has been used as a film location on many occasions, perhaps most notably in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and, more recently, the TV series Outlander and Game of Thrones.

Rosslyn Chapel                                                                                                                                              

The world famous Rosslyn Chapel, founded in 1446, contains a wealth of fascinating medieval sculpture and intricate architectural detail which make it one of the finest medieval chapels in Scotland. It has been, and continues to be, a centre of intense speculation particularly since the publication and film of The Da Vinci Code novel. It is reputedly (or perhaps not) the last resting place of the Holy Grail/ Head of Christ/ Treasures of the Temple/ Lost Scrolls / the wisdom of the Templars / the Lost Crown Jewels and the Holy Rood of Scotland/ the True Stone of Destiny!

St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral and Abernethy Round Tower                                                                                                           

Scotland’s premier medieval cathedral city, St. Andrews, boasts the 13th century Castle of the Archbishops of St. Andrews and the immense and ruinous shell of the Cathedral. The castle contains a bottle dungeon, ‘from which death was the only release’, and the still accessible subterranean mine and countermine dug during the siege of 1546-47. The Cathedral, which was dedicated in 1318, was once the largest in Scotland. The top of the 33 m (108 ft.) St. Rule’s Tower gives a birds-eye view of the medieval street plan of the town.  The near-by parish church at Abernethy boasts a 12th century round tower, one of only two in Scotland.

Stirling Castle                                                                                                                                             

Stirling Castle, ‘the Key  to Scotland’, which has changed hands more often than any other castle in the country, witnessed  Edward I’s construction of ‘War-Wolf’, a huge siege machine, to use against the castle in 1304. Regarded as ‘the grandest of all Scotland’s castles’, the earliest surviving parts date from the 15th century. The magnificent Great Hall, Royal Palace and Chapel Royal, form the core of the castle.

The National Wallace Monument, the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge and the Bannockburn Battlefield Centre                                                                                                                                                            

The 67 m (220 ft.) National Wallace Monument, built atop the 91 m (300 ft.) Abbey Craig, was completed in 1869. It holds the ‘Wallace Sword’ that allegedly belonged to William Wallace. From the top, reached by climbing 264 steps, seven battlefields can be seen, including Stirling Bridge (1297) where Wallace gained his greatest victory, Falkirk (1298) and Bannockburn (1314). The Bannockburn Battlefield Centre marks the site where Bruce raised his standard in a battle that would see the Scots defeat the might of Edward II’s army.

Tantallon Castle                                                                                                                            

This dramatically situated castle, standing atop 30 m (100 ft.) high sea-cliffs and looking out towards the Bass Rock, was built in the 1350’s.  A mighty Baronial residence, it was besieged a number of times from 1491 and the East Tower was radically altered in the early 16th century to make it into a gun tower, complete with gun-loops.

Halidon Hill Battlefield and Berwick Castle, Town and Walls

The Battle of Halidon Hill (1333), which, highlighting the power of the longbow, saw Edward III take Berwick-upon-Tweed back from the Scots. The important border position of Berwick led to over 400 years of sieges and sackings from 1018 until Edward IV’s capture of the town in 1482. Of the castle itself, first recorded in 1160, little remains, and although the line of some of the medieval town walls can be followed the bulk of the walls date from 1558 onwards, making Berwick the best example of Elizabethan fortifications still standing.

This tour 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).

We recommend that you reserve your place on this excursion by completing the Registration Form as early as possible. Sensible footwear is recommended, as there will be a significant amount of walking on uneven surfaces and climbing steep stone steps. It would also be advisable to bring raincoats and sunblock. The price of the tour includes entry to sites, individual site guidebooks, travel, four nights’ accommodation (ensuite), with breakfast, dinners and packed lunches. The programme may be subject to change.

Two ‘Secret’ Yorkshire Castles - Tickhill and Conisbrough

Two ‘Secret’ Yorkshire Castles – Tickhill and Conisbrough

Sunday 05 July, 10.00-18.15
Price: £42.50

This excursion to the Yorkshire village of Tickhill and town of Conisbrough, near Doncaster, will allow participants to visit two castles which both had their roots in the expansion of the Normans in the North of England. Tickhill Castle is the property of the Duchy of Lancaster and is therefore not normally open to the public. This excursion allows a rare and exclusive opportunity to study the remains of this little known magnificent motte and bailey castle.

