In Celebration of Local Guiding

This year, Girl Guides and Brownies throughout the world celebrated the centenary of the Girl Guide movement.  Here in Bishopthorpe, we discovered that the Guides can trace their roots back to 1926 when the 20th York (Bishopthorpe) Company registered with the Girl Guide Association.  (They later became the 1st Bishopthorpe Company.)

This prompted a search through the Bishopthorpe Archive for photographs, some of which we share with you below.

If you have memories of time spent with the Bishopthorpe Brownies and Guides, we’d be very pleased to hear from you.  Just add a comment below or email us on

1) November 1944: Armistice Day Parade


In 1944 the Girl Guides and Brownies, pictured above, were invited to join the Bishopthorpe Armistice Day Parade.  This included the local members of the Home Guard, the National Fire Service, Civil Defence and the be-medalled ex-servicemen from the First World War.  Following a service in St. Andrew’s Church, they marched through the village to the Palace where photographs were taken of all the units.

We know the names of most of the girls in the photograph, including the two adults who are Myrtle Simpson (left) and Jean Hudson (right).

During the Second World War Guide uniforms were almost unobtainable.  One former guide told us that Clothing Coupons were needed for warm winter clothes so uniforms had to be passed down by girls who had left the guides or outgrown their uniforms.  The girls took badges for First Aid, Knots, Morse Code, Field Survival, International Flag Recognition and mending and patching. (All very important in war time.)

2) June 1963: Queen’s Guide Award


Bishopthorpe Guides Pauline Horton, Margaret Colton and Isobel Wilmot congratulate Jane Standing on gaining her Queen’s Guide Award.  Introduced in 1946, this award is the highest that can be earned in the Guide movement.  It involves completing a series of tough challenges within a three-year period.

3) April 1967: St. George’s Day Parade


Bishopthorpe Guides march down Davygate to the Minster where Scouts and Guides from the York area gather for the St. George’s Day service.

4) 1991-1992: Adding colour to the neighbourhood


In 1991, a large number of daffodil bulbs were given to the Brownies and Guides of this district.  Mrs. Overfield, who helped with the Bishopthorpe Brownies, suggested that the bulbs should be planted around the base of trees in Maple Avenue and Vernon Close.  This would add some spring-time colour to an area where so many elderly people lived.

The planting ceremony was attended by important guests including the chairman of Selby District Council and the Guide’s Division Commissioner.  For one scary moment at the ceremony, the Brownies and Guides thought they wouldn’t be able to dig the holes because the ground was too hard!  However, Mr. Melemendjian came to the rescue and the bulbs were eventually planted.  The girls are seen above admiring the daffodills the following spring.

5) 22 February 1997: World Thinking Day


This photograph shows the 2nd Bishopthorpe Brownies lighting candles on Thinking Day.  In this way, they remember the family of guiding throughout the world.  Guides and Brownies concentrate on specific themes for each World Thinking Day – for instance this year – 2010 – it was ‘Poverty and Hunger’.

The 22nd February was chosen for this special day because it was the birthday of both Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell, the first Chief Guide.

6) 20 May 2000: Fun at the Victorian Street Fair


The Victorian Street Fair was part of the Bishopthorpe Millennium celebrations.  The Brownies set up their stall in Main Street and sold crafts they had made in aid of the N.S.P.C.C.


With thanks to Janet Melemendjian, June Whittaker, Sylvia Overfield, Norman Antlett and The Yorkshire Evening Press for their help.


Jean Maybury on December 21, 2010 9:12 PM

Great to see the older photos. I believe that the un-named guide on the right of picture #2 is Naomi Standing, Jane’s sister.

In picture #3 taken in 1967 I think that the girls in the front tow might be left to right Linda Hutchinson??. Elizabeth Oxtoby, Eve Hudson and in the second row could it be Margaret Antlett, Diane Scott and Elisabeth Pogmore and behind Elisabeth is it Carolyn Roberts? Can anyone else comment?


Ruth M on March 4, 2011 8:21 PM

What a blast from the past seeing the 1944 Brownies & Girl Guides on the Palace steps. I was a member of both when I lived in Bishopthorpe and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Don’t see myself in the photo though. Definitely remember Myrtle Simpson as our leader (“too-whit-too-whoo, clap”).

I love your website and it is wonderful to see the village residents continue these traditions, and still putting on plays.

Ruth Spindler (Proctor)

Leaf Fall at the Woodman

Following on from Joanne Carter’s search for her Bishopthorpe ancestors, the Leaf family, I found the following sad story:

Richard Leaf was a 56 year-old tailor who lived in Main Street, Bishopthorpe.  On the afternoon of Tuesday, 21 April 1868, he called into The Woodman for a quiet drink and received a little more than he had bargained for.  His life came to an abrupt and unexpected end which necessitated a Coroner’s Inquest. The case had excited much interest because of the reluctance of some witnesses to give a straightforward account of the mystery which, at first, seemed to surround Richard Leaf’s death.

