Bishopthorpe Walled Garden: Early History and Historical Importance


Bishopthorpe Walled Garden (north of St Andrew’s Church on Bishopthorpe Road) was the Archbishop of York’s kitchen garden. It was completed in 1767, in the Georgian era, under Archbishop Drummond (1).  At over 250 years old, it is of similar age to walled gardens at Harewood House and Sledmere House.

During the period 1761-69, many changes were made to the Archbishop of York’s estate, including a gateway, stables, church and new façade for Bishopthorpe Palace.

By 1785 further changes had been made to the kitchen garden by Archbishop Markham, with the construction of ‘an exceedingly good convenient pinery and a flued wall 181 feet in length’ (1).

Early maps

The oldest map of the garden is from 1832 (2). This shows the walled areas as they are today: a large rectangular, 1.5-acre garden with a central canal, and a smaller 0.5-acre garden attached to the south.  At that time there were additional ‘slip gardens’ outside the walls, extending south to Palace Garden Cottage.


There are more details on the OS map of 1851, with glasshouses against the south facing wall in the slip gardens and buildings on the other side.






What remains today

The boundary walls, which are 12 to 13 ft high, are still intact, and built of red brick with flat coping stones. Externally, on the longest south-facing wall, there is evidence of past use for glasshouses, including an old fire place at the base of the wall. This may have been the location of the ‘pinery,’ or hot-house for growing pineapples, which was an essential component of a kitchen garden in that period.

The flued wall (or hot wall) is an important feature and is located between the two walled gardens. This is a hollow wall, with internal horizontal flues which took the heat from small fires lit at the bottom of the wall out through vents at the top. Hot walls were important horticulturally from around the mid-18th century to mid-19th century, and were used to protect and ripen delicate fruit such as apricots and peaches growing against the south-facing side.

Small arches can be seen in the brickwork, arranged vertically in twos and threes, which were used to gain access to the flues to clean out the soot.  From the arrangement of the arches, it is likely there were four separate flued sections, each c.36 ft long (7). The wall is thicker than adjacent walls, and iron wall ties give it strength. Originally it was 9 ft high, with doorways at either end.  Later alterations were an extension to the height and a doorway through the centre.


Throughout the garden the walls are pock-marked with iron nails, evidence of past ‘tagging and nailing’ of fruit trees into espaliers and fans: a tradition that died out with the use of wire from the late 1800s.

Original doorways can be seen, mostly now bricked up. The small doorways were wide enough for a gardener with a wheelbarrow. There are two doorways wide enough for a horse and cart, or pony-chaise.

The canal is fed by a stream and was an important water source for the garden. It is an unusual feature for a walled garden and is likely to have been an ornamental feature as well as having a practical purpose in holding fish (4).

The north-facing brick buildings in the large garden, are probably of Victorian origin or later. They contain a double furnace (now bricked up) and once housed the boiler for the glasshouses.

There are free-standing veteran pear trees against the high south-facing wall in the large garden. A few lead labels are attached to the walls, giving the names of old fruit tree varieties and dated 1867-1879.

Palace Garden Cottage, home of successive head gardeners, is still a residence today.

Eye witness accounts

Kitchen gardens were a source of pride to their owners, and a status symbol.  The design of this garden indicates it may have been a ‘show garden’ as well as a traditional kitchen garden.

In 1818, local historian and newspaper editor William Hargrove reported that the kitchen gardens ‘contain extensive hot-houses, fruit-walls, store ponds for fish and every other requisite accommodation’ (4).

The German landscape gardener and traveller Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau visited in 1827 and recounted: ‘The Archbishop [Vernon Harcourt] showed me his kitchen gardens and hot houses, which are remarkably fine. They were as neat as the most elegant drawing room… On the walls were the choicest fruit trees arranged in symmetrical lines… In the hot-houses in which pines and grenadillas grew luxuriantly, was a different sort of vine in every window… The multitude of flowers…which edged the beds of the kitchen garden were striking’ (5).

