A rock and roll Panto!

On the opening night of the Ebor Players latest pantomime production, you wondered what they might make of the tale of King Arthur. Would the take try to be early ITV-light, John Boorman black or Monty Python surreal? Well none of these of course, for this is Panto, and the traditions must be observed.

And observed they were right from the bright opening musical ensemble before an impressive backdrop of Camelot castle. The innuendos flew thick and fast, and my, didn’t Arthur (Andrew Dunn) have a massive sword for such a nice little comic fella! Guinevere, played as the Dame by David Rose, flounced and bounced right from the start, and somehow you suspected that the darker side of her relationship with Sir Lancelot was not going to be a theme.

panto_2007_1Lancelot, as the principal boy played by the young and talented Bobbie Parrish-Moreton, had all the long-legged attributes and thigh-smacking poses that originally got the Victorian male all a-flutter. She was clearly going to get the better of the evil witch Morgana (Philipa Parrish) and her fey son Mordred (Tom Davis), but we knew we were in for a fight. Olivia (as a principal girl) was played by another talented young actor Georgina Sykes, and had some good scenes with Lancelot including a duet that got rousing applause. A sparkling-robed Merlin would for me have had a more central role by introducing some more magic, but played by an increasingly confident newcomer John Houseman, he had the Shakespearean device of moving the plot along with rhyming couplets. The sub-plot developed well with repetition and some slapstick around Squirt (Andy Pearce in his usual amiable form), Sally Simple (Tracey Patrick) and a young dragon (Saskia Dunn). The choruses played their parts well, with the youngest Julian Williams at seven years well capable of his role.

panto_2007_2In a small auditorium filled with local people, audience participation is always going to be crucial, and on a first night with a large number of adults, a good reaction will lift the cast and raise the momentum of the action. The audience reacted to their cues, and the device of having Guinevere come down and ad-lib her comic way round the stalls early on clearly got everyone involved, though Director Tim Bruce may have wondered about his rehearsed timings! So involved were the audience later on that when the evil Morgana was in full plot mode, Sally asked “behind us?” and a clear small voice was heard to shout out “no – turn your head”. Not for the first time too at this point cast members turned to ad-libbing lines to considerable effect. In every way this first night can be considered a success. The basic script was good, and the inclusion of topical and local references that go back to the days of the Elizabethan theatre made sure that there was something for an audience of all ages and not just from the most recent popular culture. The switching between comedy, the developing of the dramatic plot, the sub-plot and the song and dance routines was perfectly balanced to maintain the pace and development of the entertainment. Given the size of the stage and the wings, the precision of the choreography worked very well, both for the small Ghoul routines and the ensemble set pieces. The sets were painted with élan, particularly the backdrop for the entrance to Morgana’s Castle that was just horrible and original enough to scare the youngest members of the audience. The lighting and sound were good, the principals all had microphones, with the balance between voice, music and audience working well in a less than ideal hall. The choice of songs and the new words written by Chris Higgins (who also choreographed) and Tim Bruce were just spot-on. Over 160 years ago, some people thought pantomime was dead. Here in Bishopthorpe it is prospering, and for a youngster perhaps seeing his or her first dramatic production, there could no better introduction to the pleasure of live action theatre.

Copyright Martin P Dudley

Ebor Players Secure First Ashes Win

From Our Cricket Correspondent

After the rains of July caused the annual cricket match between the Parish Council/Millennium Trust (PC) and Ebor Players (Players) to be postponed, the match was finally played on Sunday 2nd September. Despite leaden skies, the rain held off and there was no need to apply Duckworth-Lewis unlike in the more notable match taking place at Headingley.

After winning the toss, Players captain Lisa Thornton put the Parish Council team into bat. Despite a good start by the PC’s best player Chris Dale (10 not out) having hit 2 boundaries, wickets began to fall with Jo Bewley out for a duck caught Tim Bruce off the bowling of Thornton, closely followed by Cath Bruce who made a solid 4 before being caught out off the bowling of Julia Sykes. The runs began to dry up as Liam Godfrey & Carole Green occupied the crease and the Players put their on best bowlers, newcomer Chris Todd and ‘cricketer’ Ben Smith. Having seen off most of the bowling, Godfrey was then cleaned bowled by Smith for 1. Green followed closely after being caught by Alistair Dunn off the bowling of Malcolm Higgins.