It was during this period that the York to Selby line of the North Eastern Railway was being built and the village pubs would have seen their fair share of navvies who were working in the area.  On the afternoon in question, Mr. Leaf found himself at The Woodman in the company of two navvies.  One of the men started to quarrel with his companion who refused to respond.  John Simpson, the landlord’s son, told the inquest that Leaf spoke to the quarrelsome navvy who objected to his interfering in a private argument.  They argued for a short while and then Leaf jumped up and challenged the navvy to a fight.  The two men fought until Leaf took a blow which knocked him into a chair.  His opponent wished to continue but John Simpson would not let him. Simpson also remarked that Leaf received a blow on his right cheek near the eye.  Leaf got up, put on his coat, and walked out.  He appeared to be well and was not drunk as testified by Sarah Kezia Simpson, the landlord’s daughter.  She stated that he had had two glasses of whisky, but added she noticed his face was bleeding.

Later, witnesses found Richard Leaf lying on his face on the ground outside The Woodman.  Two men carried him into the pub, laid him on the floor where he slept and snored loudly.  His wife Charlotte arrived, assumed her husband was drunk, and promptly returned home.  A further fight broke out between the navvies while Leaf was unconscious on the floor but witnesses claimed he was not touched.  Charlotte returned to the inn and found two men lifting up her husband. It was then she noticed that his face was bleeding.

The surgeon, Mr. J. I. F. Marshall of York, was sent for but, as he was not at home, he did not arrive at Bishopthorpe until a quarter-past nine in the evening.  By then, Richard Leaf was dead.  Mr. Marshall carried out a post mortem examination and discovered a small wound near the left eye and a bruise on the left cheek bone.  There were no other marks of violence on the body.  However, he found the body in a very diseased state and said he attributed death to apoplexy arising from the diseased condition of the brain.  Death might have been accelerated by excitement and, it was revealed, Leaf was also subject to apoplectic fits.

It was common practice to hold inquests on licensed premises and so The Woodman Inn served as the Coroner’s Court.  The inquest was held there two days after Leaf’s death and adjourned until the following Tuesday, for want of further evidence. In his closing remarks, the Coroner, J. P. Wood, Esq., said that, at one time, the case had assumed a very serious aspect.  There had been a great deal of discrepancy in the early stage of the evidence regarding the deceased being injured on the face.  He was particularly critical of the landlord, Thomas Simpson and his wife, from whom he had considerable difficulty in extracting the real history of the case.  However, following the surgeon’s evidence, the jury could not come to any other conclusion than that the deceased died of apoplexy and, therefore, returned this verdict.

Richard Leaf had lived and worked in the village since about 1834 raising many children from two marriages.  For the last few years of his life, he lived in the house next to The Ebor (currently no. 48 Main Street).  It’s, perhaps, not surprising to learn from a letter, written by a villager on the day after Leaf died, that there was “quite a gloom cast over Bishopthorpe” as a result of the death.  He was laid to rest in St. Andrew’s Churchyard down by the river.


Yorkshire Gazette, 25 April and 2 May 1868.

C.E.W. Brayley, The Annals of Bishopthorpe, (pamphlet 3, p2).

Seeking Leaf Ancestry

Joanne Carter contacted us with the following request about her Bishopthorpe ancestors – can anyone help?


I am tracing my family tree and it would seem that my great great great grandmother Elizabeth Leaf and her family came from Bishopthorpe.  She was born on 14 Sept 1811 and baptised on 29 Sept 1811.  Her parents were John Leaf and Lydia (nee Mathers).  Does anyone know of this family, are there any old tales relating to the family or things of interest, photos perhaps?  I know it’s a long shot but worth a go at asking. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

 Joanne Carter


A Rare Royal Snap

Through the centuries, there have been many royal visits to the Archbishops’ Palace in Bishopthorpe. The twentieth century alone has seen a number of royal guests passing through the famous gateway but, as they have been private visits, photographs of the events are few and far between. However, we are lucky that Jill Black, one of our Australian bishdotnet readers, decided to sort through her photo albums and found a snap of Princess Elizabeth descending the steps of the Palace. Jill contacted us to ask which year this could have been.

Palace_1949The photograph snapped in 1949 which winged it’s way from Australia. It shows Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh leaving the Palace after taking tea with Archbishop Garbett, who is standing on the left.


Having searched through old newspapers, we know that Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh made their first official visit to Yorkshire from 26 – 28 July 1949. The last day of that trip was spent in the City of York looking round the Minster and lunching with the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House. During the afternoon, the young couple, who had been married for less than two years, toured the new Carr Estate at Acomb. From there, they were driven to Bishopthorpe Palace where the villagers were “allowed” to gather within the grounds as far as the clock gateway. The local Brownies, Guides and other children lined the drive waving flags and streamers at the royal visitors.

