Houses: Cumberland Street-George Street

Pages 128-135

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1981.

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Cumberland Street-George Street

Cumberland Street

The old Thursgail, first recorded c. 1200 and meaning 'giant's lane', later known as Thrusgate, Thrush Lane, or from c. 1560 as Middle Water Lane, was renamed in 1880 when it was shortened by the formation of Clifford Street and widened on the S.E. Drawings by Cave, Nicholson and others show its former picturesque but squalid appearance, with many timber-framed and jettied houses almost meeting across the lane. One house had a stone ground floor and decorative timber-work above, probably of the 14th century; its appearance from 1778 to its final demolition after 1850 is recorded (Plate 3. See also YAYAS, Procs. 1950–51, Plates 2, 3).


Davygate runs from St. Helen's Square to St. Sampson's Square, inside and parallel to the S.W. wall of the Roman fortress and overlying its barrack blocks. It takes its name, as did Davy Hall, from the family of David, king's larderer in the Forest of Galtres. The site of Davy Hall, a prison and liberty purchased by the Corporation in 1729 and demolished in 1745, is now occupied by St. Helen's burial ground (20), Cumberland Row (287) and the N.E. end of New Street. Until the removal of St. Helen's churchyard in 1745 and creation of the square, Davygate ran to the end of Coney Street. The S.E. part was widened soon after 1891, and nearly every building in the street has been erected since 1900.

(152) House, No. 20, of brick, heightened, extended and refitted in the late 19th century when the front elevation was set back, incorporates the N.W. side wall of a three-storey early 18th-century building which bounded part of St. Helen's burial ground (20).

Dean's Park (Monuments 153, 154)

Dean's Park, so named c. 1910, previously the Deanery Gardens, is an area of lawns and trees to N. of the Minster, occupied in the Middle Ages by the grounds of the Archbishop's Palace. At its S.W. corner stood the chapel and college of St. Mary and the Holy Angels or St. Sepulchre's, founded in 1179 and dissolved in 1547. In c. 1620 Sir Arthur Ingram built a new mansion in the W. part of the palace site and laid out elaborate gardens. The remains of this house and of the great hall of the palace, used in the 18th century as a riding school, were demolished in 1814–16. The Deanery of 1940 has replaced the New Deanery of 1830, which stood S. of the surviving chapel of the palace, now the Minster Library, and had itself replaced the Old Deanery, S. of the Minster. A road linking its garden with Lord Mayor's Walk was proposed in 1832 but not constructed. Large static water tanks were excavated in the park during the Second World War.

(153) The Lodge, to W. of the Minster, designed by Richard Allen, Clerk of Works at the Minster, in 1845 (YML, (B4), 1845 General Repairs Time Sheets, April and May), formed part of the buildings of the Minster Stone Yard (OS 1852) and courses through with the yard's boundary wall, most of which has been retained as a boundary to the Purey-Cust Nursing Home forecourt, which replaces the stoneyard, but the shields-of-arms flanking the four-centred archway from Precentor's Court are late 19th-century. The elevation to Dean's Park is in Gothic style, with rectangular windows and a shoulder-headed entrance door piercing the magnesian limestone wall, which is treated as a stepped boundary wall surmounted by a parapet, and conceals the lean-to pantiled roof behind. The two-storey rear elevation is unpretentious, divided into three sections by chimney-stacks, and lit by Yorkshire sashes. The side and rear elevations are of stone where they might be seen from outside, and of brick below.

(154) Purey-Cust Chambers (Plate 152) were built, as the New Residence, in 1824–5 to designs by R. H. Sharp to provide accommodation for the Canons Residentiary who had previously occupied Monument (277). In September 1823 the Chapter had recommended that at some future date a new Residence house and Deanery house be built on the N. side of the Minster, and in July 1824 it was resolved that the former be built at a cost not exceeding £3,600 (YML, H10(1), ff. 230–1; A Guide to the City of York (after July 1838), published by J. Glaisby). Unsigned designs for the New Residence almost exactly as built, probably from the office of Atkinson and Sharp, are preserved in the Minster Library, together with a series of alternative schemes by Watson and Pritchett (M/P Y/R 1128, 1–3, 5, 8, 9).

