Geophysical investigation | Fountains Abbey, Ripon

Project: Non-intrusive investigation of Fountains Abbey

Client: Bradford University research project


  • Non-intrusive investigation
  • GPR survey
  • Archaeological geophysics


Met provided technical support to geophysical investigations of the iconic Fountains Abbey, which were undertaken by Bradford University in collaboration with manufacturers Mala Geoscience and Geoscan Research.

Project overview

Fountains Abbey is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is one of the iconic heritage sites of North Yorkshire. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, relatively little archaeological excavation work has been carried out around the site, and much of what is known or believed about the history of the site derives from old written sources and illustrations of the site.

Bradford University, in collaboration with manufacturers Mala Geoscience and Geoscan Research, were granted permission to carry out geophysical investigations across the site to try to unravel its complex history.

As a result of our close working relationship with MALA and Bradford University*, Met Consultancy Group were asked to provide technical support to the project. Met provided equipment and personnel to help carry out the surveys which were intended to better characterise and understand the buried remains around the Fountains Abbey site.

Technical overview

Throughout the study, a variety of non-intrusive geophysical techniques were used to gather data. These included earth resistance methods, multi depth electromagnetic induction, magnetic gradiometry, and ground penetrating radar in both a single channel configuration and a multi channel array. This allowed a comparison to be made as to which techniques were the most effective, as well as providing lots of new information on the site.

Ground penetrating radar and earth resistance techniques proved to be the most successful on this site, with magnetic gradiometry also proving effective. It was shown that the electromagnetic induction method did not provide as much detailed information as the earth resistance techniques, although it was successful in identifying some of the archaeological features.

The results of the surveys were intriguing, with different techniques providing additional detail to known areas of the burial grounds, as well as discovering wholly new things about the site. One of the most exciting of these discoveries was establishing that the area believed to be the graveyard extended much further than had previously been thought, and contained tens or possibly hundreds more burials.

The paper, presented at NSGG, Dec 2014, referencing this survey work and its results, is summarised here:

*Met has previously sponsored employees to study the Archaeological Prospection MSc. course at Bradford University, and has a close working relationship with MALA, using many of their new technologies on a day-to-day basis.


The geophysics team at Met Consultancy Group are QCF and degree qualified. Follow the links to find out more about our geophysics services, including archaeological geophysics, or contact us for a quote.