Palace_1949_2This press photograph of some of the children lining the drive, appeared in The Yorkshire Herald. Does anyone recognise him or herself?


The appointment with Archbishop Garbett and his sister was meant to be a quiet, relaxed affair taking tea in the elegant drawing room. The only other guests present were the Archbishop’s private chaplain and secretary. One hour later at 5.30 p.m., Jill Black, who was ten-years-old at the time, watched as her friend snapped Princess Elizabeth taking her leave of the Archbishop on the Palace steps. The Duke can be seen just behind her.

It should be remembered that in the years following the war, fewer people owned a camera compared to now. So, with her Box Brownie, Jill’s friend scooped the press photographers who were kept at some distance.

Jill remembers that, although the photograph was taken from a long way off, they did catch a closer glimpse of the royal party as the car passed them by. Robin Hill, another resident present at the time, noted in his diary that the line of cars travelled “very slowly both coming in [to the Palace] and more especially on leaving for York”. On arrival at York Station, the couple were met by the civic party before catching the royal train for London.

Thanks to Jill and her friend a rare, fleeting royal moment was captured and can now, over sixty years later, be shared with the residents of Bishopthorpe.

Bishopthorpe’s Boer War Soldiers

On Saturday, 31st October 2009, the rededication of the Yorkshire County War Memorial for the Second Anglo-Boer War (1899 -1902), took place at the Garden of Remembrance near York Minster.  More than a century had passed since its unveiling by Field Marshal Lord Roberts who had led the British Imperial forces in South Africa.  Unlike the day of the unveiling ceremony itself, in the summer of 1905, the weather for the rededication was gloriously sunny as clergy and civic dignitaries gathered in Duncombe Place.

Boer_1The rain poured down on 3 August 1905 during the unveiling ceremony of the Yorkshire County Memorial for the Anglo – Boer War near York Minster.


This act of rededication  and remembrance reminded me of a telling paragraph written by Rev. John Keble in an edition of the Bishopthorpe Parish Magazine.  The publication date was October 1900; the South African War had started the year previously and was to last until 1902.


Of the Bishopthorpe men who followed the colours, Rev. Keble wrote:

We have received several letters from Privates G. Homer and A. Pickwell, giving most interesting accounts of their experiences in the war, and are very glad to hear that they have been preserved both from wounds and sickness.  We hope that before long we shall hear of their safe return.  Private H. Buckle was severely wounded and has returned home; we are pleased to hear that he is much better.

Apart from this intriguing piece, the few surviving parish magazines of the period contain nothing else concerning the men’s plight.  It is also frustrating that Rev. Keble did not give the names in full.

Who were these men and what became of their letters?  Did the men survive; did Private Buckle return to South Africa? Research is presently being carried out to try and discover further details but, in the meantime, if you have any information that could help, please leave a comment or email the Bishopthorpe Local History Group at:

Further information about the War Memorial can be found in:

Meurig G. M. Jones, ‘The Yorkshire County Memorial: A history of the Yorkshire County Memorial, York, for the Second Anglo – Boer War, 1899 – 1902’, in: York Historian, 12: 1995, pp 62 – 81.

War Time for an Archbishop

When war was declared in September 1939, Dr. William Temple was Archbishop of York.  He and his wife threw themselves into the war effort taking in evacuees and making the Palace and its grounds available to local organisations.  Three years later, in 1942, he was translated to Canterbury.

The following extract is taken from the Archbishop’s biography, William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Letters, by F. A. Iremonger.

On Sunday, 3 September [1939], the Archbishop Temple announced from his throne in the Minster that the country was at war, and that night the first sirens wailed over the city of York.

Changes were inevitable at Bishopthorpe, and were smoothly made.  Towards the end of their time the Archbishop and his wife took to living almost entirely in the north wing of the palace; a pleasant bedroom facing south and west did duty for Temple’s study, and a small room near the kitchen, looking out on the garden, for their dining-room.  Mrs. Temple and her invaluable secretary, Miss Sinker, became adept at improvising floor (and bed) space at the shortest notice; a dozen evacuees, including some children, occupied rooms at the end of the north wing and a flat over the garage; members of the Women’s Institute made jam in the old kitchen; for a few months the drawing-room was used for A. R. P. lectures, whist-drives, and dances; the Home Guard had a rifle-range for practice in the walled garden; and the local N. F. S. did not disguise their amusement when Temple took part in a rehearsal and lay flat on his front directing the nozzle of a stirrup-pump at an imaginary incendiary bomb.

An important local achievement was the institution of the York Council for War-time Service, which co-ordinated the work of all the canteens and clubs for the troops organized by many agencies; the voluntary helpers at one of the largest of these centres were organized by Mrs. Temple and Miss Sinker who, on several nights in the week, drove nine miles to the I.T.C. at Strensall; sometimes the Archbishop, who was Chairman of the Council,  came out to the canteen to talk with the men or to hold an occasional service for them in the canteen.

