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Thornton Abbey Medieval Hospital and Cemetery Excavation

Location: Thornton Abbey, Ulceby, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom

June 28, 2015 to July 24, 2015

Session dates: 
Week 1- 28th June to 3rd July Week 2- 5th to 10th July Week 3-12th to 17th July Week 4- 19th to 24th July

Application Deadline: 
Monday, June 1, 2015

Deadline Type: 
Contact for details

Program Type

Field school



University of Sheffield

Project Director:

Dr. Hugh Willmott & Peter Townend

Project Description

Thornton abbey was founded as an Augustinian priory in 1139 by William Le Gros and over the next two centuries expanded into one of the richest houses in England. In 1539 the abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII although it continued to be used as a college of secular priests until 1547 when it was finally suppressed by Edward VI.

Since 2011 The University of Sheffield has been undertaking a five year research programme on the abbey precinct. This not only aims to undertake a complete topographical and geophysical survey of the monastic enclosure, it also include targeted excavation of the identified medieval and post-dissolution features in order to gain a better understanding of the site’s long history.

During the 2015 season we will be continuing our excavation in the area identified last year as the location of the medieval hospital of St James and its associated cemetery. Trenches will be located over the east end of the hospital chapel, the infirmary hall, and we will be continuing work on the cemetery, where to date over 120 human skeletons have been excavated.

Students attending the field school play a central role in continuing the geophysical and topographical survey of this area, as well as taking part in the excavation of the trenches. You will also have the opportunity to excavate in the cemetery and help process the human bones and other artefacts. All work is supervised by experienced staff from the University of Sheffield, volunteers get to take part in all the key activities.

The field school fee is £195 per week (approx. $300 USD but please check on application). This includes supervision, course materials, all meals, camping in tents and pick up & drop off at the local train station (Thornton Abbey).

Period(s) of Occupation: medieval, historical, monastic, human osteology

Excavation, topographical and geophysical survey at the Augustinian Abbey, exploring the medieval hospital and its cemetery.

Project size: 
25-49 participants

Minimum Length of Stay for Volunteers: 1 week

Minimum age: 

Experience required: 

Room and Board Arrangements

Accommodation is provided in the form of basic camping ten minutes walk from the site. Tents and airbeds will be available for students to borrow on advance request. Domestic facilities (including hot showers, flush lavatories and access to a washing machine) will be available and all meals are provided.

Participants are welcome to stay on the campsite on the days off, when food will still be avaialble.

Accommodation and all food are included in the fee (see above)

Academic Credit

Number of credits offered None. A full certificate of participation can be issued in lieu of formal credit


Contact Information
Dr Hugh Willmott
Department of Archaeology, University of Sheffield, Northgate House, West Street
South Yorkshire
United Kingdom
+44 1142222940
Recommended Bibliography: 

Look at what we got up to last year (please note we don't post images and details of human remains):

Watch a video where students describe their experiences: