August 1919: Bishopthorpe Celebrates the Peace

The children’s tea party in Main Street. Mrs. Paver’s ‘Peace’ cake can be seen in the centre. Everyone looks glum but it could be that the photographer has just told them to keep quite still!

It was a grand day, the whole village turned out – they were in a mood to party.  Bunting and flags were spread across Bishopthorpe’s Main Street, trestle tables were piled high with food, and a place was found for Mrs. Walter Paver’s special “Peace” cake which reached three tiers high.  Children and adults dressed in a colourful array of fancy dress costumes portraying Charlie Chaplin, Irish colleens, admirals, nurses and soldiers. This last was a reminder that the war remained fresh in the mind for many.

Hostilities in the terrible 1914-1918 war had ceased at the Armistice on 11 November 1918 but, officially, the war did not end until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June the following year.  To mark the end of the war the government decided that Peace should be celebrated nationally with a public holiday on 19th July 1919.   On that day thousands of people gathered in London and watched 15,000 allied troops take part in a victory parade.

London was not the only city to rejoice.  In York a water carnival was organised with events taking place throughout the day.  The press reported that “animated scenes were witnessed on the river”.  Animated indeed as hundreds watched displays and swimming contests taking place between Lendal and Scarborough Bridges.  This was followed by a water polo match and great excitement was caused by high diving performances from a parapet on Lendal Bridge.  The Minster bells pealed for an hour at noon and again in the evening; shops, businesses and the Mansion House were gaily decorated, flowers were used in abundance.  Parades marched through the streets and bands played on the Knavesmire and river-side walks.

A peace festival for York children was postponed until the summer holiday in August.  Likewise, many villages and towns held their own peace celebrations during that month.  Bishopthorpe schoolchildren were granted an extra week’s holiday and therefore the village’s own peace celebration was held on Tuesday, 19th August.  The children enjoyed their tea sitting at tables set on the highway outside The Ebor Inn.  Each child was presented with a specially decorated Peace mug, a bag of sweets and nuts and a slice of Mrs. Paver’s cake.

This was not only a jamboree for the children.  At six o’ clock about 200 adults sat down to a “sumptuous repast”.  As well as the fancy dress competition, numerous races were held including “Cockerel” races for married men, married women and children. Later in the evening Rex Johnson, who had won the slow bicycle race, revived in time to play piano for the dancing.  The party concluded with a good display of fireworks.

To mark the centenary of this unique episode in Bishopthorpe’s story, a small collection of photographs will be displayed at Bishopthorpe Library throughout July and August

Please call in and see how the villagers celebrated their well-deserved Peace.

Linda Haywood

Bishopthorpe Community Archive


The Yorkshire Post: Mon. 21 July 1919, p10

Yorkshire Gazette: Sat, 23 August 1919

Archbishop of York’s School Log Book 3: 24 July 1919

The Lost Men of Bishopthorpe – WW1: A talk by Ken Haywood

Daniel Fountain
Frank Johnson
Arthur Toward Watson
George Henry Simpson

Last year, Ken Haywood published his book, The Lost Men of Bishopthorpe, about the lives – and deaths – of the men on the local War Memorial from both conflicts.

In a talk at Bishopthorpe Methodist Hall, Ken will be concentrating on the men who served during the First World War.  In doing so, he will describe some of the problems he encountered and use practical examples which, in turn, may help with your own WW1 ancestry research.


The talk starts at 7.30pm at Bishopthorpe Methodist Hall on Tuesday, 16th October 2018.

Hosted by Bishopthorpe Local History Group.  Free to members.  Non-members welcome: £3.50, including light refreshments.