The early castle at Tickhill was built before 1089 with prominent earth and water features. The motte, at 23 metres (75 feet), is the highest surviving early Norman motte, and the gatehouse is one of the earliest surviving Norman gatehouses in England. The castle witnessed a number of sieges throughout its history, in 1102, 1193-4, 1264, 1322, and finally in 1644. It was set in a landscape which included a moat (which is still filled with water), a mill and its millpond, as well as a 13th-century clapper bridge.

Although famously appearing in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe (1819), the little-visited Conisbrough Castle remains one of Yorkshire’s best-kept secrets. The castle possesses the most impressive and finest standing remains of a late 12th-century cylindrical keep or donjon in Britain. It has been described as ‘one of the finest examples of late Norman defensive architecture’. The four-storey Norman keep is exceptionally well preserved, both internally and externally, and reaches a height of 27 metres (90 feet). Within its walls is the largest hooded fireplace of its date, an impressive private chapel, and a fine processional staircase.

Along the way, the church of St John at Wadworth will also be visited to see the rare effigy of a medieval forester in hunting garb, complete with sword, buckler, and horn, unique in Yorkshire. There is also a fine effigy of a knight and lady from the time of the Wars of the Roses, Edmund Fitzwilliam (1382-1465), whose father (another Edmund) was constable of Conisbrough Castle.

The tour will also stop at Braithwell to see the stump of a medieval cross shaft, which has an intriguing, although unproven, association. It is all that remains of a cross allegedly erected to commemorate the freeing of King Richard I from imprisonment (c. 1191).

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 (Curator of Armour and Edged Weapons, Royal Armouries, Leeds).

Sensible footwear is recommended, as there will be a significant amount of walking on uneven surfaces and climbing steep stone steps.

Packed lunches will be provided.

Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey

Sunday 05 July 2020, 11.00-19.00
Price: £41.50

In March 1132, Rievaulx was the first Cistercian monastery to be settled in the north of England. A daughter house of Clairvaux, it was intended to bring the Cistercian order to the north of England and to Scotland, and many of its first monks were Yorkshiremen who had joined the early Cistercian reform at Clairvaux under its first abbot, St Bernard.

Rievaulx is important for its early buildings. The west range is part of the first stone monastery built by its first abbot, William, and later the church’s east range and infirmary underwent a monumental rebuilding by its third abbot, Aelred. Aelred’s successor, Sylvan, began the rebuilding of the south range, and in the 1220s the construction of a new seven-bay presbytery and modified transept provided a dignified setting for the shrine built for St Aelred behind the high altar.

The buildings of the 12th and 13th centuries are important internationally and the 14th-century and later remodellings of the buildings are of equal significance as they show adaptions to suit developing monastic life and a shrinking community. Once seen as evidence of decline they are now appreciated as a resurgence and reorganisation of monastic life in the late 14th and 15th centuries, forming parallels with other Cistercian sites in England, Scotland, and Wales.

The guides for this excursion are Glyn Coppack (Archaeological and Historical Research) and Stuart Harrison (Ryedale Archaeological Services and Cathedral Archaeologist at York).

Packed lunches will be provided.

Leeds Owl Trail: A Walking Tour of Leeds

Leeds Owl Trail: A Walking Tour of Leeds

Sunday 05 July 2020, 14.00-16.30
Price: £15.00

The Leeds Owl Trail was first set up in 2009, after organisers felt there was a gap in the market for a historical walk with a difference. Finding that historical walks are often big on facts and figures but lacking an element of fun, the idea came about to use the many owls featured in local architecture to offer a new perspective on Leeds city centre.

With this in mind, they asked the public of Leeds to ‘Owl Spot’ for them through the Yorkshire Evening Post and the response was incredible! They set about building a sculpture trail, initially with just ten owls, and (with permission!) adapted the famous Leeds Picture Map. At first focusing on children and school parties through the ‘Every Owl Matters’ programme the group have gradually expanded to the ‘Grand Owl Tour’ which features 25 owls across the city centre. This year, they also worked closely with Visit Leeds, using the Owl Trail to encourage more international visitors to Leeds.

Delegates will have the opportunity to walk the streets of Leeds with Leeds Owl Trail Guide, Clifford Stead, a visual artist with a passion for Leeds. They will learn more about the history of Leeds city centre, including the medieval street of Kirkgate.

Please note, sensible footwear is recommended as there will be a significant amount of walking.

Fulford Battlefield

Fulford Battlefield

Monday 06 July 2020, 13.00-17.00
Price: £18.50

The site of Fulford, the first but largely forgotten battle of 1066, has been identified.