The building was described in 1838 (Glaisby, op. cit., 97) as being in 'a plain style of Tudor architecture' and has moulded labels to the windows, decorative buttresses and pointed gables and, to the main S.E. elevation, a door with four-centred arched head and a first-floor oriel window. Inside, the doorways have four-centred arched heads (Plate 163), as do the fireplace openings; the staircase has foliated terminations to the square newels and columns with shaped bases which serve as balusters (Plate 194).

Duncombe Place (Monuments 155, 156)

Duncombe Place, running from Blake Street to Petergate, is the former Lop Lane, perhaps named from fleas or spiders, and first mentioned in 1346. Some houses of the former lane remain on the N.W. side. It was also known c. 1800 as Little Blake Street. The very narrow lane was widened in 1785 to 15 ft. between buildings; in 1859–64 it was enlarged to its present width of over 100 ft. and renamed after Dean A. W. Duncombe. The most prominent building is the Roman Catholic church of St. Wilfrid, built in 1864 to designs by G. Goldie as the pro-cathedral of the Beverley diocese, near the site of a chapel opened in 1760. The dedication recalls the mediaeval church which lay between Blake Street and Lendal.

(155) Houses, Nos. 4, 5, 6, are contained in two mid 18th-century buildings incorporating earlier timber framing which were divided into three separate houses in the early 19th century and have recently been converted to a single property. The larger mid 18th-century house, represented by Nos. 4 and 5, was of five bays, with an axial entrance leading to a transverse staircase, and with hung-sash windows, brick bands between the floors, and a tiled roof. No. 6, of one bay, had an off-set entrance leading to a transverse staircase; it has windows and brick bands matching the larger house. The windows at the rear had segmental arched heads. In the early 19th century Nos. 4 and 5 became separate houses, each with its own staircase, with coupled doorways beneath rectangular fanlights with marginal lights. The first-floor front room of No. 5 was given a large bay with a tripartite sash window, and the fenestration at front and rear was much altered. Coupled brackets supported the moulded cornice of Nos. 4 and 5. Recent alterations have eliminated the entrance and passage of No. 6, moved the ground-floor front room window in line with those on the upper floors, and replaced the doorways of Nos. 4 and 5 with a single entrance. The mid 18th-century staircase of No. 6 has an open string below the first floor and a close string above, turned balusters with square knops, and a moulded ramped handrail with spiral terminals; it is approached from the entrance hall through an archway with flanking pilasters. Early 19th-century fittings include cornices, fireplaces, and doors of six fielded panels. Largely rebuilt in 1976–7.

(156) The Red House (Plate 139; Fig. 78), a stone and brick house of two storeys with attics and cellars, was built in the early 18th century for Sir William Robinson, Baronet (Drake, 337), Lord Mayor in 1700 and M.P. for York from 1697 to 1722. The site belonged to York Corporation, which had bought the Mint Yard from George Savile, Viscount Halifax, in 1675 for £800, and a house on it was leased to Robinson for the first time in 1701 (YCA, M31/152). He rebuilt this house, probably incorporating the lower portions of the earlier stone building. The designer may have been William Etty, who was later in charge of building Robinson's country house at Newby, now called Baldersby Park, begun in 1718 to a design by Colen Campbell. The lease of the York house was renewed for 21 years in 1723 (YCA, E101) and in 1725 York Corporation asked Robinson whether he would surrender the house for the use of the city (YCA, B42, f. 58). The request was presumably refused, because the present Mansion House (44) was subsequently built. On Robinson's death at Baldersby on 22 December 1736 the house passed to a relative, Richard Elcock. A 20-year lease 'of Sir William Robinson's house', granted to Dr. John Burton in 1740, was renewed for a further 21 years in 1761 (YCA, E101). Burton, the Dr. Slop of Sterne's Tristram Shandy, was proposed as a freeman in 1754 but was not admitted; he was buried in Holy Trinity, Micklegate, in January 1771. Later occupants include Dr. Baldwin Wake, physician to Bootham Park Hospital, York, from 1815–39, who took the lease in 1835 (YCA, E79).