Later years

Photo by Robin Hill

A photograph taken from the church tower in 1949 (8) and an aerial photograph from 1947 (11) show the full extent of the gardens, with glasshouses intact. The slip gardens and glasshouses were removed in the 1960s, and this area is now an arable field.

More information about the later history is in the book ‘Bishopthorpe in Blossom’ (9).





The walled garden is within Bishopthorpe Conservation Area (6). It is owned by the Church of England and leased to Brunswick Organic Nursery.

Bishopthorpe Local History Group has applied to Historic England for the garden to be assessed for Listed status, which would give it the recognition and additional protection it deserves.

There is much still to be learnt, and expert assistance would be welcomed to help interpret the many original features which remain.

For more information contact Bishopthorpe Local History Group.




(1)    The History and Antiquities of the City of York, from its Origin to the Present Times (York 1785) Vol 3, p.79. Printed by Ann Ward, Coney Street. Available online

(2)    Robert Cooper. MAP/1, no.32: A Map of the County of the City of York [showing York and the Ainsty], From an Actual Survey made in the Years 1830-1831, by Robert Cooper, Land Surveyor etc. (1832) Explore York Archives

(3)    Susan Campbell, A History of Kitchen Gardening. 2005. Published by Francis Lincoln Ltd. Pp. 42, 48, 60-62

(4)    William Hargrove, History and Description of the Ancient City of York, Vol II, Part II [York, 1818, p.523] Available online

(5)    Prince Hermann von Puckler-Muskau, Tour in England, Ireland and France [etc]. Letter 18, 20 September 1827, p. 196 [1833] Available online

(6)    York Historic Environment Record. SYO1676 Bishopthorpe Conservation Area.

(7)    Elisabeth Hall, Hot Walls: An Investigation of their Construction in Some Northern Kitchen Gardens. Garden History Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring 1989), pp. 95-107. Published by The Gardens Trust.

(8)    Photograph from the tower of St Andrew’s Church, Bishopthorpe. Robin Hill, 1949.  Bishopthorpe Community Archives.

(9)    Bishopthorpe in Blossom: Our Orchard Heritage. 2019. Bishopthorpe Orchard Project and Bishopthorpe Local History Group. Published by Quacks Books, York. Pp. 25-42. Available from Bishopthorpe Local History Group.

(10) OS Six-inch England and Wales 1851 (surveyed 1846 to 1847) National Library of Scotland

(11) Historic England Aerofilms Collection. York Racecourse, York 1947. Photograph number EAW009395 flown 17/08/1947.









Launching the Bishopthorpe Listening Post

If you pass by the Sensory Garden, next to Bishopthorpe Library, don’t be alarmed if you hear the voice of the late butcher Geoffrey Dixon floating over the bushes into Main Street.  Or, indeed, the voices of Ken and Joyce Baldwin, Gordon Smith and Elizabeth (Betty) Harris.  For theirs are the first recordings to be placed on the Listening Post in the Sensory Garden.

In 2001 the Bishopthorpe Local History Group started an Oral History Project recording interviews with village residents and former residents.  So far, almost 80 people have been recorded.  To share their memories, we have set up the Listening Post which contains four edited highlights of three to four minutes each.   It is intended to change the recordings on a regular basis.

Press the buttons now and you will hear Geoff Dixon remembering the problems of rationing meat during WW2; Ken Baldwin reminiscing about life in the National Service; Gordon Smith on being Archbishop Hope’s chauffeur and when the Queen lunched at the Palace during Royal Ascot; and Elizabeth (Betty) Harris tells of moving into the ‘bare and austere’ Woodman Inn in 1960 with her then husband, Don Nixon, and when Reg the pianist played himself through the floorboards during a sing-song!

On the 7 August, and with many friends present, we launched the solar-panelled Listening Post on a fine, sunny, and very enjoyable evening, with plenty of wine flowing.  Elizabeth (Betty) Harris and Geoff Dixon’s nephew, Robert Dixon, joined us with members of their families.  We were also lucky to have Archbishop Stephen, his wife Mrs. Rebecca Cottrell, and also their dog drop in!  After exploring the Post, the Archbishop called the project “wonderfully inspiring”.  All in all it was a splendid evening.  So do please call in to the Sensory Garden, enjoy the flowers and the voices of times past.