Bygone Bishopthorpe, Acaster Malbis & Naburn

Bishopthorpe abounds with many unusual and curious stories.  Did you know, for example, that after the Second World War, Bishopthorpe used to organise large ‘Open Shows’ which attracted great numbers of exhibitors and thousands of spectators?  The coconut-shy was a huge attraction as coconuts were a treat rarely seen since before the war.  Did you also know that, following the snow storms of 1947, the great thaw caused a house boat to be stranded in the middle of a field?  This left Bishopthorpe Parish Council with a headache which lasted for several years! Finally, did you also know that, in 1842, numerous people crossed the river by the Bishopthorpe ferry to reach a prize fight on the Fulford shore?  The vicar’s curate helped to get two policemen across the river from the vicarage lawn.  Unfortunately, the constables were then assaulted while trying to break up the crowd.

All kinds of stories were discovered while researching the late Robin Hill’s Bishopthorpe photographs which were taken during the 1940s and early 1950s.  Robin ventured into Acaster Malbis and captured a few scenes there as well as aiming his lens across the river towards Naburn.  He also enjoyed collecting old postcards of the area.

Robin (1924 – 2004) lived in Myrtle Avenue, Bishopthorpe, and attended the local school.  He married in 1956 and, four years later, left with his wife Barbara to work at the Edinburgh City Museums.  Scottish publisher Richard Stenlake unearthed Robin’s two albums of photographs and postcards and asked members of Bishopthorpe Local History Group to research some of them and write up the many intriguing stories which lay behind the images.  The resulting book, Bygone Bishopthorpe, Acaster Malbis & Naburn, has recently been published and is available at York bookshops.

Available in Bishopthorpe at Bishopthorpe Library or Bishopthorpe Community Archive (on Monday afternoons, upstairs at the Village Hall, 2.30 – 5.00pm).  Price £10.95.

Also available in York bookshops: Waterstones in Coney Street; the little apple bookshop in Petergate; Fossgate Books in Fossgate.

If you are not local, copies can be bought by post from Linda Haywood, 39 Acaster Lane, Bishopthorpe, York YO23 2SA.  Cheques made payable to Bishopthorpe Local History Group.  Price £10.95.  Please add £2.00 post & packing.

See Stephen Lewis’s article about the book in The York Press:

Linda Haywood

The Hunt and Heroes at Bishopthorpe Palace: 1916

houndsIn August and September 1914, men rushed to join the Forces thinking that the war would be over by Christmas.  Two years later, in December 1916, another Christmas approached, but there was still no sign of an end to hostilities. The thousands of casualties resulting from the catastrophic Battle of the Somme, which lasted from 1 July to 19 November, would be seared into the consciousness of the nation for generations to come.

Under the circumstances it may seem surprising that, despite the horrors of war, life carried on as best it could at home in Blighty.  Diversions were probably a welcome relief to grieving people.  On the 12th December 1916, the York and Ainsty Hunt provided one such distraction at Bishopthorpe Palace.  The local press reported that it was a rare and picturesque setting.  The York and Ainsty Hounds had never before assembled within the grounds of the Archbishop’s home.  Adults and children alike gathered in great numbers to enjoy the spectacle.  They watched as hounds raced up and down the steps of the Palace entrance where Archbishop Lang greeted his guests.

But the war remained very much in evidence as numerous khaki uniforms mingled with hunting pink.  Lady Furness was in command of what was considered to be the largest field of the season and included many officers who were in training at home or on leave from the front.  A large proportion of those present were wounded soldiers from local hospitals.  Some had arrived on foot, others by traps and motor cars lent by the local gentry. hunters

The meet also gave the opportunity of welcoming home, Captain, the Rev. Arthur. S. Crawley, Vicar of Bishopthorpe and Chaplain to the Archbishop.  Rev. Crawley had recently been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry and devotion to duty; he was acting as a stretcher-bearer while bringing in wounded soldiers under heavy shell-fire.  (In 1918 he was also awarded a bar to the M.C. for similar acts of bravery.)  Accompanied by his wife, Rev. Crawley, who was home on leave, received hearty congratulations.

After the customary glass of sherry, the field headed for Askham Bog.  The sun shone through heavy clouds as the hunters cantered down Back (now Church) Lane followed by cars and traps.  The chase covered ground from Dringhouses to Copmanthorpe and Askham Bryan with more than one fox found – and lost – which meant a return to Askham Bog.  Apparently, there was brilliant hunting by Steeton Wood and the hounds made the best of the scent and raced on to Colton coming to a check at Bolton Percy.