The house built by Robinson had an L-shaped plan. The ground floor was raised eight steps above ground level, enabling the extensive cellars to be well lit by mullioned windows, now blocked. The front block contained three reception rooms on the ground floor, and the N. corner was occupied by part of the kitchen, which led into the long service wing at the back. In the second half of the 18th century, a two-storey block was added in the re-entrant angle. Apart from providing extra rooms, this gave corridor access from the main staircase to the northernmost room of the original wing. The main staircase was completely rebuilt, and extended upwards to the attics, which had previously only been reached by the secondary staircase in the wing. The flanking lights of the Venetian window lighting the staircase were closed, and the window was extended upwards to light the higher flights. At the same time, the fenestration of the N.E. elevation was drastically modified at first-floor level. In the 19th century, the house was re-roofed in slate. The name of The Red House may, by analogy with the Red Tower on the city walls, derive from the use of brick rather than stone in an important building, and not from the fact that the brickwork on the main elevation has been painted dark red.

The S.E. front elevation to Duncombe Place (Plate 139), five bays wide, has two storeys of brick, with stone dressings, above a stone basement. A late 18th-century modillioned cornice replaces the original deeper and bolder one. Continuous stone bands at both ground-floor window-sill and first-floor levels relate awkwardly to the stone quoins at the corners. The taller first-floor windows have sills which extend the full width of each bay. The sash windows have flush frames and flat-arched heads of rubbed brickwork. Approached by a flight of steps, the recessed entrance has a moulded architrave surmounted by a cartouche with the City arms set on a panel with curved pediment above and voluted drapery to the sides (Plate 182), and a door of six fielded panels beneath a rectangular fanlight. There are early 19th-century area railings.

Fig. 78. (156) The Red House, Duncombe Place.

The S.W. elevation to St. Leonard's Place is of coursed ashlar to first-floor level and of brick above. Each floor has two flush-framed sash windows; those at first floor are set beneath segmental arches with brick tympana. Above a central first-floor window a large semicircular arch with a key-stone links two flues into a single stack which diminishes upwards into a reverse-curved Dutch gable. To right of the gable is a late 18th-century modillioned cornice, and to left an early 19th-century cornice supported on widely-spaced brackets. The N.W. elevation, much altered and of rough ashlar below and brick above, has a tumbled gable, as has the N.W. elevation of the extension. The original fenestration, which included a Venetian window, has been altered.

Original early 18th-century cornices survive in both rooms on both floors of the main block backing on St. Leonard's Place. Fittings include original fireplaces and panelling (Plate 178). The main staircase has late 18th-century turned balusters with square knops, an open string with shaped cheek-pieces, a moulded mahogany handrail and a spiral terminal. The early 18th-century secondary staircase has turned balusters and a close string, with a balustrade of splat balusters in the attics (Fig. 11d, o).

Feasegate (Monuments 157–160)

Feasegate, running N. from Market Street to St. Sampson's Square over the remains of the S. angle tower of the Roman fortress, is first mentioned in about 1259 and was named from 'Fehus', a cow-house. Buildings in the street are now of the 18th century or later.

N.W. side:

(157) House, No. 1 (Plate 143), with No. 1 St. Sampson's Square, was built in 1770 by Robert Woodhouse, replacing one bought by Thomas Woodhouse in 1760 (YCA, E94, f. 31; E97, ff. 250v-251v); this and the adjoining house, No. 3, are among the earliest four-storey Georgian houses in the city. It has been much altered on the ground and first floors for use as a shop. There are elevations of two and three bays to Feasegate and St. Sampson's Square respectively, of brick in Flemish bond; the windows have wide-spreading flat arches of gauged brick, but only one retains original glazing bars; a rainwater head bears the date of erection and initials REW. Inside, only a few original fittings survive on the upper floors; the staircase, from second to third floors only, has slender turned balusters and square, fluted newel-posts.

