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

1914 : One Year in Bishopthorpe


Team and committee members of the Bishopthorpe Football Club pose proudly with Archbishop Lang (seated, 2nd left) on the steps of Bishopthorpe Palace.  ‘The Bishops’ had successfully completed their first season in the second division of the York & District League by winning the League.  By September 1914, at least six of the team were serving with the colours. 


The fateful year of 1914 started ordinarily enough: A new set of billiard balls was purchased for the all-male membership of the Reading Room; an outbreak of mumps kept the school closed for a month; Archbishop Lang bought a new car – an open top 24/30 hp Wolseley; and the Bishopthorpe Football Team (‘The Bishops’) strode to success in the second division of the York & District League.

As we now know, the peacefulness of village life was not to last.

When war was declared on Tuesday, 4 August, the day following a Bank Holiday, the consequences were felt immediately. The hoarding of food had already started in July; the panic-buying caused shortages and price increases. Horses were requisitioned by the army thereby forcing farmers to rely on breeding mares to work in the fields. But, there was excitement too. Army bi-planes were seen landing safely on the Knavesmire despite the mist – it was thought that “these machines will play a very prominent part” in the war. Bishopthorpe folk visiting the city found York Station and the central streets almost impenetrable with hundreds of troops en route to the south.

Later, in October, fifteen Belgian refugees arrived in Bishopthorpe. Six were taken in by Mrs. Watson at The Garth in Sim Balk Lane, while the other nine were housed elsewhere in the village. Two cottages were renovated and put at their disposal. A Belgian Refugee Hospitality Fund was set up and received several offers of money, provisions and furniture.

Mrs. Watson’s husband, Arthur Toward Watson, was also busy. As chairman of the Parish Council he called a public meeting in September. This was to be addressed by Col. Sir G. Hayes and Sir John Grant Lawson “with a view to encourage recruiting for Lord Kitchener’s new regiments.” Newspaper advertisements and posters were already being published appealing for volunteers between the ages of 19 and 30 to help swell the ranks of the hugely deficient numbers in the British fighting force.

A surprising number of Bishopthorpe lads joined the colours in those early months of the war and, incidentally, several of them were from that cup – winning football team. We know who the 46 men were and when they joined because their names appear on a Roll of Honour in St. Andrew’s Church. A few were Regular soldiers, but most were Reservists, Territorials and young volunteers. The mix of men were from all classes: labourers, horsemen and cowmen from the six local farms; gardeners and servants from the larger houses and the Palace; railway workers and men from the building trades; office clerks from Terry’s and professional and business men alike.

Experienced Reservists were soon sent out to the front line, men like Charlie Sharp of ‘The Woodman’ (see above: middle row, first left) who was invalided out suffering from a gunshot wound in the leg. At least he survived the experience, unlike two Regular soldiers, Cpl. John Bowlby and Lt. Richard Lumley, who did not see the year out. The reality was beginning to bite.

Linda Haywood

Re-Cycling the Railway

On the 6th July, Stage 2 of Le Grand Depart (the Tour de France) sets off from York and will, no doubt, flood the city with cyclists. I guess this means that Bishopthorpe will also have its fair share of pedalling visitors taking a break from the cycle path. This set me thinking that the York to Selby Cycle Path has its own story, much of which can be found in collections held at the Bishopthorpe Community Archive upstairs in the Village Hall. An interesting display will be shown in Bishopthorpe Library from 27 June to 14 July.

The former York to Selby East Coast Main Line, which skirted Bishopthorpe, was closed to passenger traffic in September 1983.   This was a sad day for many local residents who fondly remember steam giants such as Mallard and Flying Scotsman streak under the Appleton Road Bridge. A diversion to the west was opened to bypass the Selby coalfield. Anticipated settlement on the original route would have precluded high speed running. Sustrans Ltd., a registered charity which builds cycle routes, bought the section running from the north of Riccall to London Bridge at Tadcaster Road. Work started on converting the line into a traffic-free route for pedestrians and cyclists in the summer of 1985.


Volunteer Ranger Barbara Suffield inspecting the planting on the cycle path.

