HIS04 - The City of York

Submitting Institution

University of York

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

History and Archaeology: Archaeology, Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

The City of York enjoys a rich heritage of historic buildings, museums and archives which attract 7.1 million visitors p.a (12% overseas) (5.10). Between 2008 and 2013 members of the Department of History have transformed the public interpretation and conservation of this heritage by: i) developing better professional practice within heritage; ii) working in partnership with heritage organisations to develop learning resources; iii) contributing to the development of exhibitions, community events and publications in the heritage sector; iv) developing greater understanding of the full chronological range of York's history and bringing hitherto neglected issues to public prominence. In sum, these have contributed to a deeper public understanding of the richness and value of York's past.

Underpinning research

Before 2008 public interpretation of York's past was dominated by its Roman and Viking archaeology and a few outstanding monuments such as York Minster. Since 2008, due to the research and leadership of Sarah Rees Jones and others, public understanding has been transformed to appreciate a fuller range of York's histories in the medieval and modern periods.

Since 1993 Sarah Rees Jones (Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer) has researched the topography and history of the city of York in local and national archives. Her core research has been to develop a detailed understanding of the city's development through the discovery and analysis of records of property management, and to set this within broader comparative contexts (e.g. 3.1, 3.3). The monograph (3.1) published by Oxford University Press represents the summation of that research. The reader for OUP wrote: "the author's painstaking analysis and unrivalled knowledge of the thousands of records generated by property transactions within York allow her to approach well-established topics from a different perspective ...The author thus presents a far from conventional approach to a well-traversed field: urban growth and definition in the Middle Ages." Rees Jones's research began with the development of a database of title deeds as a resource (published 1996) and went on to use those materials to research the history of sites excavated by the York Archaeological Trust (YAT) and publish in their series The Archaeology of York. Her historical research illuminated the context for archaeological excavations (eg. Jewbury 1994, Bedern 2001) and provided a strong framework for their interpretation. She also contributed to the joint project between the UK Historic Towns Trust and YAT to publish a Historic Towns Atlas for York (3.10, map published 2012, atlas in progress).

Other reports by Rees Jones were submitted as advisory working papers to YAT, including a paper in 2000 which advocated the excavation of the Hungate site as an important area of high-density working class housing in the period after 1800. This neighbourhood was extensively documented by Seebohm Rowntree around 1900. He developed metric approaches towards the measurement of poverty in ways which still influence international methodologies and public policy. A Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust-funded research project run by Bill Sheils (in post 1993-2013), CI with Profs Neil Carter (Politics) and Jonathan Bradshaw (Social Policy), engaged four fellows (2000-01) to investigate the history of the Trust in preparation for its 2004 Centenary (3.6, 3.11). This research was subsequently developed by Rees Jones and others through an international conference on `Poverty in Depth' in 2009 (co-hosted with YAT) from which a special issue of an international refereed journal was published in 2011 (3.5).

Rees Jones, Glaisyer (2001-) and Jenner (1994-) also developed three AHRC-funded collaborative doctoral awards with YAT from 2008-present (3.7). They were designed to develop new understandings of the historical significance and research potential of YAT's collections of excavated artefacts (the largest such collections outside London). Two research students in History focussed on the study of branded goods, particularly medicines, over the long nineteenth century (substantially recovered from the Hungate excavations), and the consumption of household goods 1400-1600. A third PhD in Archaeology developed GIS as a fine-grained tool for integrating the analysis of Rees Jones' documentary site research with unpublished archaeological data (3.9). These collaborative projects led YAT to invest in the appointment of a University Research Fellow in Historical Archaeology 2010-13, James Symonds, who researches material cultures of modern era subaltern groups (3.5).

