Kate Giles
Senior Lecturer



Kate Giles (BA, MA, PhD, York) is a buildings archaeologist with a specialism in the recording, archival research and theoretical interpretation of historic buildings. She is particularly interested in the relationship between people, places and possessions and in the archaeology of 'public' buildings, such as guildhalls, town halls village halls from the middle ages to the present day.

Kate trained as an historian and art historian and had a brief spell as an archivist at the Borthwick Institute for Archives, before discovering buildings archaeology at the University of York, where she did her MA and PhD before joining the Department full-time in 2002. Between 2000-2015, she was  York Minster Archaeology Research fellow. As Director of the MA in Archaeology of Buildings, she is passionate about the potential of buildings archaeology and buildings history to enhance understanding of the significance of historic buildings, and to inform their management, interpretation and display to the wider public. This approach is evident in her own research, and that of her research students who work on a wide range of historic building types and research issues. She is always interested in hearing from potential students or collaborators about future projects or ideas.

In 2015 Kate became deputy Director of the University's Humanities Research Centre and in 2016/17 is both Acting Director and Acting Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities. 



Departmental roles

  • Director, MA Archaeology of Buildings
  • York Minster Archaeology Research Fellow

University roles

  • Admissions Tutor, Centre for Medieval Studies



My PhD and subsequent research has focused on the archaeology of 'public' buildings in pre-modern England. These are principally the guildhalls constructed by religious fraternities and craft mysteries in the provincial towns and villages of late medieval England. My research adopts an interdisicplinary approach, combining archaeological survey and dendrochronological analysis with archival research, and setting these within a theoretical context to explore the changing meanings and experience of these buildings over time. This has led to a series of major archaeological survey projects in York, Boston (Lincs) and Stratford-upon-Avon (Warwickshire) which are shedding new light on the archaeology of public buildings in medieval England and which will inform a future monograph for Cambridge University Press. Another growing passion is for ecclesiastical wall paintings, inspired by a longstanding research project on the paintings at Pickering church (north Yorkshire).

More broadly, my research is concerned with the relationships between people, places and things, exploring how buildings are used to structure social identity and status, and more recently, how the decoration, fittings and fixtures of buildings were also deployed to structure meaning within buildings. This has led to a number of projects which seek to construct the biographies of buildings, using archaeological survey, archive research, Antiquarian records and the latest digital heritage technologies to produce interactive research tools, such as the Guild Chapel project at Stratford upon Avon. 

I believe strongly in the cultural, societal and economic value of reesarch in the arts and humanities which informs both my research and my role as Deputy Director for the University of York's Humanities Research centre. Much of my research is undertaken collaboratively with stakeholders and communities who want to understand and care for historic buildings and share this with the wider public. I am always pleased to hear from, talk to and support communities, local history societies and amenity groups who care for historic buildings.  



Current projects

Boston Guildhall (Lincolnshire)

Collaborative research with Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd (York) involved the extensive archaeological survey and historical interpretation of St. Mary's Guildhall (Boston), in advance of the redevelopment of the building as the town's municipal museum. £1 million funding was provided by a consortium of Boston Borough Council, The Heritage Lottery Fund, East Midlands Development Agency, Lincolnshire Enterprise, Lincolnshire County Council and Museumaker. Our survey work shed important new light on  one of this internationally significant religious guild, and on one of the most important provincial guildhalls of late medieval England and St. Mary’s guild, an was an internationally-significant religious fraternity. The project pioneered heritage-science initiatives, combining dendrochronological dating by Robert Howard (Nottingham) with thermoluminescence by Ian Bailiff (Durham) pushing the construction date back to c.1390 and making Boston one of the  earliest securely-dated brick buildings in Lincolnshire. Analysis of the building and surviving inventories informed the interpretation and presentation of the building to the public thorugh the use of VR technology. The Museum  was subsequently voted LincolnshireMuseumof the Year 2008 and the East Midlands Region of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors ‘Best Project of the Year’ Award. The results of this research will be published in Medieval Archaeology 2011.