However things began to turn again as a very fruitful partnership developed between Charlotte Drummond (daughter of one of last years heroes) and whose father and boyfriend took a turn at umpiring this year, and PC Chairman Stewart Harrison. The latter having to retire on 12. Martin Dudley and Cayley Godfrey finished off the batting making 1 run each. However, a total of 44 never looked like being enough.

Choreographer Chris Higgins and Ben Smith opened the reply for the Players, but tight bowling from Harrison & Dudley kept them pinned down. Then Smith holed out to a brilliant running catch from Dale for arguably the best moment of the match, off the bowling of Godfrey. Solid contributions from Thornton and Tim Bruce keep the score ticking along and both retire undefeated Then, the match swung again as Chris Gajewicz is almost run out but is saved by chaotic fielding from the PC team, but in the process she pulls a muscle and has to leave the field. Each year produces its heroic victim, and none of us are getting any younger. Then Julia Sykes who has scored a very respectable 3 hits her own wicket.

Malcolm ‘Hurricane’ Higgins gets a quick 6 runs but the overs are running out for the Players. Enter new boy Chris Higgins, another proper cricketer we could tell because he actually placed the ball rather than closed his eyes and hoped for the best. 10 runs later he is forced to retire. But now the Ebor Players have only one batsman left; Alistair Dunn, and he is joined by a non batting runner. 4 runs are needed with only a few balls left. Dunn hits these in 1 stroke of the bat to win with a boundary and secure himself the Man of the Match award.

So victory this year like last by 1 wicket but this time it’s the Ebor Players who take the honours. Its now one each and let’s do it all again next year.

Thanks must go to Bishopthorpe Cricket Club for letting us use their pitch and equipment, to the umpires and scorers for giving up their time and of course to the teams and spectators for turning up.

Liam Godfrey

Parish Council/Millennium Trust


C Dale  Retired 10
C Bruce  c Smith    b Sykes 4
J Bewley c Bruce     b Thornton 0
C Green c Dunn     b Higgins 0
L Godfrey b Smith 1
C Drummond Retired 1
S Harrison Retired 12
M Dudley Run Out 1
C Godfrey Not Out 1
A Dunn Did not bat  
  Extras 14
  Total 44


Ebor Players



C Higgins Retired 5
B Smith c Dale              b Godfrey 4
L Thornton Retired 2
T Bruce Retired 7
C Gajewicz Retired Hurt 0
J Sykes hit wicket  b Bewley 3
M Higgins Retired 6
C Todd Retired 10
A Dunn Not Out 5
  Extras 6
  Total  45


Ebor Players win by 1 wicket.

Pinfold Opens

At a ceremony on Friday 29th June attended by about 30 invited guests, the new Pinfold was formally opened.


Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Millennium Trust, the new Pinfold has been designed and built by local people. It has seating and planting, and a soon to be installed historical interpretation panel. It is proving popular with residents and visitors, and is particularly busy when the junior school is about to finish in the afternoons.

At a reception to mark the opening, Trust chair John Bettridge thanked all those involved, including Richard Parkin who manged the project, and local historians Linda Haywood and Liam Godfrey.

John also launched an exhibition showing how the Pinfold project was developed. The project completes phase 2 of the Crossroads scheme, and a panel shows a concept of how phase 3 may be developed further. The exhibition will be on display at the Library from 16th  July.


Bishopthorpe Gala 2007

The Bishopthorpe Village Gala took place on Saturday 30th June in the Archbishop’s Palace gardens in Bishopthorpe. The Gala featured around 40 stalls including crafts, local produce and games, plus the Steel Expressions band, African choir Chechele, the Let’s Dance Troupe, a children’s entertainer and magician, bouncy castle, trampoline, mini tennis, mini cricket, a coconut shy, face painting, bar, BBQ and afternoon teas. Despite a grim weather forecast, plenty of folk turned out, and the stalls and activities were busy.