Photograph: Copyright Reg Suffield

An Open Day was held at the Village Hall in Bishopthorpe to inform local people about the scheme. Sustrans was then able to set up a network of badge-wearing volunteers to help maintain and promote the path. Volunteers also helped to plant shrubs and trees on the embankments and a ferreter was taken on to keep down the rabbits and other vermin.   The late Bishopthorpe residents, Reg and Barbara Suffield, stepped forward and became much involved in the project. Reg became the official photographer and, using black and white 35mm film, created a record of the works showing how the project developed. The couple also spent time walking the path throughout the seasons noting the wild flowers and birds, some of which have since become scarce.

On 28 November 1987, former World Cycle Pursuit Champion, Beryl Burton, officially opened the main section by, naturally, taking a bike ride along the new route.   The section from Bishopthorpe to the centre of York was not completed until 1988.


Children from the Archbishop of York’s School take a break on the cycle path on Naburn Swing Bridge in 1989.  Copyright: Cath Ostle

In 1999, an exciting new venture was planned. A 10km scale model of the solar system was constructed and positioned on the cycle path. The ‘sun’ was eight feet in diameter and made from a septic tank! Adam Hart-Davis, the BBC presenter, was invited to officially open the solar system. Each planet was declared ‘open’ in turn by guests including Sir Donald Barron. They were ably assisted by children from the Archbishop of York’s School. With so much to see along the path – and not forgetting the fisherman forever catching a famous locomotive off Naburn Swing Bridge – no wonder the cycle path remains popular and will attract many new visitors this summer.

Linda Haywood

Storms Shake Victorian Bishopthorpe

We have all been exercised about the weather in recent months – and why wouldn’t we be? Heavy rain, floods and strong winds have taken their toll and the press avidly report the terrible consequences. However, nothing is new, as 19th century newspapers illustrate. They provide a glimpse into the lives of our local predecessors who experienced many frightening and damaging storms.

On Monday, 7 January 1839, for example, the intense cold heralded snow, rain and wind which, during the night, blew into “a perfect hurricane”. The citizens of York rose early and witnessed a scene of destruction: tiles, slates, chimneys, spars, bricks, glass and spouts flew about the streets. The Minster sustained much damage; slates were blown from the north transept which almost uncovered the roof; and glass was lost from the Five Sisters window. To go out was physically dangerous but those who did crouched down and kept close to the sides of the buildings. An eight-year-old boy lost his life in St. Andrewgate when the roof collapsed onto his bed and a two-year-old boy was crushed to death at his home in Walmgate.

There was no loss of life in Bishopthorpe but the Palace grounds were reported to be a scene of desolation “difficult to describe”. The magnificent avenue of lime trees was badly damaged; a superb Huntingdon willow at the head of the fish pond was destroyed (“said to be the finest in the kingdom”); and many lofty trees including majestic elms and a larch were left with their roots in the air. The Palace itself was spared too much damage, but the bell turret on the gateway was hurled down and shattered. The village suffered lightly in comparison with the exception of the Archbishop’s hay shed; the circular pillars supporting it had “shivered to pieces”.

Just a few months earlier in September 1838 a terrific thunderstorm had shaken the neighbourhood. On that occasion, the atmosphere was sultry and close. The storm was so fierce that the horses pulling the mail coach near Tadcaster took fright causing the vehicle to swerve and overturn. A few minutes later, and within a hundred yards, a similar incident occurred with a stage coach full of passengers on its way to York. Fortunately no one was badly injured. Meanwhile, at Bishopthorpe, lightning struck the house of Mr. Horner, penetrating the roof, breaking windows, and singeing the hair of his child.

On an unseasonably cold Whit Monday in 1860, the livelihoods of many farmers and market gardeners were badly affected following a dreadful hurricane. Orchards in full bloom were stripped and vegetable crops ruined; recently clipped sheep were lost because of the piercing cold. Once again in Bishopthorpe, elm, birch and fir trees were levelled to the ground taking younger growth with them. The road to York became impassable while Mr. Smallwood’s plantation by the hauling path next to the Palace was “annihilated”.

These are just some examples of the high winds and storms that affected Victorian Bishopthorpe and York. Violent weather conditions, as reported in the weekly provincial newspapers, reveal appalling circumstances from which it must have taken a long time to recover. And remember – they did not have the ‘benefit’ of severe weather warnings and forecasts!

