A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961.
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YORK IN THE 18TH CENTURY (fn. 1)
The wealth of Georgian architecture surviving in York bears ample testimony to the transformation wrought by architects and builders in the 18th century. Red-brick buildings took the place of half-timbered houses and shops in many streets within the city walls and in the old suburbs outside the bars; but extension of the built-up area of the city was slight and was perhaps limited to the fashionable thoroughfares of Bootham and The Mount. Even within the walls extensive gardens and closes survived throughout the century. A map of 1727 (fn. 2) shows open spaces amounting to about one-quarter of the intra-mural area: the minster precincts, Mint Yard, the sites of Holy Trinity Priory and the Dominican and Franciscan friaries, Pound Garth adjoining the Foss, and substantial areas in the Bishophill and Walmgate districts—all lying around the periphery of the built-up city centre. St. George's Close, in the promontory between the Ouse and the Foss, and the site of St. Mary's Abbey, outside the city walls on the north-west, remained open, too. Some of these open spaces, like Long Close in the Walmgate area, were used as pasture, others as gardens: Trinity Gardens were in the possession of the Goodrick family, (fn. 3) and the site of the Dominican friary accommodated the nursery of a gardener who in 1768 restocked the garden of the Vicar of Kirby Overblow (W.R.). (fn. 4)
The corporation was conscious of the importance of the city's amenities and made a number of efforts to improve them; in 1719, for example, it was decided to plant trees to 'beautify' Lord Mayor's Walk, running outside the city walls from Monk Bar to Gillygate. (fn. 5) Most spectacular was the construction of the New Walk, an avenue of trees along the bank of the Ouse, stretching from Friargate Postern to a point well within Fulford parish. It was begun in 1732 (fn. 6) but cost far more than had been expected, and money was being spent on trees and plants for the rest of the century; a special officer was appointed to open the postern, together with the bridge over the Foss which connected the two sections of the walk. (fn. 7)
Although the Georgian builders appear to have worked on few new sites, architects were not entirely unaware of the possibilities presented by the city's open spaces; one, Thomas Atkinson, even contemplated in 1791 the building of a crescent of about twenty houses in the minster yard. (fn. 8) But there were many opportunities for rebuilding on old sites. Many decayed houses invited demolition: houses like that in Coney Street which had harboured thieves and vagabonds and was ordered to be demolished in 1743, (fn. 9) and those outside Monk Bar which the corporation sought in 1735 to seize under the terms of the Act of 1540. (fn. 10) Even where demolished houses were not rebuilt, the corporation, anxious to avoid the misdemeanours that were encouraged by vacant plots, ordered walls to be built along the street fronts. (fn. 11) A notable example of rebuilding was that made possible by the demolition of Davy Hall in 1745 and the construction of New Street between Davygate and Coney Street; on the site of the hall, Charles Mitley and William Carr erected Cumberland Row in 1746. (fn. 12)
A great deal of rebuilding involved no more than the reconstruction of the old house fronts. An owner might propose to make a new front 'in a genteel manner', (fn. 13) or a tenant might seek an abatement of his rent to make such improvements: in 1703, for example, the corporation allowed a tenant £45 to make improvements which included a new front of brick with handsome windows. (fn. 14) New fronts, bow windows, steps, and palisades all threatened to encroach upon the streets and caused the corporation continual concern: many were ordered to be removed, others were allowed to stay on payment of a small annual 'acknowledgement'. (fn. 15) Outside the bars space was less restricted; the occupier of a house on The Mount, for example, was allowed in 1793 to keep his posts and chains, and was even permitted to remove the pinfold and stable which offended his eye on the other side of the road, on condition that he rebuilt them elsewhere. (fn. 16) Buildings possessed one other notable feature after 1763; the Act (fn. 17) of that year ordered the provision of pipes to remove water from the roofs of all buildings in the chief streets, and even in the poorer quarters pipes were to be provided on all new buildings. Later in the same year the city steward was instructed to have water spouts put up on all corporation property. (fn. 18)
Some of the individual houses of the 18th century are worthy of special mention; a number of them still survive, in Micklegate, Castlegate, St. Saviourgate, and Bootham. As early as 1727 Cossins could decorate his map with drawings of sixteen imposing houses (see plate facing p. 247)—three in Micklegate, three in Pavement, three in Lendal, two in St. Saviourgate, and one each in King's Staith, Castlegate, Davygate, and Skeldergate, in addition to the Mansion House in Coney Street. Later John Carr built at least five private houses, outstanding among them those in Castlegate for the city recorder, Peter Johnson, and for Charles, 9th Viscount Fairfax. (fn. 19)