Thanks are due to Shirley, and Gordon and Lisa (pictured below) who did the organising, and all the local people who helped out or put on stands.



Spring Clean for the War Memorial

Bishopthorpe War Memorial has been in place at the junction of Church Lane and Bishopthorpe Road for 86 years and, until recently, was looking the worse for wear.  The formerly white floriated cross with the carved figure of St. George and the Dragon had gradually changed into a cheerless dark grey; peppered with moss and lichen.  The inscribed names of the village men, who had made the supreme sacrifice in two world wars, were gradually becoming illegible.  This was not really a fitting way in which to remember and commemorate them.

War_Memorial_3The dark and grey Memorial prior to cleaning.

Advice was sought on how to clean a war memorial and, fortunately, the War Memorials Trust was on hand.  This charitable organisation, which was founded in the mid – 1990’s and is presided over by Winston S. Churchill, aims to protect and conserve all War Memorials within the UK.  It not only gives advice but can also provide up to half the cost of the work through its Small Grant Scheme; as it did with the Bishopthorpe Memorial.  The Parish Council agreed to cover the rest of the cost.

Since the War Memorial is situated on church land, the work was carried forward through the good offices of St. Andrew’s Churchwarden, Peter Channing.  He has patiently seen the job through.  On 25th April, Burrows Davies Ltd. of Strensall brought the Portland stone Memorial back to – well, perhaps not quite back to its pristine state of 86 years ago, but as near as is possible.

War_Memorial_2Bishopthorpe War Memorial after cleaning.

Bishopthorpe War Memorial was designed by the celebrated York architect Walter Brierley (who, incidentally, is buried in St. Andrew’s Churchyard with his wife, Gertrude).  Brierley commissioned Robert Thompson of Kilburn to undertake the work.  This was before the time that Thompson used a mouse as his signature!  The War Memorial scheme was carried out in two phases: the Memorial Cross, which was unveiled in 1921; and four years later, the improvement of the surrounding area including a low perimeter wall; new churchyard gates and a crescent of yew trees.  The cost of the scheme had been subscribed to by the parishioners.

When Archbishop Lang unveiled and dedicated the War Memorial Cross on Sunday, 22 May 1921, the Yorkshire Gazette reported that the gathered assembly consisted of almost the whole village.  In his address, the Archbishop spoke with some eloquence:

“This English life we shared was not our own to deal with as we pleased for our own selfish interests. It had been bought with a price and the price was written in the names of those who died for us.”

What more need be said?

War_Memorial_5The completed War Memorial scheme showing the perimeter wall and oak churchyard gates. Photographed by Walter Scott circa 1927.

Then and Now

The ‘railway path’ is a popular local amenity, and a photograph recently came to light of the swing bridge when it was still active on the old east coast main line. So with the permission of the York Railway Institute Sailing Club we publish this early picture.


And to contrast with it, here is one taken recently, featuring BishdotNet’s transport correspondent, Ian Hodson.



Black History at the Palace

Eleven years prior to the 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act – the bicentenary of which is commemorated this month – a noteworthy event took place at the Palace.  On October 1st, 1796, the parish clerk wrote in the Bishopthorpe Parish Register:

Edward Anson, an adult negroe[sic], baptised in the Archbishop’s Chapel.

Black people were not always identified in the records so this entry in the parish register is unusual in itself.  So who was Edward Anson?  By 1796, he was not likely to have been a slave here, in Britain.  The fight to abolish the slave trade was quickly gaining ground and the work of campaigners such as William Wilberforce M. P. and Granville Sharp (grandson of former Archbishop of York, John Sharp [1691 – 1714]), received much support.

Edward Anson’s name is hardly of African origin, which indicates that he or his forebears were likely to have once been slaves, probably in the West Indies where it was not unusual for them to be renamed by their masters.  Estate owners from the West Indies frequently brought their household slaves to Britain to work as servants, so it could be that this is what happened to Anson.

