St. Anthony's Hall

Pages 91-93

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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St. Anthony's Hall

(39) St. Anthony's Hall (Plate 75; Fig. 52), now the Borthwick Institute, stands on the corner of Aldwark, facing Peasholme Green. It is a two-storey building of 15th-century origin; the ground floor is built of stone on two sides, the other two sides and the upper floor being of 17th-century brick, replacing timber framing. The historical background is complicated and obscure; it is dealt with in J. S. Purvis, St. Anthony's Hall York (1951). This was reprinted in 1953 with the addition of an architectural history, which has been repeated in subsequent publications including the VCH, City of York, and The Noble City of York, but which needs some modification.

In 1446 a group of citizens obtained from Henry VI a charter for the foundation of a guild of St. Martin on the site of an older chapel of St. Anthony. In 1450 Archbishop Kempe issued a licence for mass to be said in the hospital chapel of the guild, and the chapel 'newly-built' was consecrated in 1453. Building work was still going on in 1455. The stone walls which enclose the lower storey on the S. and W. are all of one build, but the completion of the timber-work was carried out in two stages, the W. third being completed first. The E. part followed, with a different roof design. A boss carved with a Tudor portcullis may indicate that the E. part was not finally completed till after 1485, but the boss is one of a series carved by John Wolstenholme in the 19th century and whether or not it reproduces an original form is unknown. The main hall was on the upper floor and the hospital below; the chapel may have occupied the W. part of the ground floor, but the building has been much altered, especially in the lower storey, so that the original arrangements can only be conjectured. If the suggested interpretation of the lower storey is correct, the relationship between hospital and chapel would have been very unusual. (For plans before restoration see Fig. 52).

Although a declining force, the Guild survived the reforms of 1545 and was not dissolved until 1627. An order of 1554 regularised the use of the hall by all the guilds in the city without a hall of their own. In 1567 arrangements were made for the building to be used as a workhouse where the poor would be put to weaving; the hall was also used for archery practice. A school was set up in the chapel in 1579 to teach French. During the 17th century the building was used variously as an arsenal, a military hospital and a prison. In 1655 the whole of the N. and E. outside walls and the upper parts of the S. and W. walls were rebuilt in brick; new walls were also added inside. In 1705 the Bluecoat School was established here and eventually occupied the whole building; the hall itself was used for teaching, and the children slept in one aisle and ate in the other. The ground floor was occupied by kitchens and service rooms, the prison cells being done away with. In 1828 repairs and alterations were put in hand; a headmaster's room was formed on the ground floor with a bay window to the E., and many other windows were refitted. The roof of the hall was damaged by a storm in 1839, and repairs were not finished before 1850. Additions around a courtyard to the N. consist of a two-storeyed range on the E. side designed by J. B. and W. Atkinson in 1870, a two-storeyed 18th-century house on the W. side remodelled and heightened by Demaine and Brierley in 1887, and a N. extension of the latter, with a lower range closing the N. side of the court, by the same architects in 1901. The building was vacated by the school in 1946 and was restored in 1952–3 to become an archival and historical centre, the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, now part of the University of York.

Fig. 52. (39) St. Anthony's Hall.