The most notable public buildings erected during the century were undoubtedly Burlington's Assembly Rooms (1731-2) (fn. 20) and the Mansion House (1725-30). (fn. 21) A number of public buildings were the work of John Carr (1723-1807). (fn. 22) In 1752 the corporation commissioned him to erect an ornamental building over the Pikeing Well, on the New Walk in Fulford, and two years later his design was chosen for the grandstand of the Knavesmire racecourse. The corporation may be said to have launched Carr on his successful career for it was the grandstand which brought his work to the notice of the county gentry. He designed two striking buildings at the castle (fn. 23)—the Assize Courts (1773-7) and the Female Prison (1780)—as well as the York Lunatic Asylum (1772-7) in Bootham. Earlier in the century a new building had been erected (c. 1745) for the city's first hospital—the County Hospital in Monkgate. (fn. 24) One noteworthy addition was made to the buildings of the minster precinct when the Old Residence was built early in the century. Finally, mention may be made of the theatre, established in Mint Yard in 1736 and subsequently enlarged and improved. (fn. 25)
The extensive building and rebuilding of city property and the ever-increasing traffic of coaches and carriages necessitated improvements to some of the city's narrow streets. Houses were demolished or their fronts rebuilt in order to widen streets (fn. 26) or to improve corners for the turning of coaches. (fn. 27) Much of this work was carried out or supported by the corporation. It bought houses for demolition—£400 was spent on two houses opposite the Mansion House in 1780, for example. (fn. 28) It ordered alterations to its own property—to widen Lendal Hill (now Museum Street) in 1781, for example. (fn. 29) It permitted, and paid for, improvements—Ralph Dodsworth received £20 when he planned to widen Skeldergate by rebuilding the front of the Middleton's Hospital in 1771. (fn. 30) And it offered contributions when subscriptions were being raised for extensive improvements. In 1768, for example, the corporation offered 500 guineas towards the cost of demolishing houses in Hosier Lane (now part of Pavement) and Whipmawhopmagate, improving the St. Saviourgate corner, and taking down the chancel of All Saints', Pavement; (fn. 31) and in 1784 the corporation subscribed £50 and the city M.P.s jointly a similar sum towards improvements in Lop Lane (now Duncombe Place) and Blake Street. (fn. 32) Improvements of this kind were numerous (fn. 33) and their total effect on the streets was considerable. The bars and bridges, especially Ouse Bridge, also presented problems to coach and carriage drivers and much attention was given to them. In 1753, for instance, the corporation spent £230 for work on Micklegate Bar, John Carr constructing two arches through the adjacent city wall; (fn. 34) and towards the end of the century houses were being demolished to improve the approaches to Ouse Bridge. (fn. 35)
Street paving and repair caused no less concern. Within the city walls this was still the responsibility of those whose property adjoined the streets: an order of 1716 that all inhabitants should make good the kerbs and pavements before their houses (fn. 36) was only confirming an old practice, and one which was again confirmed by the Act of 1763. (fn. 37) The corporation took responsibility for paving in front of its property—it paved half the width of Castlegate Lane (now Tower Street) in front of gardens belonging to it, for example (fn. 38)—and in certain other well-defined places. In 1746 the city paver was bound to repair, within the city, Foss and Ouse Bridges, the staith (i.e. King's Staith), Pavement market-place, Lendal Hill, Ogleforth, the frontstead, passage, and court of the Mansion House, that part of St. Helen's, Stonegate, churchyard that had been laid to the street, three lanes running from Skeldergate to the river, and a length of paving at the end of Far Water Lane (now Friargate). (fn. 39) Outside the city walls the greatest part of the responsibility fell upon the corporation. The causey from Bootham Bar to Burton Stone Lane provides a partial exception to this because property on the south-west side of the road lay in the North Riding: responsibility was shared by the corporation and the property owners, (fn. 40) but the work was actually carried out by the city paver. The paver himself found all the materials for his work and, as a result of the increasing burden of road repair during the century, was obliged on several occasions to seek an increased salary: it rose from £20 in 1709 to £50 in 1755. (fn. 41) In 1761 two pavers were appointed; they were paid according to the length of paving on which they worked, and part of the materials were now provided. (fn. 42) The paver's responsibility extended, in 1746, to 6,277 yards of broad causey (5 to 8 yards wide) and 4,244 yards of narrow (2 to 4 yards wide) stretching out from the bars and posterns. (fn. 43) Other, unpaved, roads outside the walls were also repaired at the corporation's expense. (fn. 44)