Linda Haywood


Leeds Intelligencer, Saturday, 1 September 1838, p8.

York Herald, Saturday, 12 January 1839, p4.

Yorkshire Gazette, Saturday, 2 June 1860, p4.

Yorkshire Herald, Saturday, 2 June 1860, p11.

Finding Bishopthorpe’s First Lord Mayor

You don’t know what you may find when searching in an archive.  Take, for example, the history of a house and its inhabitants.  While looking at the house known as ‘The Laurels’, at the junction of Sim Balk Lane and Church Lane, I discovered that a previous owner had been a Lord Mayor of York.

I was surprised because I thought that Councillor John Galvin was the first Bishopthorpe resident to have held that office (2009 – 2010).  However, Mr. Galvin’s predecessor was one Alderman Henry Steward who was elected Lord Mayor 140 years ago.

Born in York in 1817, Henry Steward was a wealthy comb maker whose grandfather, George Steward, founded the business in the early nineteenth century.  The family residence and comb manufactory was in the York parish of Holy Trinity, Micklegate, at 37 Blossom Street.  The firm’s principal material was horn which was in plentiful supply in the city.  Combs were not the only commodities produced: there were lantern leaves (in the time before glass was used), powder flasks and drinking horns.


‘The Laurels’, Sim Balk Lane, photographed in 1963, about 100 years after Henry Steward bought the property.


Henry purchased ‘Laurel Villa’, as it was then known, in the early 1860s; his father died there in 1864.  The 1871 census reveals that Henry, who was unmarried, lived in the house with his sister, a niece and a modest number of servants.



The Political Life

Politically, Henry Steward was, like his father, a Liberal and both served, at different times, as councillors for Micklegate Ward.  Henry became an Alderman in 1868 and was straight away elected Sheriff.  His first task was to organise the general election in York.  Four years later, he took the oath as Lord Mayor and his unmarried sister, Eleanor, became Lady Mayoress.  A hectic round of duties was carried out in their year of office.  The most prestigious, on the 26 March 1873, was the grand banquet given by the Lord Mayor of London, in that city, for the English and Welsh Mayors.  This gathering was aimed at the establishment of a stronger bond between the country’s municipal authorities.  They were seeking more control from central government over local affairs and Prime Minister Gladstone, who was present, acknowledged this in his speech.

A few months later, Lord Mayor Steward greeted the Lord Mayor of London at York Station, for he had been asked to reciprocate on behalf of the provincial Mayors.  Despite London arriving with a splendid entourage, including a group of trumpeters, York was not to be outdone.  The long parade through decorated streets to the Mansion House was grand and colourful; the 200 Mayors were resplendent in their gold chains and scarlet robes of office.  The banquet at the Guildhall was lavish with numerous toasts and flattering speeches.  Illuminations on the Mansion House lit the way to a glittering ball in the Assembly Rooms.  Henry was applauded – the event was deemed a great success.

Alderman Steward had many strings to his bow.  He was a director and trustee of the York Permanent Building Society and chairman of the York Regatta. As chairman of the York Gala Committee, he helped arrange all kinds of entertainments from hot – air balloon ascents to fireworks.  However, his greatest interest lay with the cultivation of plants.  With the help of his gardener, a variety of flowers and ferns were raised in the greenhouses in the garden at Bishopthorpe.  He showed them at flower fetes, especially those held at the Guildhall under the auspices of the Ancient Society of York Florists, of which he was vice-chairman.  He won many prizes for variegated pelargonium, feathered rose tulips and scarlet bizarre carnations to name but a few species.  Sometimes the Alderman found himself competing against his fellow resident, Archbishop Thomson!

Problems with York’s Public Health

However, life as a councillor and Alderman was not all plain sailing for Henry.  The many junketing occasions he and his colleagues enjoyed were in sharp contrast to the problems York Corporation faced within an over-crowded city.  The sanitary and housing conditions experienced by York citizens throughout most of the 19th century were appalling.  The city’s death rates were some of the worst in the country.

In the 1850s, even the more affluent property owners of Micklegate Ward, where the Steward family home and manufactory was situated, were castigated as “extremely negligent” in sanitary matters. It was found that the accumulation of “various fluid matters” where there were no public drains or sewers, were left to evaporate in the heat of the sun.  Perhaps this was why Henry moved to Bishopthorpe!