(158) House, No. 3 (Plate 143), of four storeys, was built in 1770. The site, together with that of No. 1, had been bought in 1760 by Thomas Woodhouse, and the new house was sold by his executor, James Woodhouse, in November 1770 (YCA, E94, f. 116v). It is now a shop, for which purpose the lower floors have been modernised, but earlier in the 20th century it was the King's Head Hotel. The front elevation, of brick in Flemish bond, is of three bays and has a plat-band and sill-band at the second floor, windows with flat arches of gauged brick, and a rainwater head with the date of erection. The back elevation has windows with segmental arches of common brick. Inside, the plan is unusual in a relatively small house in having the staircase placed centrally at the rear with small rooms to each side of it. The dog-leg stair, with standard late 18th-century turned balusters, survives from the first floor upwards. There are some original fittings on the upper floors, including a fireplace with moulded stone surround on the second floor. Demolished 1977.

(159) House, No. 7a, built in the first half of the 19th century, is of three storeys in brick, with a slate hipped roof, formerly pantiled. Above a modern shop front, the walling is in large bricks in Flemish bond. There are two large-paned sash windows to both upper floors, with flush frames under cambered arches of gauged brickwork.

S.E. side:

(160) Houses and Shops, Nos. 4, 6, on a wedge-shaped site and marked as a single property in 1851, were built in the second quarter of the 19th century, three storeys high and of brick with slate roofs. Porches beneath their respective left-hand windows have been replaced, and both have modern shop fronts and fascias. The brickwork above is in Flemish bond. Each of the two upper floors of each house has two sash windows with flush frames under cambered brick arches. Paired brackets carry a boxed gutter.

Finkle Street

Finkle Street, connecting the N. corner of St. Sampson's Square to Back Swinegate, is first mentioned in 1361 as Finclegayle, a name perhaps referring to its position at an angle or to an angle in this narrow lane. By 1750 it was known as Mucky Pig Lane. Its entrance from the square was formerly made even narrower by the protruding and jettied Black Bull Inn.

Fossgate (Monuments 161–178)

Fossgate continues the line of Petergate and Colliergate to the river Foss, and beyond the bridge is continued by Walmgate. Its name is first recorded in 1122–37. The church of St. Crux, of which parish the street formed the central axis, was described in 1420 as in Fossgate. One mediaeval house survives and the appearance of others at the N.W. end is known (Plate 3), but the most important building, the mediaeval hall of the Merchant Adventurers (37), is set back and invisible from the street.

N.E. side:

(161) The Board Inn, Nos. 5, 6, of three storeys, had a timber-framed front block of the late 16th or early 17th century. It was of two bays with upper floors jettied. A third bay at the S. end was similar and of the same date but of separate construction. The roofs had reduced principals with two purlins each side housed into them (Fig. 7t). Behind the front block was a mid 18th-century brick-built wing containing a central staircase with rooms to each side, some of which retained original panelling. Demolished 1957.

(162) Shop, No. 8, consists of two originally separate houses, joined by a long range of later date. Facing Fossgate is an early 17th-century timber-framed house of three storeys and attic with its upper floors jettied towards the street; there is only one room on each floor. The framing includes thin studs and long thin straight braces. In the late 17th century the back wall was rebuilt in brick, with a first-floor fireplace, and at the same time a new range was built at the rear. The latter is mostly of two storeys but rises to three storeys to accommodate a staircase with close string and bulbous balusters against the earlier building. The rest of the range comprises two rooms to each floor, with a central chimney. A 19th-century continuation of this range, probably built as a workshop, is joined to a late 17th-century brick-built house of two storeys, with two rooms to each floor flanking a central stair hall. One room is lined with original panelling.

(163) House and Shop, No. 10, of three storeys, is of the late 18th or early 19th century, and has a later wing behind.

(164) House, Nos. 13, 14, of three storeys and attics, was built c. 1720 on a large irregular plan, widening out at the back. The ground floor has been converted to a shop. The three-bay front elevation is plastered; the back, crossed by string-courses at floor levels, has two half-gables with curved parapets rising to small pediments (Plate 136). The interior is much altered but retains a good staircase (Fig. 11p), with overlapping steps and boldly ramped handrails and dado and lit by a round-arched window flanked by fluted pilasters.