There is little doubt that the roads were, in fact, satisfactorily repaired by those responsible. The corporation frequently ordered repairs to be carried out (fn. 45) and large sums of money were not infrequently expended on abnormally extensive work. (fn. 46) Both corporation and individual property-owners were, moreover, indicted at the Quarter Sessions for neglecting to carry out repairs, (fn. 47) and were liable to be presented in the monthly sessions at the Guildhall by the two overseers of highways appointed for each parish. (fn. 48) Towards the end of the century the necessity of improving the roads within the city liberty to the standard of the turnpike roads with which they were connected involved work beyond the pavers' capacity and the corporation made special contracts for the work. In 1762, for example, William Adcock received £76 10s. for making the road from Monk Bridge to Heworth Moor after the manner of a turnpike road. (fn. 49) At this time, too, some pavements were being made of superior materials to the cobble stones, sand, and gravel that sufficed for roadways: New Street, Bootham, Gillygate, and Walmgate, for example, were being flagged. The corporation did not take full responsibility for such work but made contributions towards public subscriptions raised for the purpose. (fn. 50)
The responsibility for street cleaning within the city walls, like that for street repair, fell upon individual property-owners. The corporation, however, employed a scavenger to deal with pavements and streets lying before corporation property; (fn. 51) this responsibility was extended to all streets and pavements within the city in 1786. (fn. 52) By that date, too, stricter standards of cleanliness were being set: the scavenger was not to lay nightsoil on King's Staith before vessels were actually ready to take it away.
King's Staith, on the east bank below Ouse Bridge, remained the focal point of river activity and was maintained against the ravages of water and mishandled vessels. (fn. 53) On the opposite bank Queen's Staith (fn. 54) was of less importance, but it was probably at this point that the 'Butter Staith' was built at a cost of £100 in 1760. (fn. 55) Also on the west bank was Topham's Staith, repaired in the 1720's, (fn. 56) and perhaps represented by 'New Staith', shown opposite Friar's Walls on Cossin's map of 1727. Another new staith, at Lendal, was begun in 1727 and finished by 1732. (fn. 57) The corporation allowed several private staiths and jetties to be built—on the Spurriergate bank in 1726, outside Skeldergate Postern in 1762, and on the North Street bank in 1788, for example; other private staiths were ordered to be removed as 'encroachments'. (fn. 58) Public use of these staiths was no doubt prohibited, as was the case with private cranes. (fn. 59) For much of the century the only common crane was that situated on the west bank, just inside the city wall near Skeldergate Postern. This became known as the Old Crane when a new one was built shortly before 1773. (fn. 60) The river could be crossed by ferries near Skeldergate and North Street Posterns, (fn. 61) and there were several common watering places, near North Street Postern and at Lendal, for example. (fn. 62)
By the later 18th century the corporation were trying to avoid pollution of the river at the staith: delay in loading dung was forbidden, (fn. 63) and a necessary house and soil hole there were removed; (fn. 64) but throughout the century the city's drains continued to empty their contents into the rivers. (fn. 65) Some of these drains were maintained at the city's expense, (fn. 66) but many remained the responsibility of individual householders. (fn. 67) In the later years of the century, new drains were being paid for by subscriptions and to these the corporation made contributions; in 1781, for example, it subscribed £15 towards the cost of a new drain from Thursday Market, through Davygate to the main drain in St. Helen's Square, and 3 guineas towards another through Stonegate and St. Helen's Square into the Ouse. (fn. 68) One threat to the city's sanitation was removed in 1731 when the stagnant water in the Green Pond outside Castlegate Postern (a remnant of the castle moat and shown on Cossins' map of 1727) was ordered to be drained and the pond filled in and let to a gardener. (fn. 69) The greatest problem, that of cleansing the Foss, (fn. 70) was tackled by the corporation acting as commissioners of sewers; (fn. 71) the work was done at the expense of the city and of the owners of adjacent property. (fn. 72)
The rivers remained an important direct source of water for many of the inhabitants, for the waterworks supplied only part of the city, and that on certain days only. (fn. 73) The water 'trees' were themselves inefficient: leakage from those on Ouse Bridge, for example, was in 1710 and 1711 thought to damage the structure of the bridge. (fn. 74) Charges for piped water were, moreover, high; when the proprietor of the works sought in 1763 to double the rent of £3 for supplying the Mansion House, the corporation decided to erect its own pump in the garden adjoining the Ouse. (fn. 75) The presence of both drains and water pipes in the streets increased the need to restrict encroachments by adjoining houses: the corporation had ordered in 1758 that no kitchens, vaults, or cellars should be made under the streets without its permission, (fn. 76) and in 1773 such structures were ordered to extend under not more than a quarter of the street and were not to prejudice the right of the corporation to make public drains or of the proprietor of the waterworks to lay pipes there. (fn. 77)