During Henry’s year as Lord Mayor, the Public Health Act of 1872 was introduced.  The new urban sanitary authority took over the functions of the local board of health and the following year a medical officer of health was appointed.  Henry did not live to see improvements to the sanitary conditions and public health of the city; these did not begin to take effect until the 1880s.

Henry Steward died on the 15th December 1876, following a long illness.  His funeral was reported in some detail in the local press.  The mourning coaches made slow progress in heavy rain from Sim Balk Lane to York Cemetery where he was buried in the family grave.  ‘Laurel Villa’ was bequeathed to his sister Eleanor who lived there until her own death in 1895.

Despite the burial in York, Eleanor was keen to see that her brother was remembered in Bishopthorpe.  She erected a monument to him in St. Andrew’s Church which joined another dedicated to their parents and other family members.  The engraved marble memorials, which would have been moved from the old church to the present one in 1899, can still be seen high up on the wall of the bell tower.  So Bishopthorpe’s first Lord Mayor of York is not entirely forgotten.

As I said above, it’s surprising what you may find in an archive – especially the Bishopthorpe Community Archive.  Open on Mondays, 2.30 – 5.00 pm upstairs in the Village Hall.

Linda Haywood


W. Knowles, Lord Mayors of York, Scrap Books, Vols. 9 & 10.  Manuscript notes transcribed by Jill Murray.  On open shelves at Explore York Library.

J. Malden, ‘Combmakers of York’ in, York Historian Vol. 8, 1988, p50.

M. Tillott (ed.), A History of Yorkshire: The City of York, [O.U.P., 1961] pp 281 – 6.

1851 Census: HO107/2354 /75 /20.  [Holy Trinity, Micklegate, York]

1871 Census: RG10/4746 /42 /3.  [Bishopthorpe]

York Herald, 20 June 1801, p2. [Advertisement giving details of the early comb manufactory.]

Yorkshire Gazette, 15 October 1864, p3. [Death of Henry’s father, George Steward.]

York Herald, 12 September 1868, p7. [Floral Fete at York]

York Herald, 7 August 1869, p10. [Ancient Florists Society Show]

York Herald, 14 November 1868, p1. [Preparations for the General Election.]

The Daily News, 27 March 1873, pp4, 5. [The Municipal Banquet in London.]

The Times, 26 September 1873.  [The Lord Mayor of London at York.]

York Herald & Yorkshire Gazette, 27 September 1873.[Visit of Lord Mayor of London to York.]

Yorkshire Gazette, 23 December 1876, p7. [Funeral of Ald. Steward]

York Herald, 10 January 1876, p6. [Yorkshire Gala Committee meeting.]

York Herald, 6 January 1877, p6. [York Permanent Benefit Building Society.]

York Cemetery Register, Grave no. 1553, Memorial Inscription D/05/03 [York Cemetery Trust]

Probate records:

The will of George Steward, proved at York 11 November 1864.

The will of Henry Steward, proved at York 5 March 1877.

Mrs. Ostle’s School Scrapbooks

The following photographs are a small selection taken from scrapbooks and albums donated to the Bishopthorpe Community Archive by Mrs. Cath Ostle. Mrs. Ostle taught at the Archbishop of York’s C. E. Junior School, from 1968 until her retirement in 1992. Starting in 1983, she decided to photograph the many visits and events that took place at the school and, in particular, with her own classes.

During Cath’s time at the Bishopthorpe school, stimulating and adventurous projects were undertaken. Amongst the most notable were the building of a swimming pool; a large pond dug to create a nature reserve; and the construction of a science and maths area. Numerous exciting visits took place: Edinburgh, Beamish, Chatsworth in Derbyshire and Robin Hood’s Bay, to name but a few.

Cath snapped away with her camera recording all these activities. The resulting photographs reveal the happy children who passed through the school during this period and who will, no doubt, remember their school days with much affection.

The collection of scrapbooks and albums can be seen at Bishopthorpe Community Archive in the Village Hall on Monday afternoons 2.30 – 5.00pm or else by appointment.

Email Linda Haywood:

If you have any memories or stories of your school days spent at the Archbishop of York’s School during this period, please contact us on the email address above.