Yorkshire had its full share of attacks from the air; there were two devastating raids on Hull, and one on the city of York; but it was not until they reached Canterbury that the Archbishop and his wife were to know the horrors of an air-raid at first hand.

  1. A. Iremonger, William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury: His Life and Letters, (OUP, 1948) pp385-6

On the Home Front in Bishopthorpe

Home_GuardBishopthorpe Home Guard on parade in Main Street.


Seventy years ago, on 3rd September 1939, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast to the nation.  It was a momentous yet typically downbeat statement that, apparently, most of the British nation listened to, having been alerted that it would contain the news that it did.

Mr. Chamberlain revealed that he had not received a response to his demand that the German Government should withdraw their troops from Poland, by the deadline of eleven o’ clock a.m. “I have to tell you”, he continued, “that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.”

To commemorate this historic anniversary, villagers’ reminiscences and photographs showing how they buckled down to life on the Home Front, can be seen in Bishopthorpe Library.

The Local History Group delved into the Bishopthorpe Community Archive for photographs and memories from recorded interviews.  Many of them reveal the indefatigable spirit and sense of humour which carried the villagers through six years of war.

Take, for example, Miss Carol Woollcombe’s recollection of listening to Neville Chamberlain’s announcement:

“We were listening to the radio in the study.  My sisters had been to Westmorland, where my aunts and my grandmother lived and they’d met my eldest uncle. And he was one of those chaps who was either up in the attacks or down in the dumps, you know. He was very mercurial. And he got very depressed over this news and my sisters came back and they said, ‘Uncle Cecil says we must sue to Hitler for the best terms we can get.’ And my mother said, ‘What on earth is Cecil thinking of? We shall fight to the death.’

I always remember her saying that. She was going to hit him with a hockey stick, I think.”

In Bishopthorpe, like everywhere else, men, women and children on the Home Front adapted to a different way of life; they put up with shortages; saved for the war effort; “dug for victory”; “got on with everything” and “did their bit”.  They joined organisations such as the Home Guard, the Civil Defence and the National Fire Service; they raised money for Spitfires and Hurricanes; they knitted much-needed socks for seamen.

WIBishopthorpe Womens’ Institute knitting socks for seamen using special ‘oily’ wool.


If you would like to see more, then visit Bishopthorpe Library where our display will be on show until 4 September.



Library opening hours:

Monday: 2 – 5 pm

Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday: 2 – 7.30 pm

Thursday: 10 am – 12 noon and 2 – 5 pm

Friday: 2 – 7.30 pm


Jean on February 8, 2010 11:43 PM

Thank you Linda for your most interesting articles. Carol Woollcombe was my Sunday School teacher over fifty years ago. I well remember her class and playing with plasticine and sitting in small round backed wooden chairs in the vestry on Sunday mornings.

The Pinfold – A Movable Beast!

Pinfold_1The modern ‘pinfold’ was built on the site of an earlier structure which was demolished in 1968. But before this, in 1829, a new pinfold was built across the road.


Two years ago, when I wrote a history of the Bishopthorpe pinfold for the Millennium Trust, there was one thing that puzzled me:  Was the pinfold always in the same place?

Bishopthorpe was first surveyed by the Ordnance Survey in 1846 and the resulting map published five years later.  On that map, the pinfold is shown near to the entrance to Copmanthorpe Lane.  The OS re-surveyed the village in 1891 and this revealed the pinfold tucked into the end of a field – i.e. where the modern, lottery-funded structure is now situated, between Appleton Road and Copmanthorpe Lane.

Pinfold_2The 1846 OS Map showing the pinfold built outside Ann Challenger’s orchard in 1829 (where the Methodist Church is now situated).






The position of the pinfold surveyed in 1891.  This one probably replaced the pinfold (seen above in 1846) that Archbishop Thomson demolished in 1865. 


At first, I questioned the accuracy of the 1846 survey, but the position of the pinfold at that time was corroborated by another plan produced in the same year by the proposed London & York Railway.  I was mystified – why would it be necessary to demolish a brick pinfold and rebuild it a few metres away?  I had no answer, but unexpectedly discovered some further information.

Last summer, while researching the Bishopthorpe Manor Court Minute Book, I found that the pinfold had, indeed, been rebuilt in a different position.  At a court dated 26 October 1829, an item caught my eye:  A “new” pinfold was erected in front of Ann Challenger’s orchard – but it was there “under sufferance”.  The overseer had to pay her two pence per annum as “an acknowledgement that it is to be removed when she may require”.

The orchard in question was the long field in which the Methodist Church and the semi-detached houses in Sim Balk Lane are now situated.  Whether Mrs. Challenger ever requested the pinfold to be removed is not recorded, but one was taken down some years later by the Lord of the Manor, Archbishop Thomson.