We wish to thank members of Bishopthorpe Parish Council and Explore Bishopthorpe Library for their help and support with the project.

Linda Haywood



Archbishop Stephen Cottrell working the Listening Post.
From left: Mrs. Rebecca Cottrell, with Gary and Jacqui Featherstone and Ken Haywood enjoying the voices on the Listening Post.
Archbishop Stephen Cottrell listening to voices from the past.
Elizabeth (Betty) Harris who can be heard on the Listening Post, with son, Simon, and oral history interviewer, Helen Fountain.
From left: Oral History co-ordinator, Peggy Baker, Cllr. Carole Green and Rebecca Cottrell.
Bishopthorpe Methodist Minister, Dr. John Schofield, chatting with guests.


Re-surfacing work on the Cycle Path

A message has been received from Sustrans concerning work to be carried out on the cycle path near Bishopthorpe:

I am writing to inform you of works which will be occurring from on Trans Pennine Trail/National Cycle Network Route 65 between Sim Balk Lane and the Solar System Way (the Sun!). Working with National Highways, Sustrans are using funding from the Department for Transport to make this section of traffic-free route more accessible to a wider range of users and to create a more comfortable journey for all.

In recent years, roots of nearby trees have damaged the existing track making it particularly uncomfortable for cyclists, wheelchair and mobility scooter users and those with pushchairs and prams. The project will look to resurface the existing path and where possible widen it by cutting back encroaching vegetation. The path will also be realigned around the bend at Sim Balk Lane overbridge to improve sightlines. Preliminary works to remove the trees causing damage to the track took place earlier in the year.  Resurfacing work is scheduled to begin on 25th April and is expected to take around 5 weeks. During this time a closure will be in place and we are currently looking in to signposting a diversion.

We understand that this is a well-used section of the National Cycle Network and apologise for any inconvenience caused but know that this short-term disruption will ensure that the greenway is made more accessible to all legitimate users and that improvements made will benefit users for many years to come.

This work is being carried out as a part of our “Paths for Everyone” vision which looks to create a more inclusive National Cycle Network to make active travel more accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

For updates about route closures and diversions visit:

For information about our Paths for Everyone vision visit:


Local Author Releases Controversial New Book

The new book by local author Phil Blacksmith (Philip Smith) has just been released and, in these Woke times, might be expected to gather a bit of controversy. “Jesus and the Beanstalk and other stories for Atheists” is a mixed-genre collection united by an irreverent attitude towards religious belief.

“Some Christians may take offence at something that sustains them through life being attacked but they should realise religion is offensive to rational people. One lady got as far as the first four words of the title before getting offended and could not believe I questioned the very existence of Jesus Christ, son of God. The Bible is not a History book and the New Testament not a biography: many of the same incidents and motifs occur in the mythologies of other deities in the area, pre-dating the Jesus myth,” he explains.

Phil has lived for the last seven years in the village with second wife, Julie Rayne, who, as a former TV singing star, was also a public Christian and you have to wonder if they see eye-to-eye. “Well, I am 6ft2 and she is 4ft9 so, we don’t often see eye-to-eye,” he jokes.

Before “Jesus and the Beanstalk”, an earlier story collection was called “Through a Judas Window” and a forthcoming collection is “Lead Us Not” – all titles with a religious tone – so you may wonder if he is a sincere non-believer. “You can name something ironically,” he asserts, “After all, I am an Atheist and a republican but my sons are called Kirk and Rex.”

The book is available direct from the online bookshop of York Publishing Services.

Brownies Need Your Help!

1st Bishopthorpe Brownies is looking for new Leaders.

