From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

St Mary's Abbey, York

North Yorkshire
53° 57′ 41″ N, 1° 5′ 17″ W

  • History
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
  • Gallery
St Mary's Abbey is located in York, North Yorkshire. It was of the Benedictine order but now lies derelict and ruined lying in the Yorkshire Museum Gardens.

St Mary's is not the first religious building on the site, the original was founded in 1055 by the Norse and dedicated to St Olave. The church was founded by Earl Siward in Earlsborough was a Danish warrior, noted for the defeat of Macbeth which was recorded by Shakespeare.

In 1086, Alan Rufus started building a new abbey, he built the abbey close to the Church of St Olave. He died in 1093.

In 1132 some of the monks in the abbey became dissatisfied with the Benedictine order and following a dispute and then a riot, left to form the Cistercian monastery of Fountains Abbey.

In 1271 the start of a remodeling program began at the abbey, this was complete by 1294.

St Mary's was the largest and richest Benedictine abbey in the North of England and the also one of the largest landholders in Yorkshire. In 1539, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was closed and subsequently mined for stone with all the wealth removed for the crown. All that remains today are the north and west walls, as well as the Pilgrims' Hospitium, the West Gate and the 14th-century timber-framed Abbot's House which is now known as the King's Manor. The walls include interval towers along the north and west stretches, St Mary's Tower at the northwest corner and a polygonal water tower by the river. Excavated finds and architectural features, particularly relating to the warming house and late twelfth century chapter house, are displayed in the nearby Yorkshire Museum.


St Mary's featured heavily in the medieval and early modern ballads of Robin Hood. The abbot was usually Robin Hood's nemesis.