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Bishophill Community Garden

Bishophill Community Garden is a small area of greenspace within the churchyard of St Mary Bishophill Senior (York). The church was demolished in 1963.

Work to convert the churchyard into a garden began in 2010.

The area remains consecrated ground and it still contains burials and related memorials, so deep-digging is prohibited. As a result, there are no formal flower beds or intrusive landscape features within the garden.

It is worth noting the relatively flat and level nature of the former churchyard compared with the much steeper slope of Carr's Lane (which runs beside the south-eastern boundary of the garden). The gradient of the lane broadly reflects the natural slope of the landscape hereabouts and the difference is the result of human interventions: several areas of the Bishophill district have been terraced at various points in history. The area now occupied by the garden was initially terraced by the Romans in about 200 A.D., although the terraced area was extended during the 13th century when a chancel was added to the church. Evidence for the Roman terrace is visible in the retaining wall beside Carr's Lane.

Historical notes

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.

Practical Information

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Location Information (Where is . . . ?)

Bishophill Community Garden
Bishophill Senior
York

 
Coordinates
Latitude: 53.955325000000
Longitude: -1.084900000000

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Visitors are welcome to enter and use the garden subject to the following guidelines (which are quoted from a laminated notice attached to the gate):

Individuals and community groups are warmly encouraged to use this place in a way that is consistent with its identity as a Christian churchyard and appropriate to its use as a community garden. For example, quiet reflection, family activities and community celebrations.