If that was the case, why was he in Bishopthorpe?  Did he work for Archbishop William Markham [1777-1807], or one of his visitors, or a member of his family?  It is interesting to note that, at that time, two of the Archbishop’s children had connections with the West Indies and possibly had the opportunity to bring black people to the Palace.

First, the Archbishop’s son, John Markham, a naval officer, was sent out to the West Indies in May 1795 in the Hannibal.  The following year – the year of the baptism – he was invalided and returned home to England.

Second, in March 1797, Elizabeth, the Archbishop’s daughter and her husband, William Barnett of Aberford, were at the Palace where their eldest son was baptised (at St. Andrew’s Church on this occasion).  From this entry in the parish register, we learn that Elizabeth’s father-in-law, the Honourable William Barnett, was “of the Island of Jamaica”.  Was either party responsible for bringing Edward Anson to the christening in the Chapel?

The above suggestions are, admittedly, a matter of conjecture, but are plausible.  The baptism raises a number of  intriguing questions, but provides no easy answers!  Let us hope that Edward Anson spent a contented life, whatever his circumstances.  One thing that is certain: the Act of 1807 ensured it was illegal for British ships to trade in slaves and eventually led, in July 1838, to the freedom of enslaved people in the British Caribbean.

For more information on Black History, visit the exhibition site at The National Archives http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pathways/blackhistory/

Linda Haywood


The Parish Registers of Bishopthorpe

Dictionary of National Biography: John Markham and Granville Sharp

James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery ( London, 1992)

Looking Back at Bishopthorpe: Jan & Feb 1907

2 January 1907 [Yorkshire Gazette]

Ouse in Flood

A wild snow storm had hit the area welcoming in the New Year.  This was followed by a quick thaw and consequently the Ouse flooded during the night of the 2nd January.  The river rose rapidly the next morning, rising in the city at a rate of 1 foot per hour.  Heavy rain then fell, clearing the remaining snow.  The following day, the water rose to 9 feet above the summer level;  by the 4th January, the flood was  subsiding.

January 1907 [Yorkshire Gazette]

Bread & Water in the Workhouse

At a meeting of the York Joint Board of Guardians, the Workhouse Master reported that 100 vagrants had, during the month, returned to the Union the same day as they were discharged and occupied the tramp ward.  The Workhouse Committee, therefore, resolved that in all cases during the winter months where vagrants returned on the day of their discharge, they should be served with bread and water instead of gruel.

Shouksmith_1Bishopthorpe Poor Law Guardian, John H. Shouksmith.

 [Photo: Thanks to Mrs. K. Shouksmith.]

From 1834, Poor Law Unions were run by Boards of Guardians.  Bishopthorpe came within the York Union – the Workhouse was in Huntington Road.  The village ratepayers elected as their Guardian, Parish Council Vice-Chairman, John H. Shouksmith of The Laurels, Sim Balk Lane. He ran a substantial plumbing business in Micklegate, York.

12 January 1907 [Yorkshire Gazette]

Meeting of The Hunt

Hunt_1907 The York and Ainsty Hunt to meet 12 January at Naburn Ferry at 10.45 a.m.

4 February 1907 [Yorkshire Gazette and Bishopthorpe Parish Magazine]

Evils of Betting: Mr. Seebohm Rowntree at Bishopthorpe Palace

The sociologist, businessman and Quaker, Mr. B. Seebohm Rowntree, gave “a most able and deeply interesting lecture” on “The Evils of Betting and Gambling”, in the large hall at Bishopthorpe Palace.  The event was hosted by Archbishop & Mrs Maclagan.

In 1901, Seebohm Rowntree published, Poverty: a Study of Town Life, based on the poor of York, and four years later in 1905, he edited the publication, Betting and Gambling.

In his talk, which was warmly received, Mr. Rowntree suggested that gambling was the effect of underlying causes.  He argued that what was wanted were better living conditions and increased wages so that men would be enabled to live a life of adequate fullness.  One thing that would have a great effect would be to give men better housing with gardens.  He felt that every town should have an anti-gambling society, and that meetings should be held to expose the folly of those lads who put their “bob” on horses.

