(copyright Humber Archaeology Partnership)



Evans, D.H. 1997 'Excavations and Watching Briefs on the site of the Knights Hospitallers' Preceptory, Beverley, 1991-94 East Riding Archaeologist 9 (1997), 66-115

Larking, L.B. and Kemble, J.M. 1857 The Knights Hospitallers in England Camden Society, 49-51

Miller, K., Robinson, J., English, B. and Hall 1982 Beverley: an archaeological and architectural study  R.C.H.M.E. Supplementary Series 4, London (H.M.S.O.), 52

Oliver, G. 1829 The History and Antiquities of the town of Beverley Beverley

Page, William 1913 The Victoria History of the county of York, Volume 3, 260-262

The Preceptory of the Holy Trinity at Beverley as revealed by archaeology (after Evans 1997, 97 figure 13.)

The stippled area within the moated enclosure is thought to have been the site of the preceptory cemetery while the area of cross-hatching is likely to mark the location of the main preceptory buildings

Virtually nothing was known archaeologically of the Preceptory of the Holy Trinity at Beverley until a series of watching briefs and evaluations carried out in the early 1990s. The results of this work were published by Evans in 1997 and it is on this publication that the following account is mainly based.

Although the location of the preceptory, known locally as 'the inner trinities',  had never been in doubt its precise extent was not established until the recent work. During work in the market gardens in the 19th century a number of finds were recovered and recorded in antiquarian sources, principally Oliver (1829). These included several spurs, a leaden sigillum which had been appended to a papal bull and several single burials while in 1825 a large number of skeletons were found in a mass grave which probably dated from the time the site was used as a pest house for plague victims.

The archaeological work in the 1990s mainly concentrated on establishing the full extent of the site and the dimensions of the surrounding moat. It was found that the island enclosed by the moat amounted to a little more than a hectare (10,043 square metres)  and measured 83m east-west by 121m north-south. Although only one complete section of the moat was obtained this was found to be 10.8m wide and 2.3m deep. Little trace was found of a bank inside the moat and the up-cast material may have been used to raise the level on the enclosed area. However, an earthwork bank could well have been levelled by the market gardening activity and the perimeter of the site must have been enclosed by at least a fence or palisade.

In addition to the single burials reported in the 19th century, excavations in the 1990s revealed 15 further extended inhumations within the southern part of the enclosed area. Each burial was orientated east-west and three were of individuals of particularly small stature.  Evans (1997, 109-1110) concluded that the southern part of the site was given over to the preceptory cemetery.

A trench within the eastern part of the enclosure revealed traces of two phases of a timber building at least 6m wide and of post-truss construction; perhaps an aisled hall. Finds of both ceramic ridge tiles and roof finials suggest this was a substantial structure. 

This timber-framed hall, dated to between the mid 13th and 15th centuries, may have been the manorial building (manerium edificatumdescribed in 1338 while the moated site is clearly the garden and courtyard (curtilagio).  Other components of the preceptory, such as the chapel and kitchen have not been identified. As a fire precaution, the bakehouse was probably a free-standing structure. An expenditure on oats and a stipends for grooms (palefridariiindicate the presence of stables while  a porter or gatekeeper (janitoris) implies a proper gatehouse rather than the two brick and stone piers illustrated by Evans (1997, 109), although we do know that this was located on the west side of the moat.  The enclosure probably also included the two dovecots mentioned in 1338, while two further dovecots and a windmill may have been situated nearby in the area later know as 'the outer trinities'. According to the excavations a substantial area of the southern part of the enclosure was given over to the preceptory cemetery. While the Home Office burial license precluded the lifting and detailed study of the skeletons, three were noted as of particularly small stature and may have been children. In 1338 the Beverley Preceptory had, in addition to the three members of the Order, a staff of 16 including two pages.