York – St Mary’s Abbey, the Yorkshire Museum

On Thursday 11 February 2016 we had a day in York with friends Jean and Adrian. We spent most of the day in the Yorkshire Museum. Am I going to start blogging every museum I visit? Yes, if my public want me to! The museum’s website is here. The museum was founded by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, and they were given ten acres of land in 1828, land which included the remains of St Mary’s Abbey (the ecclesiastical link which justifies a blog). The gardens around are lovely and I must have a proper explore sometime.

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The original church was founded in 1055 and, according to Wikipedia, was dedicated to Saint Olaf II of Norway – that seems a little odd. It was refounded in 1088 for Abbot Stephen and a group of monks from Whitby. Apparently Bishop Odo and Archbishop Thomas of Bayeux were both present – that would have been quite a journey. Odo was the half brother of William the Conqueror, and appears on the Bayeux Tapestry. You can read about Odo on the BBC Kent News website – I love the idea that he is “News”!

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Some of the monks had moved to York from Lastingham – another church I must go and blog (it’s in a beautiful spot in the North York Moors). In 1132 some of the monks left and founded Fountains. The current York ruins date from a rebuilding between 1271 and 1294 – it must have been in a good financial state at that time to spend so much money on these buildings.

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The Abbot’s House, built of brick in 1483, survives as King’s Manor. It is now the centre for the University’s History of Art department, where we have been to some excellent events. Website here. I will go and get some photos next time I’m in York. The Abbey was dissolved in 1539, by which time it was the largest and richest Benedictine Abbey in the North.

Some of the stonework from the Abbey is on display in the downstairs galleries that go “Beyond Jorvik”, and there is some wonderful carving.

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This is a headless St Edmund – well, he was known for being headless!

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There are lots more lovely things.

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This is the Wistow Plaque which shows St Christopher. Perhaps it helped with crossing the River Ouse – or perhaps it didn’t help and the traveller threw it away.

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The Bedale Hoard – found in 2012, dates to late C9 or early C10. It is a beautiful piece of Viking work. This video is good.

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This is the Vale of York Hoard which was discovered in North Yorkshire in January 2007 by two metal-detectorists, David and Andrew Whelan. They kept the find intact and promptly reported it to their local Finds Liaison Officer. It was declared Treasure in 2009 and was valued at £1,082,000. The hoard contains a mixture of different precious metal objects, including coins, complete ornaments, ingots (bars) and chopped-up fragments known as hack-silver (67 objects in total and 617 coins). It shows the diversity of cultural contacts in the medieval world, with objects coming from as far apart as Afghanistan in the East and Ireland in the West, as well as Russia, Scandinavia and continental Europe. The most spectacular single object is a gilt silver vessel, made in what is now France or western Germany around the middle of the ninth century. It was apparently intended for use in church services, and was probably either looted from a monastery by Vikings, or given to them in tribute. Most of the smaller objects were hidden inside this vessel, which was itself protected by some form of lead container. As a result, the hoard was extremely well-preserved. Other star objects include a rare gold arm-ring, and 617 coins, including several new or rare types. These provide valuable new information about the history of England in the early tenth century, as well as Yorkshire’s wider cultural contacts in the period. Interestingly, the hoard contains coins relating to Islam and to the pre-Christian religion of the Vikings, as well as to Christianity. (Most of this paragraph is taken off the museum’s website).

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This incredible gold and sapphire reliquary pendant – the finest piece of medieval gold-working ever fund in England – was discovered near to Middleham Castle in 1985. It was probably commissioned and worn by a woman of considerable status who was resident at or a visitor to the castle. Anne Beauchamp, mother in law of King Richard, and Richard’s own mother, Cecily Neville, have been suggested as potential owners.

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The Gilling Sword. There was an Anglian settlement and abbey at Gilling with links to Northumbria’s royal family. This sword, with its silver-gilt handle, may have been owned by King Oswiu, or one of his earls. It was found by nine year old Gary Fridd in the River Swale. Gilling is also the location of the Ryedale Society of Model Engineers – website – I must visit.

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And just a couple of things from the Roman galleries. This is a blacksmith with his tongs. Julie’s granddad was a blacksmith, at Llansantffraid near Oswestry.

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A stunning mosaic to finish with. This museum is well worth a visit.

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One Response to York – St Mary’s Abbey, the Yorkshire Museum

  1. Gardening Dave says:

    Thoroughly agree about the museum Peter, and we love York too – there’s so much to do and see.

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