St Mary Bishophill Senior (aka St Mary Bishophill the Elder) was one of the oldest churches in the area: it is mentioned in a legal document dated 1202 and the building had a pre-Norman nave (dated stylistically) and a 12th century aisle and doorway. The church became redundant for religious purposes in 1876, partly as a result of the gradual decline in the resident population of the walled area of the city as people moved out to the new suburbs.
The site also has a Roman history. In 1964, an archaeological investigation was carried-out on part of the site formerly occupied by the church. This investigation found clear evidence that iron and bronze were being worked on the site during the 2nd century and that the associated workshop was wholly or partially destroyed by a fire sometime around the end of that century. Substantial remains of a 4th century house were also identified. Unfortunately, the entire floorplan of the latter could not be ascertained due disturbance of the archaeological layers caused by historic building work and burials). However, the remains of four rooms were clearly identifiable and these appeared to be connected via a fifth room to another range (conjectured). The excavated building had opus signinum floors (probably without mosaics), stone walls with painted plaster on the inside and a tiled roof. Three of the excavated rooms were served by hypocaust heating systems and one of those rooms had an apse. Additional information about the 1964 investigation is available online via the URL provided in the 'External Links' section below.