However, Dr. Thomson’s “appropriation” of the site of the pinfold for his private use was met with some indignation.  At the manor court leet held on the 28 October 1865, twelve local jurymen told the Archbishop’s steward that “great public inconvenience” had been experienced by the removal of the pinfold.  After all, where would the pinder enclose straying animals that caused a nuisance?  The jurymen trusted that the Lord of the Manor would “obviate such inconvenience in future by causing another Pinfold to be erected in some convenient place within the Manor”.

It can only be presumed from these two entries – for there are no others concerning the pinfold – that the pound which Archbishop Thomson pulled down was the one situated outside Ann Challenger’s orchard.  Unfortunately, it is not known why the Archbishop should have removed such a useful structure at the cost of upsetting the Bishopthorpe householders.

Eventually, another pinfold was built and it is likely to be the same one that appears on the 1891 survey.  This pinfold remained in situ until 1968 when the Parish Council deemed it an “eyesore” and had it demolished.

In 2007, the base of this pinfold was unearthed and the new, lottery-funded structure was built within its foundations.  Bricks made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were discovered.  The earlier bricks suggest that they were re-cycled from a similar structure built some time before 1829; but where that was situated is anyone’s guess.

Linda Haywood


York Reference Library: Ordnance Survey Maps published 1851, 1893.

Borthwick Institute: Manor of Bishopthorpe: CCAb 12/Bis: Minute Book, 1829 – 1911.

York City Archives: (Railway Deposited Plans) DP 2/31, Part 3, Sheet 93; DP 2/33a, Book of Reference, Part 3: Bawtry to York.


Jean on August 5, 2009 9:20 PM

Most interesting article Linda. The pre-1968 Pinfold was a favourite place for sitting and watching the traffic both motorized and foot in the “five road ends” area of the village. It, being a little taller than the current pinfold appears to be, afforded a little shelter from the wind which was often welcome.

You mention the term “Pinder” do you have any information on this post, who held it and the last time it was occupied?

Linda on August 12, 2009 5:52 PM

Hello Jean – Thanks very much for your comments.

Regarding the pinder – this was an official position held by a tenant of a manor. He was the keeper of the manorial pound or pinfold where straying animals were held until a fine was paid for their release. The tenants were obliged to carry out a number of unpaid duties for the lord of the manor. Other official positions were the constable and affeerer (he assessed the amount of a fine). These officials were elected annually at a manor court.

Having said that, some villagers continued in the post for several years. They were substitutes for the men who were officially elected, and were usually paid a small sum by those men in return for carrying out their duty. The Bishopthorpe Manor Court Minute Book mentioned in the sources above, lists the officials.

For example, in the 1860s, Edward Hutton continued to be recorded as the pinder for some years. It is interesting to note that Mr. Geoff Dixon (born in the village in 1914) was told by his great aunts that Mary Hutton was the last ‘key holder’ of the pinfold. Mary’s father was Edward Hutton. How long she continued to act in this capacity is not known; she died in 1926 aged 82. If the 20th century seems rather late to need the services of a pinder, then remember that many villagers kept pigs in piggeries in their back gardens. An escaped pig was a nuisance to all.

If you wish to read more about the history of the pinfold, see the Archive section.

Jean on February 9, 2010 12:07 AM

Great information Linda, Thanks.

Mr. Woodburn who was the village postmaster kept a “Back Garden Pig” and I would guess that this was as late as the 1960s. We helped to feed the pig(s). Bill Gatenby would come around on Sunday morning and empty the “pig bin” from our back garden where my parents had dutifully placed all the scrap food and peelings for the week. Bill had been the village policeman I believe and in retirement this was one of his little jobs. What Bill got from the deal I don’t know, but we received a bag of Terry’s mishapes (reject chocolates) each Christmas.

Fresh Air and Fun!

Spring is in the air and local Clubs and Societies start to think of annual outings – at least they used to do!  In the late 1940s, the Acaster and Bishopthorpe Fishing Club would hire a bus and take a summer away day for a picnic and – what?  They look a bit over-dressed for a spot of fishing!  Mrs Lily Foggin, who donated the following photographs to the Archive, told me that on these outings her husband Reg, “Left me with the bairns – well, I wasn’t interested in fishing.”

Foggin_Reg_Day_OutReg Foggin can be seen seated in the centre row, third from the right.  Next to him on the right are Eric Barton and Arthur Schofield.  Does anyone know where this photograph was taken?

To be fair, Mrs. Foggin did get away from the bairns occasionally. However, the ladies, of course, followed more cultural pursuits!




Mothers_Union_1947In 1947, the Bishopthorpe Mother’s Union enjoyed a trip to Fountains Abbey.  Mrs. Foggin is standing on the left in the striped skirt.

