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Site of 'King Athelstan's Palace', immediately north of the church

A Scheduled Monument in Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.7966 / 53°47'47"N

Longitude: -1.2598 / 1°15'35"W

OS Eastings: 448855.778411

OS Northings: 433615.163886

OS Grid: SE488336

Mapcode National: GBR MSNJ.1S

Mapcode Global: WHDBN.MTBV

Entry Name: Site of 'King Athelstan's Palace', immediately north of the church

Scheduled Date: 13 November 1962

Last Amended: 22 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017486

English Heritage Legacy ID: 30118

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Sherburn in Elmet

Built-Up Area: Sherburn in Elmet

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Sherburn-in-Elmet All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument, known as Hall Garth, consists of a number of earthworks,
including building platforms, wall lines, ditches, terraces and small
quarrying scoops. It is identified as the site of the palace built on land
given by King Athelstan to the Archbishopric of York. The monument lies on a
north facing hillside, the crest of which is occupied by the parish church.
Athelstan was the first king to have control over all of the English after
overthrowing the Scandinavian kingdom of York in 927. In 937 he defeated an
alliance of Scots and Scandinavians at the Battle of Brunanburh and as thanks
for this victory he gave the manors at Sherburn and Cawood to the Archbishop
of York. The manor house or palace at Sherburn was a high status site and was
subsequently used as a hunting lodge by the Archbishops. There is documentary
evidence that there was a wealthy Saxon church associated with the palace and
the Domesday Book shows no drop in income for the manor, unlike most other
areas of Yorkshire. The Saxon church was replaced c.1100 by a larger church
which still stands immediately to the south of the monument, but the palace
had fallen into ruin by 1361 when the then Archbishop, John Thoresby, ordered
its demolition. The stone from the palace was then used in the building of the
choir at York Minster.
The monument retains a number of earthwork features, typically standing up to
0.5m high. The northern boundary of the monument is marked by a broad,
straight,`U' shaped depression about 6m wide with a slight bank on its
southern side. This is interpreted as the partially silted boundary ditch of
the archbishop's palace. Close to the western side of the monument there is a
large pond, about 10m by 20m, surrounded by a slight bank and cut into the
rising ground to the south of the vallum. Either side of this pond and to its
south, there is a series of low breaks of slope running east to west, so that
the rising ground forms three broad terraces up to an old field boundary that
runs between the south west corner of the field and the junction of St John's
Lane and Church Hill to the east. These terraces extend eastwards to within
about 80m of St John's Lane where there is an area up to 30m wide extending
from the vallum southwards up the hill to the boundary with the churchyard.
This area contains a number of building platforms and the earthworks of wall
lines. To the east of these building remains there are a number of broad
depressions and, to the south of the old field boundary where the ground rises
steeply, there are a number of small quarrying scoops up to 4m wide.
Anglo-Saxon occupation around the site was probably more extensive than the
area of the monument. However, the position, nature and extent of any further
remains are not fully understood and thus they are not included in the
All modern fencing and the stone walling are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Bishops' palaces were high status domestic residences providing luxury
accommodation for the bishops and lodgings for their large retinues; although
some were little more than country houses, others were the setting for great
works of architecture and displays of decoration.
Bishops' palaces were usually set within an enclosure, sometimes moated,
containing a range of buildings, often of stone, including a hall or halls,
chapels, lodgings and a gatehouse, often arranged around a courtyard or
The earliest recorded examples date to the seventh century. Many were occupied
throughout the medieval period and some continued in use into the post-
medieval period; a few remain occupied today. Only some 150 bishops' palaces
have been identified and documentary sources confirm that they were widely
dispersed throughout England. All positively identified examples are
considered to be nationally important.

Anglo-Saxon royal and episcopal palaces were high status occupation sites,
which also acted as assembly places and administrative centres. They typically
consisted of a number of timber built buildings, the most prominent being a
large and elaborate great hall, but also including a number of smaller
ancillary buildings. Stone buildings are also known from Anglo-Saxon palace
sites. Sites rarely survive as upstanding earthworks, and are normally
identified by aerial photography and excavation.
The site of this palace is of importance because of its four centuries of use
by the Archbishops of York and because of its association with Athelstan, who
was one of the most influential and successful rulers of the early medieval
period. Evidence of early tenth century occupation, including foundation
trenches and post holes for timber buildings, rubbish pits, and other
archaeological deposits will survive, together with evidence of the later
development of the complex.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Le Patourel, H E J, Moated site of Yorkshire, (1973), 127

Source: Historic England

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