Rees Jones's research also focussed on community history, in particular addressing the difficult history of the massacre of the Jews of York in 1190. She published on the history of the Jewish cemetery (1994) and worked with the Department of Education on a project `Teaching the Holocaust', publishing on the `Roots of Anti-Semitism' in Medieval Europe' (3.2). In 2010 she co-hosted an international research conference with Sethina Watson (in post 2006-), which re-examined the narratives, both medieval and modern, through which writers struggled to give meaning to this traumatic history (3.4, 3.7)

References to the research

3.1 Sarah Rees Jones, York: the making of a city 1068-1350 (Oxford, 2013)*


3.2 Sarah Rees Jones, `The Roots of Anti-Semitism', in I. Davies (ed.), Teaching the Holocaust: Educational Dimensions, Principles and Practice: Continuum (2000)**

3.3 Rees Jones, S., `Building Domesticity: Urban Housing in England before the Black Death' in P. J. P. Goldberg and M. Kowaleski (eds), Domesticity: Home, Housing and Household in Medieval England (Cambridge University Press, 2008), pp. 66-91.*


3.4 Rees Jones, S. and Sethina Watson, Christians and Jews in Medieval England: Narratives and Contexts for the York 1190 Massacre, (Boydell and Brewer, York Medieval Press, 2013), including authored essay by Rees Jones and introduction by Watson.*


3.5 P. Connelly, S. Rees Jones, J. Rimmer, and J. Walker (eds.), Poverty In Depth: New International Perspectives, The International Journal for Historical Archaeology 15/4 (2011): inc. J. Symonds, `The Poverty Trap: Or, Why Poverty is Not About the Individual', 563-71.*


3.6 Mark Freeman, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust: A Study in Quaker Philanthropy and Adult Education 1904-1954 (York: William Sessions Ltd., 2004). ISBN 1 85072 310 9.

*Submitted to REF 2014. **Submitted to RAE 2001 (York rated at `5'). All publications available on request.

Key Research Grants

3.7 Rees Jones, `Three Collaborative Doctoral Awards — Possession, consumption and choice: three studies of the material culture of domestic goods in York and Yorkshire: AHRC and York Archaeological Trust (2008-13), £164,550.

3.8 Rees Jones, `York 1190: Jews and Others in the Wake of Massacre', British Academy Conference Grant (CSG: 53627), (2009-2011), £5145

3.9 Rees Jones, 'The Cultural Heritage of Historic European Cities and Public Participatory GIS', JISC Digitisation Workshops and Seminars (June - Sep 2009), £6297.

3.10 Rees Jones, `The York Historic Towns Atlas Project: The UK Historic Towns Trust' (March-December 2011), £11,000

3.11 Neil Carter, Bill Sheils and Jonathan Bradshaw `Centennial Research Fellowships' (2000-1), Joseph Rowntree, £96,000

Details of the impact

Research by the Department of History has resulted in the following impacts: i) the integration of historical methods into the working practices of York Archaeological Trust (YAT); ii) the transformation of YAT's excavation and engagement practices; (iii) the transformation of public understanding about York's past to include its modern history, the history of poverty and its Jewish communities.

i) YAT is a registered charity and a limited company. It has an annual turnover of £5-6 million and over 200 employees employed in archaeology and heritage attractions such as Jorvik, DIG (http://digyork.com/what-is-dig/) and Barley Hall, which attract nearly 500,000 visitors annually. From 1993 to December 2007 it did not employ an historian but concentrated on archaeology and relied on external advisors sitting on its Historical Committee. Rees Jones was the most active of these, publishing several reports in YAT publications before 2006 and since then was a member of its General Advisory Council, where in particular she advocated pursuing historical aspects of the new modern era excavations at Hungate (2006-12) — the largest area excavations ever conducted in York. As a result of the impact of her research in transforming the interpretation of previous archaeological sites and through her advocacy, YAT decided to employ a permanent full-time historian on its staff. In December 2007 they appointed Dr Jayne Rimmer, who had recently completed an AHRC-funded PhD with Rees Jones and Kate Giles (Archaeology). To date (April 2013) YAT has invested over £130,000 in incorporating historical research into the heart of their professional practices in both excavation, research and public interpretation, including their sponsorship since 2008 of collaborative doctoral students in History (5.2, 5.5). Rimmer has played a leading role in determining the interpretive agenda for major excavations at Hungate and the completion of reports for the developer and the public (5.1).