Mothers_Union_1952Sporting their Sunday-best outfits, the Mother’s Union visited Ripon in 1952.  Mrs. Lily Foggin is kneeling in the centre, front row, with Beatrice Fountain and Elsie Cox. Standing behind in a white suit and clutching a smart bag, is Mrs. Irene Thackrah. They all seem to be relishing their precious day of fresh air and fun!


Can you provide more information about these photographs?  Just add a comment below.

Winter Ghost Stories

Frozen_PondThe frozen pond in the Palace grounds near to the hauling lane where ghostly figures once terrified the villagers.


Everyone loves a ghost story, especially told in the dark winter months – and our ancestors were no exception.  Apparently, through the centuries, many tales were told concerning a number of ghostly figures that once haunted this very locality and chilled the heart of every villager who stepped out at night.

In the 1890s, a local historian, one Mr. William Camidge – and let it be said, a respectable citizen of York – spent much time talking to residents of the city and surrounding villages.  He wrote up his findings as articles for the Yorkshire Gazette and eventually published a collection in a small book entitled, Ouse Bridge to Naburn Lock.  Mr. Camidge found that ghosts and their wanderings were part of the local folklore of York and beyond.  His attitude was one of scepticism and he treated such stories as nothing more than pure fiction. Despite this, he thought it worth devoting a whole chapter to the spectres that reputedly walked the area around Middlethorpe.  Take them or leave them – this is what he learned.

The Headless Woman

Long years ago, on the hauling lane [tow path] that runs along the river down to Middlethorpe, a lady without a head walked every dark night, to the dismay and terror of many people.  She was invariably clothed in white and the tale told of her death gave effect to her appearance.  It was asserted that the woman walked by the river one summer night and, coming to the hauling lane where a clump of trees had braved the storms of centuries, she was cruelly murdered by decapitation.  In death, bent on pursuing her murderers, she came forth at the witching hours of night, just as the boom of the Minster clock broke upon the still hour of midnight. Headless, but wrapped in a shroud, she wandered to and fro along the river bank and, when wearied with her fruitless toil, she returned to her dusty bed.  Every inhabitant of Middlethorpe and Bishopthorpe could, many years ago, tell of seeing her, and describe her walk, her waiting, and her headless form.

Archbishop Scrope’s Procession

The most veritable ghost was the one supposed to be that of Archbishop Scrope, who walked the road to conduct his own funeral procession.  The Archbishop, it will be remembered, was tried in 1405 at the Palace, under the instruction of Henry IV.  Found guilty of treason, he rode to his execution which took place in a field near Clementhorpe just outside the city.

The most persistent story told of his ghostly appearance was related by a man who made his living as a slaughterman, and by doing odd jobs for the butchers of the city.  This Robert Johnson, accompanied by an apprentice, was sent to a farm beyond Bishopthorpe to fetch some sheep.  As they returned in the darkness, nearing the hauling lane, each suddenly saw a coffin suspended in the air and moving slowly along in the direction of York.  It tilted occasionally, as if borne on the shoulders of men who were thrown out of step by the rugged character of the roadway.  The coffin was covered with a heavy black pall of velvet, fringed with white silk.  Behind it, with measured tread, walked a bishop dressed in fine linen, bearing in his hands a large open book, over which his head was bent; but from his lips, no sound came.  On went the procession, with the steady precision observed in bearing the dead to the grave.

While the men’s sheep kept pace, they would not be driven past the strange sight.  Both man and boy felt as if the power of speech had left them; for the moment, both were paralysed. Perspiration poured from them so that they bore the appearance of having been in the river.  They felt as if the atmosphere was so heavy that it would not permit them to breathe.  The spectral procession continued to move at a leisured pace till it came to the field where the Archbishop was beheaded.  There the vision disappeared.

Robert Johnson and the apprentice made their way home in silence and were put to bed in a state of shock where they remained for several days.   When sufficiently restored, their story was repeated with particular detail and gained universal credence from the fact that many villagers and citizens had experienced like sight and sensation.  The boy forsook his business and went to sea, lest he be compelled to take a similar journey, whilst the man ever after avoided that road at nightfall, but never swerved from declaring his story true.

The Rattling Chains

One night, a man called out of bed the tenants of a small cottage not far from Middlethorpe.  He assured them he had heard and seen a ghost.  Exhausted with fright he sank upon a chair and had to be plied with brandy before he could tell his tale of terror.  When removed to his home two or three hours afterwards, great concern was felt for his life.  In the morning, the story broke amongst the villagers.  They were keen to talk over, not only the sight and sound of that night, but of many a night before when others had been terrified by unearthly noises and strange appearances at the same spot.  [The place in question happened to be the pinfold – not the one we are familiar with, but probably the one, long since demolished, near the turn off for Middlethorpe.]