The Guild Buildings of Shakespeare's Stratford

Another collaborative project with Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd (York) has provided a detailed archaeological survey and buildings history report for King Edward VI Grammar School, Stratford-Upon-Avon (Warwickshire), to inform an HLF bid designed to enhance the understanding of, and facilitate wider public access to Stratford's important complex of medieval guild buildings. The survey has revealed important new information about the date of the Guildhall and adjoining Council Chamber (c.1427), Pedagogue's House (1502-3) and Guild Chapel (c.1496). Once again, heritage-science is being used to inform and enhance this understanding, including dendrochronological dating by Robert Howard (Nottingham) and the development of 3d computer-generated models with Geoff Arnott of Heritage Technology Ltd. Current research is focusing on the Guild Chapel and the adjacent almshouses, which may preserve the remains of one of the oldest surviving schoolhouses in the country, and in PhD research by Ollie Jones, examining the use of the guildhall by the travelling company of players, the Queen's Men, in the late 16th century. The results of this research will be presented to the International Shakespeare Symposium in Stratford in August 2010. Research outputs from this project include a monograph, 'The Guild Buildings of Shakespeare's Stratford', to be published by Ashgate in 2011 and an article on the guild chapel in Internet Archaeology.  

'Neighbourhood assemblages': the material culture of neighbourhoods in historic York 

I am part of a collaborative project, led by Dr Sarah Rees Jones, of the University's Centre for Medieval Studies and Dr Ailsa Mainman, of York Archaeological Trust, to explore the use of domestic material culture in the city of York through a series of 3 collaborative doctoral projects.  I am supervising the work of PhD student Gareth Dean working on a project entitled 'Neighbourhood Assemblages'. This seeks to use GIS as a resarch tool to bring together the archaeological evidence of buildings and artefacts excavted by YAT in the areas of Swinegate and Petergate, in York, with historic data derived from maps and property deeds, in order to understand the changing character of these neighbourhoods over time.  The project is funded by the AHRC, and the preliminary results of Gareth's research were presented at Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2010.

York Minster

As York minster Archaeology Fellow I have been involved in several projects designed to inform understanding and conservation strategies in this internationally-significant cathedral. Past projects include work on the Chapter House Vestibule (2006) and the reorganisation and assessment of the Minster's archaeological archive. Current projects include the ten-year programme designed to conserve and enhance understanding of the significance of the East Front (funded by the Dean and Chapter and the HLF). AHRC funding has been secured for a PhD on the repair history, archaeology and stone conservation of the East Front, by Alex Holton, which is nearing completion (2010).  With Dr Karen Wilson (Chemistry, Cardiff), Giles is also supporting an EPSRC Science and Heritage project on the analysis of weathering, historic mortars and coatings of York Minster's East End. These projects have already informed York Minster's Conservation Plan and will feed into a range of research and public outputs from 2011 onwards.

Historic Farm graffiti

In the Yorkshire Wolds, I am currently working with Dr Melanie Hind of the University of Manchester to record farm graffiti found in the High Wolds Farms of the Birdsall Estate. This graffiti provides an important record of the period of agricultural revolution, mechanization and social change, for which important oral histories survive. The results of this research have recently been published. The project also led to collaboration with York colleague Dr Jon Finch on an SPMA conference on Estate Landscapes, published in 2007.

Research group(s)

Co-ordinator, Historical Archaeology Research Group

Co-ordinator Buildings and Conservation Research Group



  • English Heritage (Conservation Management Plan: Scarborough Castle)
  • Heritage Lottery Fund (Boston guildhall, Stratford Guildhall, York Minster)
  • The Company of Merchant Adventurers' York (Conservation Management Plan)


AHRC grants

  • Small houses in medieval England (PhD - Jayne Rimmer - completed) 
  • York Minster East Front (PhD Alex Holton - completed)
  • York Minster Close (PhD Stefania Perring - completed)
  • Neighbourhood Assemblages (PhD Gareth Dean - ongoing)



  • Dr Sarah Rees Jones & Dr Ailsa Mainman (Posessions project)
  • Professor Ronnie Mulryne, Dr Margaret Shewring (Warwick) and Field Archaeology Specialists, York Ltd. (Stratford project)
  • Dr Melanie Giles, Manchester University (Historic Graffiti project)

Available PhD research projects

I am interested in hearing from potential Phd students working on a wide range of historic building types and resarch issues, particularly late medieval-early modern buildings and the impact of buildings archaeology on conservation practice and public understanding of the past.