ii) YAT's curatorial policies have been strongly influenced by the inclusion of historical research in core YAT activities. Most importantly it has enabled them to tackle historically complex modern-era projects, integrating social and material approaches, for the first time. In particular they have used research supervised by Jenner in their catalogue of excavated modern-era pottery. They have developed both oral history and their use of historical GIS influenced by Rees Jones and others. The conferences on Historical GIS (2009) and Poverty in Depth (2009) which Rees Jones organised also brought to York experts in these fields from Europe, Australia and the US which in turn brought new international recognition to the work of YAT, and led to invitations for YAT staff to attend Archaeological conferences overseas, so broadening and deepening their understanding of York (5.2, 5.3).

iii) Historical research into the past residents of Hungate and urban poverty transformed public understanding of York's modern history and its relevance to deeper pasts, present and future. It also supported a new knowledge and skills exchange between among public and practitioners. Dissemination, via collaboration with YAT, took the form of talks and exhibitions reaching a very wide cross-section of society, including `hard to reach' groups from the elderly to young offenders (through liaison with the York and North Yorkshire Probation Trust). Site tours attracted 18,620 visitors. There were over 80 bespoke tours, 4000 school trips and 100 public lectures. Permanent historical displays surrounded the site. School, college and university students learnt new research skills in history by working on documents in York City Archives. 160 adult members of the community, and groups of young offenders, worked as volunteers in both historical and archaeological research. Former residents (long since rehoused in public housing, such as 86-year-old Ted Chittock) were invited to revive and share their memories of life in the Hungate `slums'. In often emotional encounters they learnt from the research activities and contributed to them. As YAT's Public Access Report concludes `Historical details about particular families living at the addresses, along with oral accounts helped to enhance the whole experience for the community group. [They were] learning about the experiences of past communities whilst the beginnings of a new community was [sic] being constructed close by.'(5.2, 5.4) Learning materials for these activities incorporated ideas and material from the historical research cited in sections 2/3 above. They included on-site displays, museum exhibits, handouts and class workbooks and were designed to meet several key stages of the curriculum and different ability groups. Finally, the results of the conference organised by Rees Jones on `Poverty in Depth' and the wider Hungate-related historical research was integral to the content of a two-part documentary `A Life Without Work' broadcast on BBC2 in October 2010. Such inclusion of historical research in the activities of volunteers and public interpretation alongside ongoing archaeology had never happened before in YAT's work. It greatly extended public engagement with and understanding of the history of poverty in York since 1800 (5.1-5.5). John Walker (CEO, YAT, 2002-13) summarises the impact: "The collaboration with Rees Jones has thus transformed approaches to York's heritage which are now much better orientated towards understanding its full history and engaging much more diverse public audiences than the previous narrower approach on selected periods could achieve...The full integration of historical research into the work at Hungate has fully demonstrated this, and it is certain that historical evaluation will continue to be an essential part of YAT's assessment of new projects into the future." (5.3)

Rees Jones's research has also transformed public understanding of the problematic Jewish heritage of York. The Jewish Historical Society of England (JHSE) is a `registered educational charity' with 528 members. In 2009-2010 Rees Jones worked with them to develop new understanding of the massacre of York's Jewish population in 1190 (an event which still casts a shadow over the city to this day). She developed this partnership through speaking to the Leeds branch at the north Leeds Synagogue and in the Leeds Limmud and through organising an international conference in 2010 (3.4, 3.10, 5.6-5.8). Members of the Leeds branch acted as hosts, as discussants and city guides during the conference and afterwards decided to fund an annual prize for student work on the history of Jews in Yorkshire. Members of the local society also worked with Weinstein (History, 2007-13) to develop a walking tour of Jewish York as a mobile app (5.9). As a result, understanding of the events of 1190 and their significance has changed. Many more now understand that, though horrific, the 1190 massacre did not mark the end of York's Jewish community and the idea that Jewish settlement in York was subsequently banned has been widely reconsidered. Discussion extended to the relationship of 1190 to experiences of the Holocaust, while the walking tours highlighted the place of Jews in York's modern history and are repeated annually on Holocaust Memorial Day (5.6).