On the morning of Wednesday, 20th September 1066, thousands of Norse warriors marched from their base at Riccall, 12 km (7.5 miles) south of Fulford, to rendezvous with their leader, King Harald Hardrada, of Norway. The early sources inform us that he had landed with his hirð (hearth troops) the evening before.

Archaeology explains why this bold gambit worked, dividing the native armies of the brother earls Edwin and Morcar as they moved their forces to block this invasion. History tells us that it was Earl Tostig, the brother of the new king of England, Harold, who was leading the Viking force on their three-hour march to Fulford. But had he also contrived to ensure simultaneous invasions of England, in the north and south?

The highest tides of the year generated a wide, but temporary moat which meant neither side could attack while their forces assembled. When the tide ebbed, Earl Morcar led his Northumbrian army out of York against the man he had forced into exile the previous autumn.
The northern earls were out-manoeuvred and routed by King Harald. But his victory was short-lived because the Norse invaders were destroyed near Stamford Bridge just five days later.

This defeat might explain why so much battle debris survived at Fulford, apparently gathered for recycling, but abandoned after Stamford Bridge to be covered by the following tides.

Delegates will enjoy a two-hour, approximately 4 km (2.5 mile), walk around the site, parts of which are unchanged since the time of the battle. This excursion will be guided by Chas Jones, who led the archaeological project to identify the site.

Sensible footwear is recommended.

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

Monday 06 July 2020, 13.30-19.00
Price: £25.50

The beautiful setting of Bolton Priory has inspired artists and writers by, in the words of John Ruskin, its ‘sweet peace and tender decay’ (1856). The ruins of the medieval priory and its church are within the wooded valley of the River Wharf and provide a glimpse of both medieval and 18th-century approaches to medieval buildings.

In this excursion, delegates will walk down from the village with its shops and facilities to explore the abbey ruins and look at its conversion to a parish church after the Reformation. Architectural periods from the 12th to the 16th century can be seen here, and we’ll discover how the later builders responded to the work of their predecessors, and why the site became the haunt of the Romantic artists and writers.

This excursion will be led by Jenny Alexander (Department of Art History, University of Warwick).

Wharram Percy

Wharram Percy

Tuesday 07 July 2020, 13.00-19.00
Price: £22.50

Wharram Percy, on the Yorkshire Wolds, is the location of one of the best known and most influential medieval settlement excavations in Europe. The first archaeological investigations at this deserted village site were carried out in the late 1940s by the historian Professor Maurice Beresford of Leeds University, and this work led to a 40-year programme of excavations under the direction of John Hurst, the leading authority on English medieval settlement archaeology.

A total of 100 excavation areas – both large and small – were opened up between 1950 and 1990, and these revealed Roman and early medieval remains as well as the foundations of medieval and later farmsteads. The walls of the roofless medieval church were recorded and analysed, and its interior was excavated along with a significant part of the surrounding graveyard. The site of the medieval water mill and its associated pond were also investigated.

Publication of the results of the excavations was completed in 2012, with the appearance of the last of 13 volumes of reports and analyses, prepared by over 130 authors and specialists. The published data included over 200,000 animal bones, over 70,000 pieces of pottery, and over 15,000 metal objects, as well as almost 700 human skeletons. Further research on these assemblages is still in progress.

Visitors reach the site after a 20-minute walk along a routeway which has been in use since prehistoric times. The site itself contains the well-preserved earthworks of about 30 farmsteads along with the manorial enclosure of the Percy family. Most of these earthworks stand on the edge of the chalk plateau, overlooking a narrow valley which contains the medieval church and graveyard, along with the site of the medieval water mill and a post-medieval farmstead and vicarage.

The excursion will be led by Stuart Wrathmell (Medieval Settlement Research Group, York). Sensible footwear is recommended as there will be walking on uneven surfaces.

Royal Armouries

Royal Armouries

Wednesday 08 July, 13.30-19.00
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 Britain. This excursion to the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds will begin with a self-guided visit to the public galleries until 16:00.

At 16:00 delegates will be met by the curators, Keith Dowen and Scot Hurst, of the new exhibition on the Field of Cloth of Gold for a guided tour of this 500th anniversary exhibition in the Tournament gallery, until the museum closes to the public at 17.00.

Delegates will then have the opportunity to view and handle original examples of armour and weapons with curatorial staff. In addition to medieval objects, there will be objects from around the time of the Field of Cloth of Gold (1520) brought out for close examination and handling.

In order to attend this excursion, delegates will be required to bring a valid photo ID with them, such as a driving license or passport.