Increasing efforts were made during the century to safeguard city property. The need for protection against fire was underlined by numerous outbreaks, (fn. 78) and as late as 1771 the lord mayor drew attention to the inadequate arrangements in force. (fn. 79) Steps were taken to reduce the risk of fire in public buildings. In 1740, for example, the 'mantlebalk' over the fireplace in the Exchequer Court was condemned as a fire hazard and ordered to be replaced by a brick arch; (fn. 80) and the fire service, although inadequate, was given frequent attention. (fn. 81) Throughout the century the bars and posterns were guarded by watchmen. (fn. 82) A reform committee of 1713 (fn. 83) recommended that the day watch, being useless, should be abolished but that the night watch should be improved. (fn. 84) During the 1715 rebellion an attempt was made to maintain regular night patrols in the streets; in August an hourly patrol by one of the watchmen and one of the constables of each ward was instituted; patrolling was to last from midnight until 4 a.m., between Lady Day and Michaelmas, and until 6 a.m. for the remainder of the year; each door was to be knocked upon and the hour called out 'after the manner now used in London'; and drunkards and nightwalkers were to be arrested and taken before a magistrate of the ward on the next morning. The night watch was to be paid from money collected in each ward. Later in the same month three more efficient and less decrepit watchmen were appointed for each ward, and the watches were ordered to begin at 10 p.m. from Lady Day to Michaelmas and at 8 p.m. thereafter; at those hours the bars and posterns were to be locked. (fn. 85) The patrols were discontinued in 1718 and watch again kept only at the bars and posterns. Street lighting was improved in 1724 and again in 1763 and this doubtless helped to preserve order and safeguard property. (fn. 86)
In the absence of censuses (fn. 87) or complete house-tax returns, (fn. 88) the only statistical basis for assessing the population of 18th-century York is that provided by the numbers of burials, drawn from parish registers. The incompleteness of such figures is well known: nevertheless, they give a valuable, if very approximate, indication of the size and movement of the city's population. With a presumed baptismal rate of 30 per mille, the numbers (see Table 1) suggest that the population remained at about 12,000 for the first 60 years of the century—a figure closely corresponding with that which the hearth-tax returns suggest for the end of the 17th century. (fn. 89) Between 1760 and 1800 the population increased by more than one-third, to between 16,000 and 17,000. Such a figure is consistent with the returns of the 1801 census. (fn. 90)
A comparison of baptisms and burials makes it clear that only a substantial net immigration could have produced an increase of population during the first half of the century, an immigration that the city neither attracted nor encouraged. (fn. 91) Many influences were at work to prevent a natural increase of population. The city appears to have suffered constantly from epidemics: between 1715 and 1735 smallpox, measles, and influenza followed or accompanied one another almost without intermission. In the same period a variety of fevers 'seemed to be every-day diseases': cholera, dysentery, intestinal inflammation, 'putrid fever', 'sweating sickness'. (fn. 92) Disease was intensified by severe winters. The high death-rate of 1740, for example (see Table 1), probably reflects the bad winters of 1739-42: in 1740 the Ouse was so deeply frozen that booths were set up and football played on the ice. (fn. 93) Weather influenced mortality throughout the century, of course: of the 3,175 burials in 1770-6, for example, 1,211 took place in December to March, 816 in April to June, and 1,149 in July to November. (fn. 94) Excessive drinking of spirits no doubt contributed a little to mortality in York, as elsewhere: (fn. 95) 'distilled liquor' was certainly made and sold in the city (fn. 96) although there is no indication of its popularity. To drinking, Drake (himself a surgeon) added 'feasting to excess' and the high consumption of solid meat as reasons for the short lives of his contemporaries. (fn. 97)