Nigel Grizzard (JHSE) writes that the conference has profoundly changed Jewish perceptions of the city: "What are the results of the conference? First it is important to remember that the relationship between Jews and York has been a difficult one in the past. Growing up in London, York was always a place to be avoided, the legacy of the 1190 Massacre of Jews in Clifford's Tower had permeated the Jewish psyche and people tended to stay away...The York 1190 Conference..., because it was international, because it was over three days and because it was multi-faceted brought so many people together that it allowed many initiatives to go forward...the York Jewish Heritage Trail which puts the history of the Jews of York, into the history of the city. These trails have attracted hundreds of people, the trail I attended in January 2013 had one hundred participants. It shows there are people in York interested in this `hidden history' of the city...the recent Holocaust Memorial day events at York University have been outstanding and wide ranging...York's fledgling Jewish Community is growing and reasserting its identity. Can all these events be attributed to one conference? The answer I think has to be yes. It is all about the building of trust. Someone has to make the first steps and the conference made those. New links, new relationships and new friendships are formed and we are all working for better understanding...As a Leeds Jewish Historical Society we have a new partnership with York University from which we can only benefit." (5.6)

Sources to corroborate the impact

5.1 Hungate Excavations: J. Rimmer and P. Connelly (eds.), Hungate: The Development of a York Neighbourhood from 1550-1930, The Archaeology of York Research Monograph, York Archaeological Trust (in progress for 2013/14). J. Rimmer and I. Milsted, "Industrialisation in Hungate: Leetham's Flour Mill and Bellerby's Sawmill", Yorkshire Archaeology Today, 17 (Autumn 2009), pp. 5-9. http://issuu.com/york_archaeological_trust/docs/yatmag17-web

5.2 YAT Annual reports, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 http://www.yorkarchaeology.co.uk/ about/ann-rep.htm

5.3 Letter from Director, YAT, 2002-2013. 26/2/2013

5.4 Pam White and Jon Kenny, Hungate: Public Access Report (2013).

5.5 YAT AHRC CDAs: York Press; other publications: J. Basford, "The Archaeology of Shopping", Yorkshire Archaeology Today, 16 (Spring 2009), pp. 23-24. http://issuu.com/york_archaeological_trust/docs/yorkshire_archaeology_todayG. Dean, "GIS, Archaeology and Neighbourhood Assemblages in Medieval York", Postclassical Archaeologies, 2 (2012), pp. 7-29.

5.6 "York 1190 Jews and Others in the Wake of the Massacre", Report by Nigel Grizzard Leeds Branch of the Jewish Historical Society of England, Member of the national Council of the Jewish Historical Society of England.

5.7 York 1190 conference: http://www.york.ac.uk/medieval-studies/york-1190 and its blog `In The Middle' Blog (1190 conference) http://york1190.blogspot.co.uk/

5.8 1190 Press: J. Brown, The Independent 25/03/2010; Y. Wise, Jewish Telegraph (Manchester) 26/03/2013; I. Bloom, The Jewish News 1/04/2010

5.9 Walking Tour of Jewish York: http://www.york.ac.uk/ipup/projects/york/traumatic-histories/index.html. (Consistently among the top 10% most frequently visited/downloaded pages from IPUP's total of 364 pages).

5.10 York Tourism stats: http://mediafiles.thedms.co.uk/Publication/YK/cms/pdf/07-research-tourismfacts.pdf,