(165) House, Nos. 15, 16, of three storeys and timber-framed, was built in the late 16th or early 17th century. Each of the jettied upper storeys has two rooms facing the street, and a small projection behind housed a staircase. A through-passage is entered under a late 17th-century shell-hood. A brick wing added at the back in the late 17th century, of two storeys with lime-ash floored attics, was formerly a separate tenement.

(166) House, No. 23, of three storeys, was built of brick in the late 17th century. The front has been refaced and the whole subjected to many alterations, including changes in the floor levels, necessitating modifications to the original staircase, with bulbous balusters, which rises round a narrow well trans versely between front and back rooms. At the back, three-centred arches indicate the positions of original windows.

(167) House and Shop, No. 24, was built c. 1830, on an L-shaped plan. Behind is a two-storeyed range of three tenements, each with one room on each floor, of about the same date.

(168) House, No. 27, of three storeys, with brick walls and pantiled roof, was built in the late 18th century and altered and extended at the rear in the mid 19th century. The front elevation was rebuilt c. 1960.

(169) Workshops, about 50 yds. N. of Foss Bridge, consist of a group of buildings on two sides of an angled yard. One, at the N. corner, built in the mid or late 18th century and of two and three storeys with pantiled roofs, has an irregular plan. Another, of about the same date, No. 33, of two storeys and attics, has a gabled end wall facing the River Foss. The other buildings are two-storeyed and of early 19th-century date.

S.W. side:

(170) Former King's Arms, p.h., No. 35, now used as shops and warehouses, was built between the widening of Fossgate in 1812 and the publication of Hargrove (11, 287) in 1818 and was extended southwards soon after. Before 1812 the site was partly occupied by an earlier King's Arms. The present building is of three storeys and irregular on plan. The front doorway, of double width, has a fanlight with lozenge-wise glazing bars. The main staircase has a cut string and turned balusters (Fig. 11v). Hargrove described the accommodation as 'though not of the first rate .... very comfortable'.

(171) No. 36, of one build with No. 35, to which it forms a N. continuation, was originally a separate house and is also of three storeys.

(172) Nos. 37, 38, are a pair of small three-storey houses, built c. 1830, each having a chimney and staircase between one front and one back room. A central through-passageway leads to the rear. The ground floor has been converted to shops.

(173) Houses, Nos. 42, 43 (Fig. 79), of three storeys, form one block. No. 42 was built in 1825 (Merchant Adventurers' Co. Minute Book D12), and No. 43 probably soon afterwards, but the N. half of No. 43, which included a through-carriageway, was demolished in 1964. A rainwater head carries the initials I N. Each house now has a transverse staircase between front and back rooms. At the rear is a two-storeyed 15th-century range of two bays, occupied as part of No. 42. It has stuccoed brick walls replacing timber framing, of which little now remains; a central crown-post roof truss with cross-bracing was originally closed and had a partition below. Restored since 1970.

Fig. 79. (173) Nos. 42, 43 Fossgate.

Fig. 80. (174) The Queen's Head p.h., No. 44 Fossgate.

(174) The Queen's Head, p.h., No. 44 (Plate 120; Fig. 80), was demolished in 1964. The front range, of three storeys and timber-framed, was built in the late 15th century. It was originally of three bays, roofed parallel with the street, but the N. bay was formed into a separate tenement in the early 19th century. Behind the middle bay was a small early 17th-century wing of brick and timber framing; it probably replaced an original stair-annexe. Further S. was a larger back wing of brick added in the late 17th century. The framed range was jettied towards the street and stuccoed. Its roof (Plate 133) had three tall crown-posts (up to 8 ft. long) with enlarged heads carrying a collar-purlin between crossed-braces supporting the side-purlins and the heads of the crown-posts. Late 17th-century fittings in the back wing included a fragment of a staircase with heavy bulbous balusters, moulded handrail and square newels, and a door-case surmounted by an entablature with pulvinated frieze and broken pediment (Plate 162). Preserved in the Castle Museum is a large bracket which formed one side of the original front entrance; it is carved with a Tudor rose and stylised foliage. Demolished.