The Yorkshire Herald suggested that “…the khaki division had a great time, and the gallant heroes home on leave will have something to remember when they return to the trenches.”  We can only hope that some returned to ride with the hounds after the war.

Linda Haywood

Source: The Yorkshire Herald: 13 December 1916, p8.

Illustrations from: A History of the York and Ainsty Hunt by William Scarth Dixon (1899)

Scholey and Dixon – the family butchers of Bishopthorpe

Mr. Geoff Dixon outside the butcher's shop in Main Street, Bishopthorpe. Photographed in 2000 by Roger Poyser.
Mr. Geoffrey Scholey Dixon outside the butcher’s shop in Main Street, Bishopthorpe. Photographed in 2000 by Roger Poyser.

The small butcher’s shop, with its pleasant blue and white painted frontage situated in the centre of Main Street, is a familiar Bishopthorpe landmark.  The butcher’s business, R. H. Dixon & Sons, has served the local community (including a number of Archbishops) for more than a century.  Many people still remember Mr. Geoff Dixon who had worked in the shop all his life and died in 2009 aged 95 years.

It is not well known, however, that the business was started by a young butcher, George Scholey who arrived in Bishopthorpe about 1869.  George was born in 1849 at Kelfield, the son of Robert Scholey, a farmer.  In 1873 he married his cousin, Annie, and brought her to his home, in Bishopthorpe.  The couple had eight children: six girls and two sons.  Unfortunately, the two sons and one of the girls died in infancy.

Butcher, George Scholey, arrived in Bishopthorpe c1869. He became a prominent parishioner taking an active role in local affairs.
Butcher, George Scholey, became a prominent parishioner taking an active role in local affairs.  At the first Parish Council election in 1895, he polled the highest number of votes.

Among the local farmers who would have called upon George to slaughter their beasts for market, was Alfred Dixon.  Alfred tenanted Moor Farm in Moor Lane, Bishopthorpe.  He and his wife, Eliza, and two young children, arrived in Bishopthorpe from Barkston Ash during the 1870s.  No doubt the Scholey and Dixon families knew each other well and their children grew up together.  Almost inevitably, the eldest son of the Dixon family, Robert Henry, married Edith Annie, the eldest of the Scholey sisters.

The young couple married at St. Andrew’s Church in 1907.  Sadly, Annie’s father, George, had died only the previous year leaving Robert Henry to run his father-in-law’s butcher’s shop.  Robert lost his own father, Alfred, in 1892 and, with his younger brother, Percy, helped their mother, Eliza, to run Moor Farm.  Percy, who was born in Bishopthorpe in 1881, continued to run the farm well into the twentieth-century.

Robert Henry Dixon married George Scholey's daughter, Edith Annie and took over the butcher's business when George died in 1906.
Geoff’s father, Robert Henry Dixon, pictured outside the family home, Walnut House.  Robert Henry married George Scholey’s daughter, Edith Annie, and took over the butcher’s business when George died in 1906. 

Robert Henry and Edith Annie Dixon settled into George Scholey’s large house, known as Walnut House, situated in the grounds next to the butcher’s shop.  The couple had two sons, Arthur and Geoffrey; both boys having been given the middle name of Scholey.  The two brothers followed in their relatives’ footsteps and became butchers.  Geoffrey did not marry, but Arthur married Hilda Agnes Sandberg in 1942 and it is their son, Robert, who to this day, continues to provide the village with excellent fare.

Linda Haywood


Bishopthorpe Local History Group is grateful to Mr. Robert Dixon for giving his permission to scan and display family photographs.

Robert Dixon Junior.
Robert Dixon the younger.

