Helen Houghton works for York Archaeological Trust as a Visitor Services Experience Host in the Attractions & Events Division of the JORVIK Group.
I wanted to take on one of the research projects as it was a chance to research an area of York’s archaeology that I wasn’t very familiar with and share what I had learned with other people. My subject was a lesser-known medieval hospital St Mary’s on the Horsefair (on Union Terrace), making this project very timely with the recent excavations under York Theatre Royal and the finds from St Leonard’s Hospital.
This project was gratifying, but in some ways mildly frustrating. There has not been much published work on the site, making it exciting to be part of something that might bring more attention to work by York Archaeological Trust that has not much of a profile either publicly or more academically. However this also limited the resources available, making direct research of the excavation on Union Terrace difficult.
However the Victoria County Histories pointed to some documentation from the hospital which does exist and gave me a broader overview of hospitals in York. I was able to comment on how the site has been interpreted in light of documentary sources and provide a little context with reference to other hospitals. As more is published following the Theatre Royal excavation I would like to see further comparisons being drawn between medieval hospitals in York.
I have found this project ultimately very rewarding, mostly for how interesting I found St Mary’s on the Horsefair once I started reading. One of the reasons I had applied for this particular research project was my interest in medical history, so creating an overview of the growth and decline of a hospital was a chance to learn about a new aspect of something I was already interested in.