We start with a seasonal offering:

Nativity_1990Street sellers in a scene from the Nativity play, “Little Donkey”, which was written by  Mrs. Ostle’s class.  (1990)







Nature_Reserve_1986The Nature Reserve photographed in June 1986.  Pasted in one of the scrapbooks is a school newsletter, the “Bishopthorpe Bulletin”.  In this, Ian Kettlewell wrote:

“In November 1985 the School decided to make a Nature Reserve with Mr Cantrell’s help.  One Saturday we went to help dig the pond out with a digger.  Then they put a plastic liner in so that the water would not get out.  Then we got some river water with little minnows in it.  Later we planted some flowers and trees.  Then we got some frog spawn to put in.  Now we have a lovely Nature Reserve to use and a good pond to dip in.  We have found all kinds of creatures and had great fun.” 

Hand_Bells_1986Mrs. Ostle was well-known for her hand-bell ringing groups.  She is seen here on the left, guiding the ringers through a performance at the Copmanthorpe Festival in July 1986.





School_Pool_1986The school swimming pool was opened in 1971 when Mr. Alan Clementson was head teacher.  Staff and parents raised the required funding (4,800GBP) over a three-year period. Cath took this photograph in September 1986. The houses in Copmanthorpe Lane can be seen in the background.




Cycle_path_1Cycling was taken very seriously at the school.  Lee McAdam wrote in the “Bishopthorpe Bulletin”:

“Some third and fourth years have been doing their Cycling Proficiency Test, they have been doing signs turns and how to look after their bike.  They did their test on 10th July 1987 and they all passed.  In the test was a road test and a written test.  We got a badge and a sticker for our bike.”

The children were often taken for bike rides using the new Cycle Path which skirts the village.  Officially opened in November 1987, the Path was built by Sustrans Ltd. on the old railway track running from York to Selby.Cycle_path_2

The first photograph shows Cath and her class about to leave Bishopthorpe for Selby. Cath wrote that this was a very cold, blustery day in March 1989.










Maths_Garden_1Archbishop Habgood is seen here on 16 July 1990 – the day he opened the highly-praised Maths and Science area in the grounds of the school.  Dr. Habgood also unveiled a plaque in memory of former head teacher, Mr. Bill Matthews, who tragically died at Easter of the same year while training for the London Marathon.  Mr. Matthews had drawn up the original plans for the area and it was thought a great shame that he was not there to see the fruits of his labour.


Maths_Garden_2The opening of the Maths and Science area coincided with the school winning a National Curriculum award; the maths and science area forming part of the school’s submission. Parents, staff and children had helped construct the area.  The equipment included a larger-than-life pair of scales and a pavement grid of counting squares which helped with measuring, counting and weighing skills.

Cod liver oil and gas masks: Ruth’s school-day memories

Mrs. Ruth Spindler (nee Proctor) used to live in Bishopthorpe and, as a young child, attended the Archbishop of York’s School during the Second World War. She now lives in America but keeps in touch through the Bishdot website.  Ruth has kindly let us share her amusing school-day memories – when life was just a little different!


Junior_School_1949Archbishop of York’s School photographed in 1949.  Just out of shot on the left is where the air-raid shelter stood.

(Photograph by Robin Hill. Bishopthorpe Community Archive)




I went to the Archbishop of York’s CE School, Bishopthorpe, from c1942 – 1949/50, in the old brick buildings you see on the photo. In the mornings, during the war, we had to line up outside to receive our cod liver oil dose. We were also given milk every day.

During an air-raid siren, the whole school had to go to the bomb shelter on the village green across from the school and we sat in the dark with gas masks on until the all-clear. I think the whole school was packed into there – as well as the teachers – I was pretty young, maybe 5½. When we had to go there during an air-raid, it was totally black inside and smelled strongly of urine! I recall some of the boys used their gas masks to make rude noises – noises like someone going to the lavatory!!

[The brick and concrete air – raid shelter was situated where the library now stands.]

A Miss Taylor was our teacher in baby class, and if any boy misbehaved, she would smack them on the backs of their bare legs with a ruler; if girls misbehaved, she rolled up your sleeves and smacked your arms.

In baby class, we used small blackboards – some of which were too shiny for the chalk to make good marks. We also had to have a nap in the afternoon by laying our heads on our desks.