Police Investigate Cyclists

With the Tour de France currently in full flow it brings to mind that, in the past, cycling races were a popular pastime in and around Bishopthorpe – albeit in a more modest way.  In August 1886, Mr. George Anderson, landlord of the Woodman Inn, promoted a cycling handicap which attracted cyclists from a number of local clubs.  The first two heats were decided earlier in the month and the final race was to be run over a distance of one mile from Tadcaster Road to Bishopthorpe.  However, for some unknown reason, the race started at dusk and one or two competitors were stopped by policemen for not carrying lamps.  Needless to say, some confusion arose.  However, the contest seemed to finish happily enough – probably at the Woodman Inn, where Mr. Anderson presented silver medals to the winners.

Yorkshire Gazette, Saturday, 28 August 1886, p8.

Linda Haywood

Stone the Crows – it’s Archbishop Maclagan!

Last weekend the Junior School held its second successful Scarecrow Festival.  Members of the Bishopthorpe Local History Group decided to join in and put a scarecrow outside the Village Hall where the Community Archive is held.

We chose to make a scarecrow of William Dalrymple Maclagan who was Archbishop of York between 1891 and 1908.  We didn’t mean any disrespect by producing an effigy of an Archbishop but thought it was very appropriate to place this particular churchman outside the Village Hall.  It was through Archbishop Maclagan’s generosity that a Reading Room was built on the site in 1898.   At first, the building was only intended for the men of the village in order to provide them with an alternative place of leisure and keep them out of the pubs!

In 1904, the Archbishop conveyed the building and site to the people of Bishopthorpe and it eventually became a Village Hall for everyone to use.

We had great fun making ‘Archbishop Maclagan’ and telling everyone about the history of the Village Hall.  Many people thought that we managed to capture the Archbishop’s likeness.  We’ll leave it to you to see if you agree.

Maclagan Full 150


Visitors outside the Village Hall with 'Archbishop Maclagan'.
Visitors outside the Village Hall with ‘Archbishop Maclagan’.

Stained Glass – A Mystery Trade

We see stained glass in our cathedrals, churches, pubs and homes, but how much do we know about it?  At the next open meeting organised by the Bishopthorpe Local History Group, Master Glazier, Ian Tomlinson, will let us into some of the secrets of the trade.

In his talk, “Stained Glass – A Mystery Trade”, Ian will explain how glass is made, how the windows are held together and constructed, show us both old  and modern tools, and the methods used in medieval times.

The meeting will take place on Tuesday, 14 June 2016 at 7.30pm in Bishopthorpe Methodist Church Hall.

All are welcome.  Members of the Group: free.  Non-members: £3.50 to include light refreshments.

Commemorating Conscientious Objectors at Bishopthorpe

Alfred Martlew's grave in St. Andrew's Churchyard, Bishopthorpe.  He died 5 July 1917.
Alfred Martlew’s grave in St. Andrew’s Churchyard, Bishopthorpe. He died 5 July 1917.

On Sunday, 5th June, a commemoration event for conscientious objectors of the First World War from the York area, will be held at Bishopthorpe Church Hall.  This is an unusual event for Bishopthorpe and you may wonder why York Quakers are commemorating the men here, in the village.

One of the men, Alfred Martlew, drowned and his body fetched up on the river bank at Bishopthorpe below the Palace grounds.  He had been employed as a clerk with Rowntrees and had applied to the York Tribunal for exemption from military service.  His application was rejected and he was imprisoned at Richmond Castle with 15 other conscientious objectors; famously known as the Richmond 16.  In May 1916, the men were posted to France, where they again refused to obey orders.  Tried by court martial, they were sentenced to death, but this was commuted to 10 years hard labour.  Back in England, they were sent to various prisons.

In 1917, Alfred returned to York, it is thought, to see his fiancé, Annie Leeman.  They met and Alfred told her that he intended giving himself up as he was a deserter.  He stated that he had not received proper treatment from the Home Office and appeared to be extremely depressed.  Miss Leeman last saw Alfred on 4th July.  His body, which was caught in the willows on the river bank, was discovered on the 11th July by James Holt, a gardener at Bishopthorpe Palace.