Later on that day an old Irishman who travelled with a donkey and cart, especially in this neighbourhood, brought the ghost into sad disrepute.  “Every night,” he said, “when my work is done, I feed my donkey in the lanes, and then before going home I lodge him in the old pinfold.  To keep him from running away I fasten his fore feet with a pair of old handcuffs bound together by a piece of chain.  When a strange foot passing by breaks the slumbers of the poor beast, he raises his head and stretches his feet, rattling his chains in the effort – to the dismay of the pedestrian.”

The chronicler, Mr. William Camidge, was quietly confident that this explanation not only got rid of this ghost very satisfactorily, but also provided a similar hypothesis for almost every spectre in the country.  Who can tell?  Once the sun goes down, walking the dark lanes of Bishopthorpe and Middlethorpe will never be quite the same again.  Sleep well!

The Archbishop’s Fall from Grace

On June 7th, 1842, an occurrence befell the aristocratic Archbishop of York, Dr. Edward Harcourt, which may have caused harm to his dignity rather than his person.  The incident was reported with some glee in the local and national press, including that most respected of journals, The Times:

On Tuesday the venerable prelate consecrated the [new] church and churchyard …. at Ardsley, whence his Lordship proceeded, shortly after 2 o’clock, by railway, to the palace at Bishopthorpe, accompanied by the Rev. W. H. Dixon, one of his Grace’s chaplains [and vicar of Bishopthorpe].  Before dinner the Archbishop took a walk in the fields in the vicinity of the palace, accompanied by Mr. Dixon, and as they were crossing an ancient drain, arm in arm, the united weight of the two gentlemen caused the arch of the drain to give way, and they both instantly plunged into the filthy water and mud beneath, almost up to their chests.

Fortunately, Mr. Egerton Harcourt, one of his Grace’s sons, who was walking at a short distance in the rear of the two reverend personages, witnessed the occurrence and immediately hastened to their assistance.  Owing to the perpendicular construction of the drain, their release was a matter of some difficulty; but we are happy to say that it was effected without other injury, either to the venerable prelate or to his chaplain, than what may arise from their sudden and involuntary immersion.

After undergoing the requisite lustration and changing his apparel, his Grace partook of dinner as usual, and was, we understand, not a little jocose upon the consternation which their sudden intrusion into the domains of the frogs and tadpoles must have occasioned the reptiles in the vicinity of the accident.

His Grace consecrated the new church at Clifford on the following day (Wednesday); and we are glad to be able to say that his Grace had not experienced any unpleasant consequences from the accident.

Indeed, the Archbishop’s accident did not appear to have caused him any harm whatsoever.  He lived for a further five years, dying at Bishopthorpe Palace on 5th November 1847 at the age of 90, having served as northern primate for a record 40 years.

The Times, 14 June 1842, p4.

York Herald, 18 June 1842, p2.

Bishopthorpe War Memorial is Listed

War_Memorial_1St. George and the Dragon – a detail on the Bishopthorpe War Memorial.  It was carved by Robert Thompson of Kilburn to a design by Brierley & Rutherford.

IN FEBRUARY, Elaine Pearce, Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, wrote to the vicar of St. Andrew’s Church to inform him that the Bishopthorpe War Memorial had been designated a listed structure.  The reasons for the Grade II listing were given as follows:

  • It forms a poignant reminder of the effects of tragic world events on this local community.
  • It is a well-designed monument by a well-known architect, Walter Brierley.
  • It is made of high-quality materials, executed with excellent craftsmanship.
  • It has group value with the adjacent church, Archbishop’s Palace and other designated buildings.
  • Its proximity to and historic association with the Archbishop of York’s Palace gives it added significance.

The memorial now joins several other listed buildings in the village that enjoy the protection of the law.  These include Bishopthorpe Palace, St. Andrew’s Church, several houses in Chantry Lane and The Ebor.  English Heritage has recently made its database of listed buildings available online.  To view those in the village key  in “Bishopthorpe” on the Heritage Gateway site here.  (The War Memorial has not yet been added to the site.)


A History of the Bishopthorpe Allotments

Allotments_1Today, the popularity of working an allotment in Bishopthorpe means that gardeners first have to join a waiting list.


THE HISTORY OF THE ALLOTMENTS begins with an 18th century Enclosure Act. At this time, allotment meant a piece of land given to a parish or manor official in exchange for rights and holdings held in the open fields system.

In 1760, an enclosure act was drawn up for Bishopthorpe in which 2 acres 1 rood and 2 perches of land on the ings were given freehold to the “Trustees of Bishopthorpe Poor”. We do not know exactly what happened to this land, but on the Ordnance Survey map of 1851, which was surveyed in 1846, there is an area shown as “Field Garden Allotments”.



A section from the 1851 Ordnance Survey map showing the Field Garden Allotments between Copmanthorpe Lane and Appleton Road. These allotments were lost when the railway was built.


