The Monasteries of North-East Yorkshire


I have been thinking about the development of Heritage guidebooks in the UK. One of the moves away from the ‘blue guides’ was the new guide to Stonehenge and Avebury from the late 1950s. In 1962 a new guide was published for monastic sites in the care of the Ministry of Works: Alan Phillips, A look round the monasteries of north-east Yorkshire (London: HMSO, 1962) [2 shillings]. The guide is intended for tourers. The sites selected ‘are strung out … in the following pages, presented as to a motorist on a zigzag course from York’. A distinction is made between the detailed guides and this booklet: ‘This book is designed to be only an illustrated souvenir; the visitor in search of fuller information is advised to consult Abbeys, a Ministry of Works official publication’.

The sites covered are:

  • Kirkham Priory (pp. 6-11)
  • Byland Abbey (pp. 12-17)
  • Rievaulx Abbey (pp. 18-27)
  • Mount Grace Priory (pp. 28-33)
  • Gisborough Priory (pp. 34-37)
  • Whitby Abbey (pp. 38-45)

Each site has a simple plan, and there are a number of black and white photographs. There is a single reconstruction of Rievaulx Abbey by Alan Sorrell.

Phillips was also responsible for new castle guides in Wales.

My copy formed part of the Ministry of Works library and has now been withdrawn from the English Heritage library.

Author: David Gill

David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History and an Academic Associate in SISJAC at UEA; Professor of Archaeological Heritage.

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