The body was conveyed to The Woodman Inn and the Inquest was held at the Reading Room (now the Village Hall).  The Coroner, in summing up, said that the probability was that the deceased had taken his life, but there was no positive evidence.  There was no evidence of foul play or that the deceased had accidentally fallen into the river.  The jury returned a verdict of “Found Drowned.”

Alfred Martlew, who was originally from Gainsborough in Lincolnshire, was buried on the 13th July 1917 in St. Andrew’s Churchyard, Bishopthorpe. He was aged 23 years.  His place of burial is marked by a headstone; probably erected by his parents as their names are carved on the stone with their son’s.

The Commemoration

The Quakers’ commemoration on Sunday, 5th June 2016, at Bishopthorpe Church Hall, is from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.  There will be a talk about York’s conscientious objectors and a display.  A gathering is to be held at Alfred’s graveside.

Further information

An article about the area’s conscientious objectors can be found on The Press website here:

See also A.J. Peacock, York in the Great War, 1914 – 1918, (York Settlement Trust, 1993) pp532-533.

The report of the Coroner’s Inquest can be found in The Yorkshire Herald, Friday, 13 July 1917, p2, col. 3.  A transcription can be seen at the Bishopthorpe Community Archive in Bishopthorpe Village Hall, Main Street.  Open Mondays 2.30pm – 5.00pm.

Linda Haywood

The Mystery Man outside the Palace

D.Smith, Cart&man, 300dpi

We are puzzled by this intriguing photograph and hope that someone can identify the man sitting in his ‘cart’ outside the gateway to the Archbishop’s Palace.  Who is he and what can he be delivering – if anything – in this unusual vehicle? The Strawberry Gothick front of the Palace, seen through the gateway, is almost covered in ivy which helps date the image to the mid-to-late 1930s.

The photograph came from David Smith who found it in his great aunt’s belongings after she died in 1995.  David does not think that his great aunt, MISS VIOLET AIR, had any connection with Bishopthorpe.  She was a member of the well-known Air family of York.  Violet’s father owned a coal business in Cherry Street, off Bishopthorpe Road.  One of her brothers brought coal by barge from the West Riding and another brother was landlord of The Globe Inn, situated in the Shambles.  The family also operated the rowing boats from King’s Staithe and New Walk.  Violet came from an interesting family but does it have any connection with this photograph?

Please get in touch by adding a comment above, or email us at if you can throw any light on the man or his cart.

“Georgian York: The Rise and Fall”

Bishopthorpe Local History Group Open Meeting: Tuesday, 12 April

Our first Open Meeting of 2016 is an illustrated talk by Julia Mander from Fairfax House, York.

By the early 18th century, York was shedding its medieval appearance to become a modern centre for the North’s polite society.  This talk gives an insight into York’s burgeoning cultural life during the Georgian Age; why the city flourished and what led to its decline.

The talk will be held at Bishopthorpe Methodist Church Hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday, 12 April.

All welcome!  Cost £3.50, including light refreshments.

Days Like These in March

The following collection of events, which took place in or about Bishopthorpe, all occurred in the month of March, but over a number of years during the 19th century.  We hope you find them interesting.


24 March 1828

THE HOUSEHOLD OF RICHARD RAISIN, in the ‘White House’, Chantry Lane, was rudely woken when a burglar broke in and stole silver items worth more than £5.  The burglar, John Renton, was later caught after attempting to sell the silver-ware in Tadcaster and Leeds.  At the Guildhall in York, Renton was found guilty and sentenced to death.  However, the judge spared his life as he was a young man with a family.  The following year, Renton attempted suicide while in the City Jail.

York Courant: 25 Mar 1828.  Yorkshire Gazette: Sat, 29 Mar 1828, p4; & 21 June 1829, p2.


24 March 1835

A CASE OF BASTARDY: At the Guildhall, York, Thomas Foster was committed to the House of Correction for three months, for the arrears of maintenance, for two children belonging to the township of Bishopthorpe.

Yorkshire Gazette: Sat, 28 Mar 1835, p3.