The unit is nearly 100 years old but since Covid it has not been able to meet, and now is looking for new leaders to run the unit.  It meets for one and a quarter hours on a Monday (which can be changed).  Brownies are aged 7-10 years old and we follow a programme to empower our girls to through fun and friendship to gain new skills.

If you think you’d be able to help you can register your interest on the Girlguiding UK website or if you would like more information please ring Alison Tant-Brown on 07730 734756 or email

Photography Talk in Tockwith

The inspirational and engaging speaker, Adrian Ray, is a professional photographer with international experience. Adrian will be giving a talk on 11th March in Tockwith, using examples from his work to reveal the creative, challenging and diverse industry of commercial and advertising photography.  This talk will be particularly informative for young people studying photography or thinking of doing so.

The talk will be given on Friday 11th March from 7.30pm in Tockwith Village Hall (YO26 7PR). Tickets are £3 available online at or by phone on 01423 358 603. All proceeds will be donated to McMillan House Hospice.


The Lost Men of Bishopthorpe: Wilfrid Mervyn Dunnington-Jefferson

Second Lieutenant Wilfrid Mervyn Dunnington-Jefferson

Second Lieutenant, 7 Battalion, attached 3 Battalion, Royal Fusiliers.
Killed in action, aged 23, between 24 and 29 April, 1915, during the Second Battle of Ypres.
He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.

I did not include Second Lt. Dunnington-Jefferson in my book, The Lost Men of Bishopthorpe, published in 2017, because I only became aware of his connection with Bishopthorpe in 2018. Prior to 2018, his name was not included on Bishopthorpe’s War Memorial. He and his family had moved away from the parish by the time of the First World War. As a result, there was nobody local to ask for his name to be added to the War Memorial. However, his place of birth was Middlethorpe, which had joined the ecclesiastical parish of Bishopthorpe in 1866. He was thus entitled to be remembered on the Bishopthorpe Parish Memorial.

Wilfrid Mervyn was the youngest son of Captain Mervyn Dunnington-Jefferson and his wife, Louisa Dorothy (formerly Barry). He was born at Middlethorpe Hall on 2 April, 1892. His father was a Justice of the Peace and became the first Chairman of Bishopthorpe Parish Council.
Wilfrid was educated at Radley College and later graduated with Honours from Christ Church, Oxford. He joined the legal profession and entered the Inner Temple in London in 1912. His father, Mervyn, died in the same year.
On the outbreak of the war Wilfrid volunteered immediately and joined 7 Battalion, Royal Fusiliers as a 2nd Lieutenant on 15 August, 1914. A period of training followed, but Wilfrid reached France on 11 April, 1915. He was temporarily attached to 3 Battalion, Royal Fusiliers which was serving in the Ypres Salient in Belgium. He joined them on 20 April just as the German Army launched a massive attack intending to capture the Salient and take Ypres. On 22 April, the Germans launched the first ever poison gas attack on the northern part of the Salient. All the Allied Forces in the area, including Wilfrid’s Battalion, which was in the line in the vicinity of Gravenstafel, were under considerable pressure and forced back in a fighting retreat. Sometime between 24 and 29 April, and just a few days after arriving in Belgium, Wilfrid was killed in action and, apparently buried where he fell. Some reports indicate that he was seriously wounded on 25 April and died the next day.

Wilfrid’s older brother, John, was an officer on the General Staff of the British Expeditionary Force. He managed to pay a visit to Wilfrid’s Battalion H.Q. just a few days after his brother died to find out about his brother’s last hours.

There is still a measure of uncertainty as to when and where Wilfrid died and particularly what happened to his body. Officially, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records that he died on 27 April and is commemorated on the massive Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. His name can be found on Panel 8 of the memorial. The Menin Gate Memorial records the names of 54,595 men who died in the Ypres Salient up to and including 15 August, 1917 and who have no known grave.
However, among other details, CWGC also note that a wooden memorial cross to Wilfrid was in place at St. Julien Dressing Station Cemetery at some time during the war. This cemetery was not established until September, 1917, two and a half years after Wilfrid died and is some miles away from Gravenstafel where he fell. It passed into German hands in the Spring of 1918 and was badly damaged by shellfire in that summer.
St. Julien was finally retaken by the Belgian Army on 28 September that year, but there was no sign of Wilfrid’s wooden cross.

