Tree root beneath tomb, reused gravestones and Victorian alterations found at York chapel

By Ben Miller | 29 April 2014

Work is continuing at the Lady Chapel, where the bodies of three men and a heavily pregnant woman and foetus have been found entombed within All Saints Church in York, ahead of the creation of the first medieval-style pavement tile added to a parish church for 500 years.

A photo of people working inside a large church on an excavation
A 13th century cross slab from the Lady Chapel© The Rector and Church wardens of All Saints North Street, York
Archaeologists discovered a tree root had broken through the thin lime mortar floor of the tomb, which has a 2.5-ton cover stone with supporting stonework in need of repair.

“One of the purposes of the current excavations is to ensure that the ground is safe and that there are no hidden voids, or unstable vaults which might move and spoil the new floor,” says Dr Robert Richards, of the church.

A photo of an excavation inside a large medieval church
The glass in the window dates from nearly 700 years ago© The Rector and Church wardens of All Saints North Street, York
“As yet we do not know the date of the tomb, or who it was built for.

“The south wall of the tomb contained reused grave stones which were probably disturbed when the tomb was built.

“These have been described by experts as a particularly fine set of early 13th century cross slabs, which make a splendid addition to the best collection of cross slab grave covers in The City of York.

“The glass in the window is from about 1330. Stone-by-stone analysis of the outside of the East Wall indicates that this window replaces an earlier, lower one.

“The top of the tomb appears to have been at medieval floor level – the respond for the arch has its base at this level, and the wall projects under the arch, along most of the length of the tomb at about this level.

“Pottery associated with the east wall of the tomb remains to be accurately dated. The wood screen was installed in 1926, but is composed of recycled Victorian work from elsewhere. 

“The stone in a niche is the fragment of the original Great Statue of The Virgin. A hole in the wall is where the Victorians removed the piscine, after 1865.”

Excavations at the church are expected to continue until October.

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