23 March 1846

IN RESPONSE TO THE LONDON & YORK RAILWAY BILL, a petition was presented in the House of Lords from the Archbishop of York, complaining that the projected railway between London and York was to pass within a quarter of a mile of the windows of his palace at Bishopthorpe.  He claimed it would also cut off communication with his farm-house. [i.e. Middlethorpe Grange Farm on Sim Balk Lane.]  It would also pass, for two miles, within 200 yards of the highway leading from the Palace to York Minster, so that “the most reverend prelate could not proceed between York and his residence without being, for two miles, in imminent danger of his life.”

On 30 May 1846, the London & York Railway was renamed the Great Northern Railway and soon afterwards the Bill was passed by the House of Lords, receiving Royal Assent in June.  Archbishop Harcourt claimed he was not an “enemy of the railway” and his objections were heeded.  He, of course, need not have worried – as we now know, this part of the Great Northern Railway was never built.

London Evening Standard, Tue, 24 Mar 1846, p5.  Yorkshire Gazette, 6 June 1846, p4.


30 March 1851

THE 1851 CENSUS was taken, revealing the population of Bishopthorpe to be 406.  There were 94 inhabited houses and 6 uninhabited houses.


10 March 1863

THE PRINCE OF WALES (later Edward VII) married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.  The inhabitants of Bishopthorpe celebrated the royal occasion in Farmer Lofthouse’s barn.  Subscribers raised £50; the Archbishop having donated £20.  The money was spent on a huge dinner which was cooked by several ladies in the village.  About 220 people sat down to a bill of fare which comprised of 340lbs of meat, 5 bushels of potatoes, 180lbs of plum pudding, 60 bottles of wine and “other items in proportion”.  The 120 children enjoyed a tea at The Woodman Inn and were presented with a medal.

Yorkshire Gazette, Saturday, 14 March 1863, p4.


8 March 1890

A ‘WIND RUSH’ or whirlwind accompanied by rain and hail began just to the south of Bishopthorpe.  It damaged many buildings and trees.  The Archbishop’s greenhouse lost a chimney.  His gardener described the roar of the whirlwind as so deafening that he did not hear the crash of two falling elm trees in the palace grounds across the road.  The storm crossed the river to Fulford where Captain Key wrote that: “It appeared to me as if two angry thunderclouds met over the Archbishop’s Palace at Bishopthorpe, one coming from the south, and the other from the north-west.  [Then] there was a sort of roar, the hut [in his garden] trembled and all was over in less than a minute.”

The Annual Report of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, 1890.

Lost Links Unearthed

A trio of Links: On the left – the original Link of January 1970. Centre – the cover had changed by the 1980s to depict different aspects of the two villages. The last Link on the right shows the most recent edition: March 2016. The cover now has photographic images.


Sitting in the Archive room in the Village Hall one Monday afternoon, I heard the lift rumble into action. Keen to meet the visitor I went into the corridor to be met by ‘Link’ editor, Carole Green, trundling a wheelbarrow towards me containing a heavy-looking cardboard box. Carole had found a long-lost collection of early editions of ‘Link’, the parish magazine.

Delving into Carole’s box I found the very first issue of ‘Link’ dated January 1970, price 6d. Until relatively recent times, the Bishopthorpe vicars took on the mantle of editor. In this role, Rev. Canon Mark Green launched ‘Link’ in 1970 by distributing a free copy to every family in Bishopthorpe and Acaster Malbis.  Prior to the appearance of ‘Link’, the content of earlier parish magazines had contained whatever the vicar decided to write about.

Hoping to reach a wider audience Mark Green presented something new with ‘Link’. He explained that the aim of the magazine – and the reason for its title – was to link the many organisations of the two villages. ‘Link’ was a church magazine but he wanted to tread a line between religious and secular content. The parishioners were encouraged to contribute to the publication and, if they disagreed with the views expressed, they should write in and say so.