(175) House, Nos. 50, 51 (Fig. 81), was built in the late 18th century. It was three-storeyed, of brick, with a front five bays wide between end pilasters but incorporated fragments of a timber-framed building, probably of late mediaeval date and comprising two parallel ranges, gabled to the street, each 12½ ft. wide and three bays deep. The interior had been much altered and divided into two shops. Demolished 1964.

Fig. 81. (175) Nos. 50, 51 Fossgate.

(176) House, No. 52, of three storeys and attics, was built in the early 19th century. It has been converted to a shop and store.

(177) The Blue Bell, p.h., No. 53, and House and Shop, No. 54, were built in the early 17th century as two parallel three-storeyed ranges, gabled to the street, with the upper floors jettied to front and back. Early in the 19th century the front jetties were cut back and a new brick wall erected. Most of the timber framing is concealed or replaced. The roofs have trusses of tie-beams and principal rafters only, and buttpurlins carry the common rafters (Fig. 7s). The roof spaces have lime-ash floors.

(178) Houses, Nos. 55, 56, and No. 30 Pavement, form a three-storey brick building, standing on a very shallow site, which may originally have formed three shops with living accommodation over but has been converted to a single shop with storage space. A rainwater head bears the initials T W possibly for Thomas Williams, documented in Pavement in 1798 (Directory), and 1796, probably the date of construction. The front to Fossgate, of six bays, has single hung-sash windows to four bays between triple windows in the end bays.


Friargate now runs from Castlegate to Clifford Street but, as Hertergate or, from c. 1560, Far Water Lane, originally continued down to King's Staith. Its name, meaning 'Hert's street' or possibly 'Hart street', is first recorded in 1175. The boundary of the Franciscan Friars' property, which in 1280 and 1290 had already engulfed one or more, perhaps parallel, lanes, was extended in 1314 'from their middle gate by the head of the chancel of their church to the lane which is called Hertergate' (CPR, 1313–17, 166). In 1808 the lane was renamed after the former Friary. The first burial ground of the Society of Friends lay beside the lane, although not used after 1671. Lower Friargate, beside the Law Courts on the S.W. side of Clifford Street, is 60 ft. S. of the line of the old Water Lane.

(179) House, now the rear part of No. 9 Clifford Street, was built in the late 18th century. It is of four storeys and has a narrow frontage, one bay wide. The interior was altered in the later 19th century.

George Street (Monuments 180–182)

George Street was formed from two mediaeval streets. Nowtgail, meaning 'cattle lane' and first recorded in 1405, later Nowtgate Lane, ran S.W. from Walmgate; its continuation, the wider Fishergate, ran S. through Fishergate Bar and continued outside the defences. The name, from fishermen, is recorded in 1070–88. By the 17th century there were few houses along either street, except at the Walmgate end, and two churches, St. Stephen's near the Piccadilly end of the present Dixon Lane, and St. George's, of which the churchyard (19) remains, had become disused by 1400 and 1644 respectively. In c. 1810 Fishergate within the walls was renamed St. George's Street and the name was later extended to Nowtgate Lane and shortened to George Street. In 1844 the street was widened from 11 ft. to 30 ft.

(180) Houses, Nos. 1, 3, built as a pair c. 1840, are of two storeys in Flemish-bonded brickwork and have sash windows with flat arches of cut common bricks. A through-passage divides them and the entrance to the larger house, No. 1, is within this passage.

(181) Terrace, Nos. 9–17 (odd), is composed of small two-storey houses (Plate 149; Fig. 82), built on ground acquired in 1842 (YG, 22 Jan. 1842). A map of 1844 (YCA, Dwg. 142/2550) shows Nos. 9–13 already built. They had shops at the front, of which some of the timber flanking pilasters and fascia board to the shop windows remains. Each has a central transverse stair, a back room and a kitchen projecting to the rear. Nos. 15, 17, built by 1850 (OS), had no shops, and the stairs rise parallel to the party walls in the back rooms.