Lost church seen for the first time in 450 years

October 17th, 2013
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Working in the Hungate area of York, archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust (YAT) have revealed the remains of one of York’s lost churches for the first time in over 450 years.

The church of St John The Baptist, more commonly known as St John’s In The Marsh, was built during the 12th century, was closed during the reformation and demolished by the late 16th century, before it’s true location could ever be recorded, and has never been seen since.

Never a wealthy parish church, St John’s flourished during the 15th century when Richard Russell, twice a mayor of York, was a rich benefactor of the church. However, by the early the 16th century the church was in a poor condition and by the middle of the 16th century St John’s parish was united with St Saviour’s parish.

At the start of the summer, YAT’s annual Archaeology Live! training school set out with the intention of revealing at least some of the remains of this lost church. By the end of the summer the team, made up of staff, placements and trainees from all over the world, achieved their aim and were delighted to finally reveal what remains of the east end of this medieval church.

Archaeology Live! supervisor Arran Johnson says, “It’s an archaeologist’s dream to discover a lost church. We don’t think anybody ever recorded St John’s before it was demolished and so up until now all we have had as a guide to its location has been generalised points on maps and a glimpse of foundation stones in a small archaeological trench, over a decade ago”.

Arran continues, “The Archaeology Live! team have done a fantastic job and now we can add further details to the life of St John’s church. Already we can see that the large majority of the good church stone has been removed, probably to be re-used to construct other buildings. We can also tell St John’s had at least one stained glass window and coloured floor tiles because the team started to find pieces of stained glass and glazed floor tile at the end of the training school”.

The Archaeology Live! training dig was carried out with kind permission from Hungate (York) Regeneration Ltd who own the land and have financed the previous archaeological excavations in the Hungate area.

A free open day will be held at the Hungate site between 10am and 3pm on Saturday 19 October, to celebrate the finding of St John’s church. The entrance to the archaeological site can be found at the junction of Dundas Street and Palmer Lane, off Hungate.

For those interested in getting involved in archaeology, an autumn Archaeology Live! training course will be held at the site of St John’s church from Saturday 19 October through to Friday 25 October. To book a place on the training course, email trainingdig@yorkat.co.uk or phone 07908 210026.

To learn more about Hungate and see some of the fascinating artefacts recovered from Hungate area visit the Looking Back At Hungate Exhibition housed in DIG: An Archaeological Adventure on St Saviourgate, York.  For more information about DIG visit www.digyork.com.

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