This fresh approach certainly produced results. During the 1960s, the building of the Bradley Estate to the west of Acaster Lane had seen the population of Bishopthorpe more than double in size. Canon Green was aware that long-established villagers had not always welcomed the village expansion but “made the best of it.” Enthusiastic newcomers formed a very active Community Association and a page in ‘Link’ was devoted to this organisation. Some views that were aired in the magazine irritated a number of people and, as Canon Green said, “they gave the impression that life here began in 1965 and that new brooms were sweeping clean.” However, in his editorials, the vicar dealt with this and other controversial matters as they occurred, with equal fairness.

As 1970 progressed, the folk of Bishopthorpe and Acaster were busy with many aspects of village life.  For example, the Parent – Teacher Association was concerned about the “chaotic traffic situation in Copmanthorpe Lane, particularly in the afternoon when children are leaving school.” Sound familiar?  The most exciting venture was the sixth production of the Pageant at Bishopthorpe Palace. Some of the funds raised went towards a much-needed new heating system for the Village Hall. A smaller sum was given to the Junior School for its project to build a swimming pool.

In wheelbarrowing the lost ‘Links’ into the Archive, Carole added to an almost complete run of the magazine from its inception in 1970 through to 2016. For that period, only one copy is missing – May 1985.  So, if anyone has that issue we would be pleased to add it to our collection.

Within the pages, of ‘Link’ the character of our diverse community is revealed. Read all about it at the Bishopthorpe Community Archive, upstairs in the Village Hall on Mondays, 2.30 to 5.00pm. (Bank Holidays excepted.)

Linda Haywood

A Brief History of the Bishopthorpe Postal Service

 Glynn_Drummond_POThe Post Office

Post Master Glynn Drummond outside Bishopthorpe Post Office in Main Street, just a few months before he retired.  (September 2014)


When Glynn Drummond announced he was going to retire as Bishopthorpe Postmaster, a tremor passed through the village. No one wished to lose the Post Office. However, as we now know, the P.O. has re-opened at the newsagent in Sim Balk Lane, and a collective sigh of relief was heard for miles.

It would, indeed, have been a great disappointment if the Post Office had closed down, bearing in mind that a postal service has operated in Bishopthorpe for 171 years. On 6th January 1844, just four years after the introduction of the Penny Post, the Postmaster General decided to establish an “official Post” for the residents of Bishopthorpe and surrounding area. A foot messenger set out from York Post Office each day at 6.00 a.m. delivering letters to the receivers of mail at the Mount, Dringhouses, Middlethorpe, Bishopthorpe, Acaster Malbis and across the ferry to Naburn. He returned to York with the day’s collection by 6.00 p.m. having reached Bishopthorpe at 4.45 p.m.

During the first two years, deliveries were also made on Sundays, much to the disapproval of certain inhabitants. It was not stated if Archbishop Harcourt’s influence prevailed but, following a communication sent to the Postmaster General, the Sunday post was withdrawn. The service was not re-instated until 1912.

The foot messenger was paid 14 shillings a week and the receivers, £4.00 per year. Letters were not delivered to individual properties, only to the receiving offices. These collecting points were located in existing businesses such as blacksmiths’ and wheelwrights’ workshops. The proprietors looked on this as a lucrative side line – not for the small P.O. allowance they were paid, but for the extra custom it brought through their doors when villagers called in to post or collect their letters.

PO_1899The building on the right of this photograph is now known as Chestnut Cottage, but it used to be divided into two separate buildings.  The left-hand side was the Post Office for at least fifty years until 1899.  The telegraph wire can just be seen jutting from the chimney stack.

The Sub – Post Mistresses

Unfortunately, the identity of Bishopthorpe’s first receiver is not known but, by the time the1851 Census was taken, Mrs. Jane Dobson, a widow, received mail at the house we now know as Chestnut Cottage in Chantry Lane. Mrs. Dobson died in 1865 and her successor was another widow; Mrs. Ellen Hawkridge, who supported her family by dressmaking. She lived near The Woodman but later moved into Chestnut Cottage.