Architectural Description. The building is of two storeys, with walls partly of 15th-century stonework and partly of 17th-century brick, replacing timber framing; the roofs are now slate-covered, but were formerly tiled. The W. elevation (Plate 75) rises to a central gable with a lower gable to each side. The lower storey is of limestone ashlar with moulded plinths and one buttress. Above the ashlar is a 17th-century moulded stone string-course with brickwork above. The plinth is interrupted towards the N. end by a large opening, now blocked, flanked by niches with two-centred heads and square labels and, at a higher level, by two carved stone panels; one is a modern restoration, the other shows an armed man, badly weathered. In the middle part of the wall are three windows, of which only the middle one is original; it has two cinque-foiled lights in a square head. The others, of similar design, are modern. On the first floor, three windows are set in 17th-century openings under moulded brick pediments, and in the central gable is an oeil-de-boeuf. The S. elevation continues the ashlar and brick walling of the W. end. Near its W. end a large window with four-centred head and continuous casement-moulded jambs is partly blocked and contains 19th-century sash windows. Three smaller windows to the E. are of 15th-century origin and originally had cusped lights; that to the E. was formerly blocked and partly replaced by a doorway. Further E. again was a fourth window, for which no visible evidence now remains. In the middle a doorway and oeil-de-boeuf above represent early openings remodelled in the 19th century. The upper storey has three windows, set in regularly-spaced 17th-century openings, and a fourth inserted in 1886. The E. end of the building has a plinth and string-course of stone, with a brick wall, all of 1655; the lower storey has a central bay window of 1828 flanked by doors and windows of the same date or later. In the upper storey are three windows under brick pediments and an oeil-de-boeuf as on the W. end. Evidence for original close-studding in this wall remains internally in the tie-beam. The N. elevation is largely masked by additions and much of the string-course has been cut away. In the lower storey is a small barred window, now blocked, to a cell. To W. is a round-headed opening, formed of moulded brickwork, now containing a small modern window. There are some traces of the jambs of 17th-century windows, but all the existing windows are 19th-century or modern.

Interior. The ground floor is divided into two areas by a N.–S. through-passage, with a W. wall of 17th-century date and an E. wall of the 18th century. The area W. of the passage may represent the mediaeval chapel lit by the big arched window in the S. end; it is divided into seven bays by moulded cross-beams, supported by wall-posts and braces, and the ceiling of each bay was sub-divided by moulded beams into four compartments. The two N. bays, entered from the W., may always have been screened off, on the line of the present 17th-century S. wall, to form an antechapel entered by a large doorway in the W. wall. The rest of the lower storey is presumed to have been the hospital, and was divided into four aisles by three rows of timber posts supporting the arcades and the floor of the hall above. A number of these posts have been removed; those that remain are embedded in later partition walls, mostly of the 18th century.

On the first floor is the great hall of nine aisled bays (Plate 75). The three W. bays are of earlier construction than the rest; this was the high-table end. The roof trusses have moulded tie-beams carrying crown-posts with a high collar-purlin, and kerb-principals with side-purlins. Between the trusses are moulded beams to carry a ceiling. The tie-beam of the E. truss is moulded on both sides, and has mortices, never used, for ceiling beams continuing to the E. This part of the hall is separated from the aisles by 17th-century walls. The remainder of the hall to the E. is built in six bays. The main trusses are carried on octagonal oak posts and are of arch-braced collar-beam construction with moulded purlins; the braces spring from demi-angel corbels of which two (E. end, S. side) are original. Of the others, some are of early 19th-century plasterwork and the remainder are mid 19th-century wooden replacements. A break in the ridge and associated mortices suggest that there may have been a louvre over the third bay from the E. The wall-plates to the aisles are housed into the main posts at corbel level, and there is framing between them and the wall-plates of the hall roof, but below this level the aisles seem to have been open to the hall, except in the E. bay and perhaps the three W. bays. Additional strutting has been introduced where posts have been removed from the floor below. Various mortices indicate that the E. bay was separated off by a screen, and over this screen was a gallery which extended into the second bay. Access to the E. bay from below was by a staircase in the E. end of the N. aisle. Wooden bosses in the roof were carved by John Wolstenholme, whose initials with the date 1850 appear on one boss, and the family crests represented all refer to civic dignitaries of c. 1850. Other subjects include a centaur and St. Anthony's pig. The aisle roofs have four-centred barrel vaults, formed in plaster between the curved braces under the tie-beams. Each brace rests on an original angel-corbel. Carved bosses include representations of heads, foliage, fleurs-de-lys and royal arms.

Coach-house, 18 yds. N.E. of the hall, of two storeys, is of brick with a slate-covered roof. It was built in the late 18th century but has been much altered for use as a printing works. Two large arched entrances, facing the street, have been converted to windows, and the central door and first-floor windows are modern. In each gable-end is an oeil-de-boeuf.