Wearmouth and Jarrow: Northumbrian Monasteries in an Historic Landscape

Alex Turner, Sam Turner, Sarah Semple, 2017

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Sam Turner
Newcastle University
School of History, Classics and Archaeology
Newcastle University
Newcastle upon Tyne

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Alex Turner, Sam Turner, Sarah Semple (2017) Wearmouth and Jarrow: Northumbrian Monasteries in an Historic Landscape [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1043295

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Wearmouth and Jarrow: Northumbrian Monasteries in an Historic Landscape

In 2009 Newcastle and Durham Universities initiated a project aimed at exploring the landscape setting of the early Christian monastic sites of Wearmouth and Jarrow, from their foundation some seven centuries after the birth of Christ, to their place in contemporary society. Bringing together a large team of professionals with funding from English Heritage, the project established new evidence for the form, layout and location of these early monasteries and the extent and preservation of associated archaeology, surviving above and below ground. The project also revealed insights into the impact of these foundations in the local region, exploring their enduring meaning and value to the past and contemporary communities inhabiting the land between the rivers Tyne and Wear.

At a regional level the project integrated relevant sources including documents, place-names and analysis of historic maps with evidence from aerial photographs and archaeological databases. In the environs of the monasteries we undertook combined geo-prospection using a full range of geophysical techniques and complemented this fieldwork with geoarchaeological and palaeoenvironmental surveys. At the most detailed level the project created new surveys of the two churches with surviving early medieval fabric. By placing the monasteries in the context of their local landscape, we hoped to view in close detail the changes wrought by their impact and thus at a much wider level understand more fully, the important role and value of these types of settlement in the dramatic changes and political dynamics of this period across North West Europe. High definition laser scanning has also been used to create 3D models of the surviving Anglo-Saxon fabric. This allowed us to explore the building techniques and architectural form of each church, including detailed analysis of the new and recycled building stone and its original sources.

The project also explored the diversity of ways in which people today perceive, use, experience the landscapes around St Peter's and St Paul's. Research undertaken by Sophie Laidler as part of a master's project at Durham University has involved the local community and schools as well as key local stakeholders and members of the Wearmouth-Jarrow Partnership for World Heritage Status. Through interviews and focus groups as well as 'elicitation' exercises, Sophie was able to build-up and analyse a wide composite of information relating to current perceptions of the monastic remains.


Turner, S., Semple, S. and Turner, A. (2013) Wearmouth and Jarrow. Northumbrian monasteries in an historic landscape. Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press.