Delegates should 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.

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

Thursday 09 July 2020, 10.00-19.00
Price: £42.50

Durham Cathedral, begun in 1093, has always dominated its city and demonstrated the power of its ruling prince-bishops. It was also a priory under the care of Benedictine monks and the site of the main pilgrimage of the north, to visit the shrine of St Cuthbert, during the medieval period.

The cathedral is of breathtaking size and is one of the most significant church buildings of the Romanesque period, combining new approaches to architecture and sculpture with reflections on the early medieval past. This excursion will provide the chance to explore the architecture, discussing its innovative high vaults, its decorative and architectural use of sculpture, and the layout of its chapels.

The trip will include a self-guided visit to the ‘Open Treasure’ exhibition, which displays some of the cathedral’s fascinating collections acquired over the centuries. Delegates will journey through the 14th-century monk’s dormitory and through the Collections Gallery with a fascinating rolling programme of exhibitions. They will then explore the monastic great kitchen with the Treasures of St Cuthbert showcasing St Cuthbert’s original wooden coffin and pectoral cross alongside some of the most significant surviving early medieval artefacts in the UK.

After visiting the cathedral, delegates will have the choice of exploring the nearby town centre or attending a lecture by Charlie Rozier at the Palace Green Library, where he will discuss the story of the Durham community, c. 700-1150.

The guide for the tour of the cathedral will be provided by the site. The excursion will be accompanied by Charlie Rozier (Department of History, Durham University) and Patrick Mussett (formerly Archives & Special Collections, Durham University).

Packed lunches will be provided.

The Bridge Chantry Chapels of Wakefield and Rotherham

The Bridge Chantry Chapels of Wakefield and Rotherham

Thursday 09 July 2020, 13.00-19.00
Price: £25.50

During the later Middle Ages, chapels were built on bridges in order to serve the spiritual needs of travellers. Such bridge chapels were once found in Leeds and Bristol, and there was even a chapel dedicated to St Thomas Becket on the old London Bridge. Today however, only a few of these chapels survive, two of which are in Yorkshire – the Chantry Chapel of St Mary the Virgin in Wakefield and the Chapel of Our Lady in Rotherham, both of which are Grade I listed buildings.

Built at the expense of the townspeople into a new stone bridge crossing the River Calder, the Wakefield chantry chapel was first licensed in 1356. The chapel stands about a mile from Sandal Castle, which was formerly a stronghold of the House of York during the Wars of the Roses.

During the Battle of Wakefield on 30th December, the Lancastrian forces overwhelmed the army of Richard, the Duke of York. After Richard and his son Edmund were both killed in the battle, their bodies were brought into the chapel and a Requiem Mass was celebrated. A traditional Latin Requiem Mass is celebrated on 30th December each year in honour of Richard, who, although he never became a king himself, was father to Edward IV and Richard III.

After the Dissolution under Henry VIII, the chapel came into secular hands and was used for a wide variety of purposes. Over the following centuries it fell into decay. It was restored in the 1840s and was reopened and rededicated at Easter 1848.

The Chapel of Our Lady on Rotherham Bridge dates back to 1483. After the Dissolution, care of the chapel passed to the Feoffees of the Common Lands of Rotherham whose charity also goes back more than 500 years. The Feoffees supported the poor and needy of Rotherham. In addition to being guardians of the common land, the charity also owned land and property in the area from which the rents received were used for the benefit of the inhabitants of the town. The Feoffees converted the chapel into an almshouse. Afterwards, the chapel then became a dwelling for the deputy constable and a jail and finally a tobacconist shop before coming full circle back to a chapel.

In the 1970s, Alan Younger designed a stained glass window which was installed in the chapel. This is not a religious window but a historical window telling the history of the chapel through the symbols hidden there.

This tour will also include a visit to Wakefield Cathedral, which was the parish church of All Saints until 1888. There has been a Christian community there since the time of Paulinus. Little remains of the stone church which was constructed after the Norman Conquest, partly because the tower collapsed in the 14th century. The church was rebuilt in the perpendicular style but with Victorian alterations. The West Tower and spire is the tallest in Yorkshire. Highlights of the cathedral include a 17th-century rood screen, surmounted by rood figures by Ninian Kemper, a fine selection of 19th and 20th-century stained glass, as well as medieval choir stalls and misericords.

This tour will have guides provided by the Friends of the Chantry Chapel in Wakefield and the Friends of Rotherham Chapel on the Bridge who ensure that these sites are looked after and kept open for visitors.