During the last 40 years of the century baptisms frequently outnumbered burials, though not consistently from year to year or from parish to parish within the city (see Tables 1 and 2). This natural increase is sufficient to account for much of the increase in total population, and net immigration was on a small scale; there is no reason why it should have been otherwise. (fn. 98) The natural increase of this period doubtless owed something to improved living conditions and the provision of better water-supply and sewerage arrangements. (fn. 99) It probably owed more to improvements in medical attention. In the early 18th century a considerable burden had fallen upon the few surgeons practising in the city; one was employed by the corporation as the city surgeon. At first he presented annual bills for his salary and expenses (£12 16s. in 1703, for example) but after 1713 received a fixed salary of £15. (fn. 100) Other patients found themselves in less skilled hands: in 1704, for instance, two children were sent to a woman of Rufforth (W.R.) to be cured of their 'scald heads'; (fn. 101) and the mentally sick were considered to be in need of financial rather than medical help. (fn. 102) The extension of medical services began with the establishment of the York County Hospital in 1740 for the treatment of the poor. (fn. 103) This the corporation believed to relieve them of the responsibility of having a city surgeon, and none was appointed for a time after Francis Drake's dismissal in 1745; the surgeon's salary was offered to the new hospital but was refused lest county subscribers should be discouraged. (fn. 104) In 1772 the corporation subscribed 100 guineas to a proposed lunatic hospital, (fn. 105) and the York Lunatic Asylum, for paupers, was opened in 1777. (fn. 106) A third institution, the York Dispensary, was opened in 1788 and offered an extensive service to the poor: patients were to be treated at the Dispensary or in their homes, medicines were to be dispensed free of charge, and children were to be inoculated. (fn. 107) The corporation subscribed £5 towards the fitting out of an apothecary's shop and the provision of drugs for the Dispensary, and offered 1 guinea a year for five years to the institution. (fn. 108) Further benefit was no doubt derived from various medicated baths established in the latter part of the century, (fn. 109) and even perhaps from such travelling quacks as Professor Hilmer who in 1768 advertised his ability to cure the blind in a matter of minutes. (fn. 110)
Of the size of social classes within the population there is little evidence. Only one of the available tax returns—that of the window tax of 1701—gives more detailed figures than parish totals, and even that omits, as do all its fellows, the number of exemptions from the tax; it covers a representative eighteen of the city parishes and should perhaps not be ignored. (fn. 111) The number of exempt poor—the inhabitants of cottages and those who did not pay church or poor rates (fn. 112)—may have amounted to as much as a third of the total population. Of the 820 householders in these parishes who paid the tax, about 40 per cent. were assessed at the lowest rate, i.e. for their house regardless of the number of its windows; this was the class of labourers and poor craftsmen who were little removed from the exempt paupers. About 30 per cent. paid for houses with from 10 to 19 windows and perhaps represent the middling craftsmen and shopkeepers. The remainder, again about 30 per cent., had houses with 20 or more windows and comprised the more prosperous shopkeepers and traders and the resident gentry.
Though incomplete, the return suggests certain contrasts between different sectors of the city. That part of Walmgate Ward lying south-east of the Foss was clearly among the least wealthy sectors. In Micklegate Ward there was a marked contrast between those parishes which included houses of the well-to-do in Micklegate and those like St. Mary, Bishophill, Junior with its one twenty-windowed house. In Bootham Ward the highest-taxed class was also the largest class in St. Martin's, Coney Street, and St. Wilfrid's, and in St. Peter's Liberty; it was large but not dominant in the populous parishes of St. Michael-le-Belfrey and St. Helen, Stonegate; and St. Giles's, outside the walls, was predominantly poor. In Monk Ward there are returns for only three parishes: the relatively wealthy St. Saviour's, the relatively poor St. Maurice's, outside the walls, and Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, with a near-equality of distribution between the taxed classes. In Walmgate Ward north-west of the Foss, St. Mary's, Castlegate, and St. Crux resembled Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, while All Saints', Pavement, was relatively wealthy. It is most likely that if the distribution of the exempt pauper class were known, it would be found to emphasize rather than change this pattern. It is, moreover, substantially confirmed by window- (fn. 113) and land-tax (fn. 114) returns for other periods of the century, and it appears in a naturally exaggerated from in voluntary subscriptions raised for the defence of the city in 1745 (fn. 115) and for the sufferers from fires in Blandford (Dors.), Tiverton (Devon), and Ramsey (Hunts.) in 1731. (fn. 116) As much as 56 per cent. of the collection for the fire victims came from St. Martin's, Coney Street, St. Helen's, Stonegate, St. Michael-le-Belfrey, St. Mary's, Castlegate, St. Crux, and St. Martin's, Micklegate: over 20 per cent, was raised in St. Martin's, Micklegate, alone.