An Archaeological Study of the Monastic Order of the Gilbertines
The Order of St Gilbert of Sempringham was founded around 1130 and was notable both for its double houses, containing canons and nuns, and the claim of later historians that it was the only truly ‘English Order’. Of the original twenty-five monastic houses, eleven have been destroyed or have their original monastic plans obscured by later buildings. However, for the remaining fourteen houses there is good archaeological evidence surviving. Using this data, and especially the elements that enable the spatial reconstruction of each site, the PhD aims to ask a number of interrelated questions. One focus will be the double houses, not only to provide physical details of the variations between the areas occupied by women and men, but also to reconstruct how these differences may have affected the experiences and roles of the occupants. The form of the male only houses will also be characterised, and compared with other examples from other orders, such as the Augustinians, to see if there are any particularly distinctly ‘Gilbertine’ elements, and a physical model of a typical house proposed for the first time.
The most extensively excavated of the Gilbertine houses is Watton near Beverley, now held as the ‘type site’ for the double house, although as it was excavated over 100 years ago a re-evaluation of this archive is long overdue. The only other site to be comprehensively published, in 1996, is St Andrews, York, and this will be reassessed comparative with the wider evidence. These contain earthwork surveys, geophysical plots and aerial photography transcriptions for part, or all, of the houses at Alvingham, Bullington, Catley, Malton, Newstead, Shouldham, Sixhills and Tunstall. Finally the PhD will gather new data, both by reprocessing the existing geophysical data and aerial photographs and by carrying out new non-invasive topographical survey work and geophysical prospection at Alvingham, Catley and Newstead.