Bishopthorpe vicar, Rev. Pennyman, expressed thanks to Mr. Rowntree and said he hoped they would be able to tell him some day soon that they had an anti-gambling society in Bishopthorpe.

Writing of this event in the Bishopthorpe Parish Magazine, Rev. Pennyman described what occurred following the talk:

“A general move was made towards the tea-room where a very tempting looking table was prepared, adorned with all manner of dainties.”  The evening was rounded off with “sweet music” from the Choral Society which performed under considerable difficulties as the gas lighting, “which had up till now only been moderately and as usual bad, began to flicker and splutter and perform sundry gymnastical movements suggestive of an expiring nature, which plunged the room into oft-repeated semi-darkness: however, we all did our best.”

5 February 1907 [Bishopthorpe Parish Council Minutes]

The Parish Drain

It was announced that for the first time a Special Rate had been ordered by the Rural District Council. This it was explained was to defray the cost of erecting air shafts to the parish drain [in Main Street].

23 February 1907 [Yorkshire Gazette]

Diphtheria Closes the School

The Archbishop of York’s School was closed for three weeks on account of an outbreak of diphtheria in the village.  Dr. Raimes, the District Medical Officer reported to the Bishopthorpe Rural District Council, that the death rate for the district in January had been 24 per 1,000 per annum.  There had been two cases of diphtheria in Bishopthorpe and both were removed to Acomb Fever Hospital.  Dr. Raimes had to close the building because one of the patients was a child who attended the school.

23 February 1907 [Yorkshire Gazette and Bishopthorpe Parish Magazine]

Cross Erected to Canon Keble in St. Andrew’s Churchyard

Canon_KebleCanon John R. Keble

[Photo: Thanks to Michael Grace]

The parishioners of Bishopthorpe erected a cross to the memory of Canon J. R. Keble, who had died four years earlier in February 1903.  Rev. Keble was vicar of Bishopthorpe from 1891 until his death at the age of 46.  His grave was situated beneath the east window of St. Andrew’s Church, where the eight-foot carved cross was placed.  A chaplain to, and long-standing friend of Archbishop Maclagan, he also wrote the History of the Parish and Manor-House of Bishopthorpe, which was published posthumously in 1905.

Canon Keble’s wife, Florence, wrote to St Andrew’s churchwardens thanking all her friends at Acaster and Bishopthorpe for erecting such a “beautiful” cross on her husband’s grave.  The designer was York sculptor G. W. Milburn.

12 January 1907  [Yorkshire Gazette]

The Housewife’s Notebook 

The Mode of the Moment

Mode_1907Pictured in our illustration is a smart little walking costume for the New Year.  Though warm and cosy and quite suitable for immediate wear, it is built on lines which will permit of its doing duty right through the spring without any appearance of unreasonable weight.  The material employed in its construction is a smooth blue serge.  The little coat is of the semi-fitting short-waisted type.  From the neck turns back a little dark blue velvet collar, which is edged with a wide band of heavy silk braid.  Bands of similar braid are placed down the front of the coat and finish the velvet cuffs of the sleeves.  Just at the waist line in front, the coat opens slightly and displays a peep of braided waistcoat.

A Useful Laundry Hint

A good plan for holding out a rather heavy skirt after being washed is to peg it by the waist on the line, then get an old umbrella (crooked handle is the best), open it out and hang on the line in the space between the pegs.  Spread the bottom of the skirt all over it pushing the points of the ribs up a little to prevent working through the skirt.  This keeps the skirt open and lets the air through the material, and also keeps it in good shape.

Mrs. T. Meek, Scarborough Terrace, York

A Penny Stove

To keep not only the frost, but the chill night air out of your bedroom, office, or workshop, procure a common penny paraffin lamp at the oilshop.  Place this alight in a six-inch flower-pot, and invert another flower-pot upon that one.  Both will become hot, and will keep the room cosy during the bitterest night.  There will be no smoking of the lamp, and it is very inexpensive.

