Public support sought in the hunt for lost Walmgate church

Consultation: Saturday 13 January, 10am to 2pm

Archaeologists in York are hoping that 2024 will be the year that the location of a long-lost church just inside one of the city’s gateways is revealed – and they are appealing to locals to help! York Archaeology is hoping to run community archaeology sessions inside the city walls near Walmgate Bar in the hunt for St Peter-in-the-Willows.

The church is believed to have stood on the site for at least 300 years, with the earliest mention in historical records in 1279, and the church being demolished in 1549. The search for the church has been part of the research design of investigations at the former Willow House care home, which has been home to York Archaeology’s Archaeology on Prescription project and training excavations. Now, the historical explorers are looking to expand the search into two neighbouring green areas that the team refers to as Willow Green and School Green.

York Archaeology Community Engagement Officer Arran Johnson and his team will be hosting a community consultation event on Saturday 13 January between 10am and 2pm when local residents can find out more about the scope of the digs, and how to get involved.

“We’ve been incredibly grateful towards City of York Council for their support with the works at Willow House, which have been ongoing since 2021, and indeed, have been delighted by how engaged local residents have been in the project – uncovering more details of the history of their neighbourhood,” says Arran. “We have two specific areas of interest outside the grounds which we’d love to explore further, with more opportunities for local people to get involved – whether through research, the washing of finds, or even helping us dig a series of small trenches to see what we can find.”

The School Green trench, at the end of Long Close Lane, could reveal evidence of Hope Street British School, which was in use throughout the 19th century – and which may have been built on the site of the former church. The trench on Willow Green would likely show evidence of Victorian Walmgate – although it is possible that evidence of much earlier activity survives beneath these buildings. If the scheme receives a positive response from local residents, it will take place over the spring and summer, before the trenches are filled and turf re-laid in the autumn.

More information about the project will be shared once responses from the consultation have been collated. Updates will be posted on the York Archaeology website, where enthusiasts can join a mailing list to be kept up to date on the latest discoveries. For more details, please contact [email protected]