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Kate Giles



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 is particularly interested in communal buildings of the medieval and modern periods, from guildhalls to parish churches, and how we tell their stories in ways that inspire interest and encourage people to visit and care for them today. 

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. 

Kate is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Trustee of York Civic Trust and the Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust and former Council member of the Society for Medieval Archaeology and Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology.

In 2019 she was appointed Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Aarhus.


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 Co-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 her early career, Kate played a leading role in supporting learning and teaching initiatives at the University of York, appointed as the first Academic Coordinator for Arts and Humanities and member of the Forum for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching. 

Between 2015-18 Kate undertook a variety of roles with the University's Humanities Research Centre, including Deputy Director, leading on the support of PhD training and research support. She then became Acting Director and Acting Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities, between 2016-18. 

From October 2020, Kate will be Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at the University of York.

Departmental roles

University roles



My PhD and much of my subsequent research has been focused on the interdisciplinary study of medieval and early modern communal buildings, especially guildhalls of which York has four remarkable surviving examples. These buildings tell the story of medieval sociability and solidarity, and I have studied them from an interdisicplinary perspective, bringing together documents and archaeological survey to tell their story from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries. I have been lucky to work in partner projects at the Merchant Adventurers, Merchant Taylors and St. Anthony's Hall in York, at Boston Guildhall (Lincolnshire) and in Stratford upon Avon, where a ten-year collaboration has led to major funded projects on Shakespeare's Guildhall and classroom and the remarkable Guild Chapel. This collaboration has resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of York and Stratford Town Trust, and to the co-design of online exhibitions (funded and hosted by Rev. Dr Paul Edmondson and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust), creation of augmented reality resources and publications with the Guild Chapel volunteers, led by Pippa Brook. 

My work at Stratford has led to a growing interest in late medieval wall paintings and to collaboration with leading conservators Richard Lithgow and Mark Perry (Perry Lithgow partnership) who were awarded the S.P.A.B. Sir John Betjeman award for conservation at the Guild Chapel in 2018. Our work at Stratford is ongoing, as we seek funding for the conservation of the internationally-significant Dance of Death painting.

A separate and related project is at Pickering Church, North Yorkshire, where I have just completed a monograph study of what Sir Nikolaus Pevsner described as 'one of the most complete series of wall paintings in English churches [which] give one a vivid idea of what ecclesiastical interiors were really like'. My book, The wall paintings of Pickering Church: their discovery, restoration and meaning provides the first systematic account of their medieval meanings, Victorian discovery, destruction, restoration and conservation. It was published by Shaun Tyas late in 2022.

I believe strongly in the cultural, societal and economic value of research in the arts and humanities which informs both my research and teaching and my new role as Director for the University of York's Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture. 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, for example in our StreetLife project. I am always pleased to hear from, talk to and support communities, local history societies and amenity groups who care for historic buildings.  

From 2022, I will be working on a book on Medieval Communal Buildings with Joanna Mattingly. 


For a full list of current projects and publications, please see my PURE entry.

Research group(s)

I am a member of the Department's Medieval and Historical, Heritage and Conservation research groups.


I have secured funding from the AHRC and Wolfson foundation for numerous PhD projects. Together with colleagues at the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield I have been involved in a number of White Rose Consortium collaboration projects including:

Performing the Past (PI, Professor Dawn Hadley and Dr Vicky Crewe)

Travel and Transport in the Country House (with the Yorkshire Country House Partnership led by Dr Christopher Ridgway, Curator, Castle Howard)

York Civic Trust (Fairfax House Museum)

I have also worked with project partners to secure Heritage Lottery Funding for York Minster, Stratford Guildhall and Guild Chapel.

Current major projects include:

StreetLife - a UK Government Community Renewal Funded project and The Common Room
AHRC Henry VIII on Tour: the progresses of Henry VIII - a collaboration with Historic Royal Palaces


York Minster

Stratford Town Trust (Stratford upon Avon Guild Chapel)

King Edward VI Grammar School (Stratford Guildhall)

Company of Merchant Adventurers (York)

Company of Merchant Taylors (York)

Chatsworth House (White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities PhD collaboration)

Castle Howard (Reconstructing the lost Canalleto Room with Dr Chris Ridgway)

SS. Peter and Paul, Pickering PCC

Historic England (Scoping study, Village Halls)

Historic Royal Palaces

English Heritage (Listening to the Past)


Available PhD research projects

I am interested in hearing from potential Phd students working on a wide range of historic building types and research 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:

  • Chatsworth House Theatre (Louise Calf, with Dr Ollie Jones)
  • Community Performances of the Mystery Plays (Thomas Straszewski, with Dr Ollie Jones)
  • Total recording of historic buildings (Liz Vasquez, with Dr Dav Smith)
  • Digital storytelling and community participation (Claire Boardman, with Dr Debbie Maxwell)
  • Arms and armour in romance literature and the late medieval household (Katie Vernon, with Dr Nicola Mcdonald)



  • BA Historical Archaeology

Although much of my teaching is currently focused on postgraduate modules, I designed the Department's First year module, Accessing Archaeology, Second Year Buildings History Practical Skills and Team project and Third Year Special Topic Historic Houses and Asssessed Seminar on Public Buildingss. I make regular contributions to study skills training and supervise underrgraduate dissertations related to historic buildings. 

I was responsible for designing the Department's BA in Historical Archaeology course and before that, led on the Joint Honours BA in Archaeology and History.


I have led and made contributions on a range of postgraduate programmes and modules. 

I co-lead modules on historic buildings for the Archaeology of Historic Buildings programme, make regular contributions to Medieval Archaeology, Conservation and Heritage Studies and study skills. I regularly supervise MA dissertation projects and am particualrly interested in partnership projects and applied research that enables students to move from study to employment. 

I was Director of Studies for the Centre for Medieval Studies MA for three years whilst Chair of the Board of Studies, where I continue to contribute to modules and dissertation supervision. 

I also contribute to modules in the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies.

External activities


  • Fellow, Society of Antiquaries of London
  • York Minster Archaeology Fellow, 2000-2015
  • Council Member and Membership Secretary Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology 2000-2015
  • Editorial Board, York Medieval Press, Boydell & Brewer 
  • Council member, Society for Medieval Archaeology, 2001–2004 
  • Trustee, York Civic Trust

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
  • 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

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

Tel: (44) 1904 323987