Mrs. J. Gaffick, 5, Cromer Street, York


The Archbishop, the Chapel Goods – and Mrs. Newton!

Palace_1905The medieval Chapel at Bishopthorpe Palace, photographed c1905.


In 1693, Archbishop John Sharp (1691-1714) began to write in a large book an account of the estates and revenues of the Archbishop of York.  On the last page, he compiled an inventory of the effects that belonged in the Palace Chapel.  He wrote that it was, “An Account of goods, which I Recd. And which are always to go along with the Archbishop of York”.  The latter part of this statement was, unfortunately, over-optimistic. John Sharp’s successor, Sir William Dawes (1714-1724), hardly had time to settle in at the Palace when his housekeeper, Mrs. Elizabeth Newton, “embezzled” a number of items.  A note to this effect was added to some of the articles within the list.

The parish registers of Bishopthorpe reveal that the light-fingered Mrs. Newton was married to Thomas Newton, a coachman from London and, in 1715, they had a child christened in St. Andrew’s church.  No subsequent events were recorded so, perhaps, the couple returned hotfoot to the capital with their booty!

In spite of this regrettable episode, Archbishop Sharp’s inventory gives a colourful image of the Chapel interior in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.  The following is a transcription; comments added to the account at a later date are given in square brackets.

In the Chappel at Bishop’s thorpe

Communion Plate all gilt.  A large Basin, a Chalice & Cover, A Patten, with Cases to them all. [an Ewer int-nd-d by the ArchBp & given by Sr Darcy Dawes.]

A large piece of Tapestry at the Altar, of Ananias & Sapphira &c.

A Purple Damask Covering, fring’d with Gold, for the Communion Table both lower and upper part, a Cushion and two Stools, of the same.

A Turkey work’d Carpet, on the floor within the Rails.

A Dammask Linnen Cloth & Napkin, for the Communion.

A Bible, in two Volumes, bound in blew Turkey Leather, Gilt & filleted. Folio.

Two Folio Common Prayer books.

Two Crimson stuff Curtains & two Cushions of ye same, one of Crimson Damask to lay the Common prayer book upon, the other to kneel on, in the Throne.  A Bass Vallens & 2 Curtain Rods.

A large Folio Common prayer book bound in blew Turkey Leather, Gilt, & filleted.

A Cushion to sit on.

For the Pulpit, A Purple Damask Cushion, with deep Gold fringe & Tassels.  A Bass.

For the Desk, A Purple Damask Vallen, with deep Gold fringe.  A Folio Bible, & two Folio Common prayer books [†] A Surplice & a black hood.

Two Basses, two Iron Candlesticks.

A Litany desk, cover’d with Purple Damask & Gold fringe [† embezzled by Mrs Newton housekeeper to Abp Dawes]

Seven prayer books in Folio, 2 of them large paper.  Six in quarto, besides the Chappel Clerk’s, eight in Octavo.  Most of them old & pretty much worne.  Three Douzen of Large Basses, a douzen & half of smaller.


Much has been altered in the Chapel over the years and the listed property would have become worn, faded and not always replaced.  The pulpit and throne mentioned above, for example, were removed following major restoration in 1892.  Despite this – and Mrs. Newton – we are rewarded with John Sharp’s detailed account which provides an insight into the lavish world of York’s eighteenth-century Archbishops.

Linda Haywood


Archbishop Sharp’s Manuscript, Volume 2: Borthwick Institute: Bp.Dio2.


Ananias:              The name of a man who ‘with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession and kept back part of the price’.  (Acts v. 1,2)

Bass:                   hassock

Filleted:               Plain lines impressed on leather binding and, in the above examples, filled with gold.

Turkey carpet:     A carpet manufactured in or imported from Turkey, or of a style in imitation of this.  It was made in one piece of richly-coloured wools, without imitative pattern and, having a deep pile, cut so as to resemble velvet.

 Vallen/s:            valance

Definitions taken from the Oxford English Dictionary.