I am currently supervising students working on the following topics:

  • York Minster Glass (Louise Hampson, with Sarah Brown, History of Art and Centre for Conservation)
  • Neighbourhood Assemblages (Gareth Dean, with Dr Ailsa Mainman, York Archaeological Trust)
  • The Queen's Men: an archaeology of pre-modern performance spaces (Ollie Jones, with Prof. Mike Cordner, TFTV)
  • Building biographies in 18-19th York (Matt Jenkins)
  • Historic east coast piers (Mark Johnson, with Dr Kevin Walsh, Department of Archaelogy)
  • Industrial Housing in 19th century Sheffield (Rowan May)
  • Workers' Housing in 19th century Derbyshire (Suzanne Lilley)
  • The construction and conservation of timber-framed buildings in York (Ben Gourley)
  • Early modern city walls (Simon Webb)



I teach a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses around my research specialisms in historic buildings, medieval and early modern material culture and theory in the Department of Archaeology, particularly on my own MA programme, the Archaeology of Buildings. I am a product of the MA myself, founded by Dr Jane Grenville. 

As Director of Studies for the MA in Medieval Studies I oversee the MA in Medieval Studies, and supervise interdisciplinary PhD students collaboratively. 


External activities


  • Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of London
  • York Minster Archaeology Fellow, 2000-present
  • Council Member and Membership Secretary Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology 2000-present
  • Editorial Board, York Medieval Press, Boydell & Brewer 
  • Program Chair, Society for Historical Archaeology Conference York, 2005
  • Council member, Society for Medieval Archaeology, 2001–2004 
  • Amenity Societies Representative, Sheffield Diocese

Invited talks and conferences

  • Merchant Adventurers Arts Discovery Lecture, December 2011
  • Invited speaker, Annual Church of England Diocesan Advisory Council conference, Coventry, September 2011
  • Invited speaker, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Christianity and culture session, May 2011
  • Invited speaker, Medieval Guilds conference, University of Oxford, May 2011
  • Invited keynote speaker, Warwick Parish symposium, May 2011
  • Invited speaker, University of Leeds Early Modern Seminar, May 2011
  • Invited speaker, Visualisation in Archaeology conference, April 2011
  • Invited speaker, Friends of the Guild chapel, Stratford-upon-Avon, April 2011
  • Guest speaker, Company of Merchant Adventurers, March 2011
  • Invited Keynote speaker, Houses - shaping dwellings, identities and homes, University of Aarhus, December 2010
  • Invited speaker, School of Historical Studies research Seminars, University of Newcastle, November 2010
  • Invited speaker, Visualisation in Archaeology workshops, University of Southampton October 2009 & October 2010 http://www.viarch.org.uk/
  • Invited speaker, Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture Seminars, University of Southampton,  October 2010
  • Invited speaker, International Shakespeare Congress, Stratford-Upon-Avon, August 2010
  • Invited speaker, From Space to Place: The Spatial Dimension in the History of Western Europe, Roehampton University & German Historical Institute, London, April 2010
  • Invited Keynote speaker, TAG Plenary session, Durham University December 2009 'The Death of Theory'
  • Invited Keynote speaker: 'Bouwen en wonen in het verleden: welk onderzoek voor de toekomst?', Vrije Universiteit Brussel, July 2009
  • Invited speaker: Home, settlement and dwelling in temporal perspective', Durham University High Level Symposium, March 2009
  • Invited speaker; Everyday Objects: medieval and early modern material culture and its meanings', Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, June 2007

Media coverage

Kate Giles

Contact details

Dr Kate Giles
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 323987