Mr. Roberts was the head master and I recall he made glue in a large pot, stirring it frequently. ‘Gaffer’ Roberts’ was quite jovial but he would give you a smack sometimes.

We had all kinds of crafts. I recall making little mats with raffia on a cardboard template. I still have my ‘duchess’ set made from pink cotton with blue bias binding; I designed my own embroidery pattern of a swan and bulrushes – one oval mat and two small round mats for the candlesticks. I also made an apron, with the available pink cotton, with green and blue. I was lucky to win some prizes – Enid Blyton books with my name inside – I think my mother tossed them out!

Also, as a child, the school requested that we pick rosehips from the hedgerows and we took our filled bags to the school and received 3d [about 1.25p] for them. They were sent to be used for rosehip syrup. On another occasion in October I think – I went with other kids to pick potatoes. Can’t remember if we got paid. Talk about child labour! It was lots of fun anyway.

Ruth Spindler


Junior_School_1946Ruth’s class photograph taken in 1946. She is in the middle row, fifth from the left.  Class teacher Miss Mathews is in the back row on the right.

(Photograph: Bishopthorpe Community Archive.)

The Tenants of Middlethorpe Hall: 2 – The Boarding School Years

Middlethorpe_Hall_1Middlethorpe Hall taken from the garden by B. C. R. Dodsworth. 

(Bishopthorpe Community Archive)


In 1850, Middlethorpe Hall, which was built for the Barlow family, was about 150 years old. Frances Barlow was the last member of the family line. She was now a widow and had moved to one of her Dringhouses properties where she could supervise the building of St Edward the Confessor’s Church in memory of her late husband, the Reverend Edward Leigh. In 1851 she married again. Her second husband was Matthew Wilkinson who had a medical practice in Manchester. Middlethorpe Hall was once again let to tenants and for the next 30 years it became a girls’ boarding school.

Lucy and Eleanor Walker took the tenancy and opened the school. They paid a rent of £72.16s. 3d (about £72. 80p) for a half-year. This rent was payable on Lady Day (March 25th) and Michaelmas (September 29th) each year.

On the 1851 census 21 girls listed as pupils were living there. They were aged from 9 to 18. Their places of birth were other parts of Yorkshire, northern England and Scotland. Six servants also lived at the Hall. On the 1861 census, the school had expanded and now had 37 girls, one of whom was born in Algeria and another in France. Anna Johnson was now in charge of the school and there were three other teachers including Mademoiselle Laurancy who taught French. Six live-in servants and a stable boy were also there.

The census gives us very little information about the backgrounds of the girls who came to the school and their life there. Many questions are left unanswered. What subjects did they learn? French certainly seems one of them. Where were the schoolrooms, where did the children have their meals and where did they sleep? What did they do in the evenings when the shutters were closed and there was just candlelight or the light from oil lamps? Did they play games, read stories, write letters home, darn their stockings or roll their hair in rags to curl it?

In the 1870’s the numbers of children at the school decreased to 25. Anna Johnson now had four teachers to pay and there were seven servants. The rent had increased to £88. 2s. 6d (about £88. 12p) per half year. Perhaps rising costs and fewer pupils was the reason why the school closed, for in 1881 the census shows that members of the Wilkinson family, who owned the Hall, were living there.

On the census for Middlethorpe Hall for 1861 there was the following entry: Eliza Leckonby, aged 16, a kitchen maid, born in Bubwith. She was my great grandmother and I know that she could barely read and write. I wonder what she thought of the young ladies whose teenage years must have been so very different from her own?

Diana Forrester


RosemaryC on April 27, 2013 8:49 PM

I am so pleased to see this article about Middlethorpe Hall as a school – I’ve been trying and failing to find out about exactly when it was used in this way, and who ran it.

My interest is because of my research for my book on the life of Florence Nightingale Shore, a god-daughter of Florence Nightingale who was a decorated army nurse, and later murdered on a train in 1920. FNS was distantly related to the Wilkinsons, and was at Middlethorpe Hall in 1881, according to the census – and possibly earlier, as she did go to ‘high school’ in York. Another famous nurse, Ethel Bedford Fenwick, was also a pupil at the school a little earlier.

Thank you for this extra information!