This land, like much of the land in Bishopthorpe, was owned by the Archbishop and lies between the present Copmanthorpe Lane and Appleton Road where Bridge Road, Appleton Court and part of The Coppice now stand. This piece was divided into 28 small plots, 26 of which were worked by people who lived in the village at that time, and almost all of whom appear on the census of 1851. These seem to be more like the small plots we think of as allotments today. During the period from 1867 to 1871, this land was bought by the North Eastern Railway for the construction of the East Coast Main railway line to London.

In January 1895, the first meeting of the Bishopthorpe Parish Council took place. The early minutes were concerned with the provision of allotments. Various land owners were contacted to see if they would let land for this purpose. At the March meeting of the Parish Council, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners replied offering several fields including fields 119 and 126 shown on the O. S. map of 1893. These two fields became the present garden allotments.

Allotments_3April 2008: Preparing seed beds at the allotments in Acaster Lane (field 126).


The Parish Council has Allotment Rent Books dating back to 1931. At that time there were 26 garden allotments on Appleton Lane (Road). Each one was half a rood in size (1/8th of an acre or about 26 x 25 yards). These were let at 7s 6d per year (38p).  Field 126 in Acaster Lane was divided into three half-acre plots. In 1934 these were subdivided into 6 plots of various sizes at various rents and in 1950 further subdivided into 14 plots. Today there is not a great demand for large plots so further division has taken place and there are now 35 plots. The current rents are calculated at 0.5p per square foot per year and average at £10.00. The Parish Council pays a rent to the Church Commissioners and runs the allotments as a business, which makes a small profit. In return, it provides some maintenance for allotment holders. In 1994, about half of the Appleton Road site was sold for the building of housing (now The Orchard) and the remaining space made into 27 plots.

Allotment Holders Societies

The first record of one of these societies that we have in Bishopthorpe is in the Robin Hill Collection.  This tells us that in 1948 there was a Bishopthorpe Allotment Holders and Gardeners Association with 153 members. This seems quite a large number considering the size of the village at the time. Members paid 1s 6d (8p) per year. For this, they were able to buy supplies at favourable prices. There were seed potatoes at 3s (15p) per stone, vegetable and flower seeds, hop manure, artificial and organic manures ranging from basic slag at 1s (5p) per stone to fish guano at 5s 9d (32p) a stone; and lime at 1s 6d (8p) for a cwt bag. The secretary was H. Roberts and as well as organising the sales, he arranged several social events. There were film shows and lectures, an outing in 1948 to Sledmere Hall, a social evening with whist (to which members could take ONE lady), a ventriloquist, refreshments and dancing.

But the big events were the Annual Shows. These took place in the Reading Room, now the Village Hall.  One such Show was held on Saturday, September 4, 1948.  There were 34 classes for vegetables, fruit, flowers and preserves and one class for children under 15 years for a posy or display of wild flowers. It must have been quite a formal affair and was opened by Lt. Col. W. F. Tyndale G.M.G., D.S.O., J.P. Each class had three prizes of 3s (15p), 2s (10p), and 1s (5p), and 12 special prizes of 5s (25p) were given also, but the top prize was 10s (50p) for the best potatoes. At the end of the show, the exhibits were sold.

Tom Evans (1919 – 2004)

Allotments_4Tom Evans has left the Bishopthorpe Archive a lot of information about the allotments. He was a very successful allotment holder, winning prizes for his vegetables during the 1960s. He served on the committee of the Bishopthorpe Gardens Guild and was also the Honorary Secretary of the Bishopthorpe Social Club, Allotment and Garden Section.

When the Church Commissioners wanted to terminate the lease for the allotments in 1968, he fought passionately to prevent this.  Tom enlisted help from the National Allotments and Gardens Society Ltd. and the Parish Council to see if two fields on Acaster Lane (126 and 139) could be registered as a common. In the same year, he also formed the Allotments and Garden section of the Bishopthorpe Social Club one aim of which was to, “form a united front to obtain security of tenure for allotment holders”. It is not clear from his notes how successful this action was, but plans to terminate the lease for field 126 seem to have been abandoned, whilst field 139 was built on as part of Keble Park.

However, in 1990 planning permission was sought for the building of houses on the Appleton Road allotments (field 119) as there were many vacant plots. After considerable negotiation between the planners, Church Commissioners and the Parish Council, development was granted on part of the site which is now The Orchard.  It was recommended that the Church Commissioners should transfer ownership of the rest of the site to the Parish Council thus ensuring that the land should remain as allotments “so long as it is required for that purpose or some other form of public space”.

Diana Forrester


Parliamentary Enclosure Act for Bishopthorpe of 1760.

Allotment Rent Books 1931 to 1980 and Parish Council Minutes 1895. (Bishopthorpe Parish Council).

The Robin Hill Collection and Tom Evans Collection. (Bishopthorpe Archives).

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.

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

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)