Mrs. Hawkridge served the community for more than thirty years but not without trial and tribulation. During that time she coped with the new telegraph service which was connected to her premises in 1889.   Five years later a burglar smashed his way into the office stealing just £2 because Mrs. Hawkridge had already taken the week’s proceeds into York. When she retired in 1899, Archbishop Maclagan unsuccessfully appealed to the Postmaster General to provide her with a pension. However, sub-postmasters/mistresses were not considered to be full-time employees and therefore not eligible to receive a pension. There were no exceptions.

Gertrude Johnson set up the next sub-post office in the extension at the side of her brother’s house in Main Street [now no. 50, next door but one to The Ebor]. In her time, the business grew more complex: she dealt with insurance, savings, money orders, an express delivery service and, from 1908, the state pension. Her sister, Evelyn, served as the telegraph clerk which was just as well; in 1901, the Postmaster General offered the Parish Council the use of the telegraph at night, “in cases of urgent necessity.” The Council accepted the proposal at a charge of 10 shillings [50p]. Fortunately, all this extra work eventually earned Miss Johnson a half-day’s holiday on Saturdays, but not until eight years later.

In the 1920s, Joseph Bulmer merged the Post Office with his grocer’s shop in Main Street, eventually moving into the property we are familiar with, next door to The Marcia (see Glynn, above). After many decades, the Post Office has moved again where we hope it will continue to serve the people of Bishopthorpe for a long time to come.

Linda Haywood


Post Office Archives: Post Office Minutes: Post 35.

Bishopthorpe Parish Council Minutes.

1851 Census: HO107/2354/ f350, p2.

Slater’s Commercial Directory, 1855.

Wm. White’s Directory, 1867.

Steven’s Directory, 1881.

Yorkshire Gazette: 5 May 1894, p7.

The Bishopthorpe Sword Dancers

The good folk of Bishopthorpe certainly knew how to enjoy themselves during the winter holiday season.  In January 1844, the plough boys of this village revived the ancient tradition of Sword Dancing which was usually performed over the Christmas or New Year period.  The ‘swords’ used were not real weapons but lathes of wood or metal about three feet long.  The dancers held one end of a sword in each hand and were thus linked in a circle.  The only time they let go of their swords was at the end of the dance when they interlaced them to form a ‘knot’ or ‘rose’, which was then held aloft in triumph by one dancer.  The dancers often dressed up as indicated below.

The flavour of the occasion can be found in an illuminating article which was published in The York Herald of 13 January 1844:

“The plough boys of this village have recently devoted two days to recreation, and in the character of Sword Dancers have visited this city and the surrounding villages, where they have met the most friendly reception, and were universally admired by all lovers of the very ancient and rustic amusement, the sword dance. They were accompanied by a brass band of musicians from the city, and were generally allowed to be the best company of plough boys that have performed before the public during the present season.”

“Twelve years have elapsed since a company of this description was raised in Bishopthorpe, which has caused the performance of the sword dance to be somewhat a treat to the inhabitants of the village. In consideration of the extensive patronage the party have met with, they gave a handsome treat to their friends, who kindly lent every assistance in preparing dresses for the occasion. The treat was given at Mr. Crosby’s, the Brown Cow Inn, [now The Ebor] where upwards of 60 sat down to tea, the arrangements for which reflected much credit on the worthy host and hostess, and gave great satisfaction to the party assembled. After tea a ball took place, which was kept up with great spirit until a late hour in the morning, each sex appearing anxious to test the strength of ‘the light fantastic toe’. Mr. Horner of Bishopthorpe kindly came forward and offered his services, gratuitously on the violin, which were thankfully accepted, punch and wine were plentifully distributed.”

Many toasts were given to the great and good and so, not surprisingly, the company “afterwards separated highly delighted with the innocent recreation of the night’s entertainment.”

It is rare to find to find such a delightful contemporary description of a local custom.  Are there any volunteers willing to follow in the footsteps of the Bishopthorpe plough boys? Just a thought!

Linda Haywood