Wilfrid was posthumously awarded The British War and Victory Medals as well as the 1915 Star.

In carrying out the research for The Lost Men of Bishopthorpe, I found a number of men who were entitled to be remembered on our local memorial but for unknown reasons, were not commemorated there. Bishopthorpe Parish Council, in the person of their Chairman, Stewart Harrison, stepped up and agreed to have the memorial cleaned and add the names of these men. In October/November, 2018, eight names were added to the Memorial by Stonemasons Messrs. Burrows Davies Ltd. Wilfrid’s name was one of them. He is commemorated on a number of other memorials elsewhere in the country, but in particular, his details and photograph are included in the King’s Book of York Fallen Heroes, which is held in York Minster.

                                                                                         Adding the names to the memorial in 2018.

Remember them.

[For those who have a copy of The Lost Men of Bishopthorpe, I suggest that you may wish to print a copy of this article and insert it in the book.
Copies of the book are still available, price £10 + £2 p&p from:
Ken Haywood, 39 Acaster Lane, Bishopthorpe, YORK, YO23 2SA. Tel. 01904 704584.]

Ken Haywood



The Chocolate Letters: Christmas 1914

On Sunday 5 December at 14.00 (2 pm), Bishopthorpe resident Ken Haywood will be giving a talk at the York Army Museum in Tower Street, next to Clifford’s Tower.
The title of Ken’s talk is ‘The Chocolate Letters’.
At Christmas 1914, the Lord Mayor and the Sheriff of York sent a tin of chocolate to all York men who were serving with the Forces. Many men sent letters of thanks and those letters were retained and are now conserved in Explore at York.
Ken’s illustrated talk explores the writers and their letters which came from all ranks and from all over the world.
Tickets are free, but must be pre-booked – call 01904 461010 to book.

Sustrans: Improvements to the Solar System Way

The following message was received from Sustrans:


Using funding from the Department for Transport Sustrans are making changes to the Solar System Way to make it more accessible to a wider range of users and to create a more comfortable journey for all.


· Resurfacing and where possible widening the path

· Removing or redesigning barriers

· Improving signage along the section.

Due to the nature of the works route closures and diversions are expected to be in place periodically throughout the duration.

In order to ensure the new surface stays in good condition into the future it will be necessary to remove a number of trees to prevent root damage to the path. In addition, we are also managing “ash dieback” on this section which will involve felling a number of diseased ash trees which would otherwise become a danger to route-users. The majority of the tree works will be taking place between the bridge over the River Ouse and the access to the greenway from Vicarage Lane.

As the route is a valued wildlife corridor Sustrans is committed to ensuring that biodiversity is protected on the greenway and will use these works as an opportunity to maintain and enhance habitat through planting at least two trees for every tree felled; planting a variety of suitable native trees to diversify the woodland and where possible retaining felled timber on the site as dead wood habitat. We will also provide opportunities for the community to get involved in practical conservation activities.

We understand that this is a well-used and much-loved greenspace and apologise for any inconvenience caused but know that this short-term disruption will ensure that the greenway is made more accessible to all legitimate users and that improvements made will benefit users for many years to come.

This work is being carried out as a part of our “Paths for  Everyone” vision which looks to create a more inclusive National  Cycle Network to make active travel more accessible to people of all  ages and abilities.

If you would like to view our plans for the woodland on this section please visit:

For updates on route closures visit:,

For information about our Paths for Everyone vision visit:

Bishopthorpe Community Festival

Sunday 19th September – Main Street

Starting at 12 noon, Bishopthorpe Community Festival brings a ‘street party’ vibe to Main Street.

Stalls, street food and drink, music, rides, and entertainment give us a great opportunity to forget about the problems we’ve all had to endure for at least one day, support local businesses, and celebrate life in a great community.

Main Street will be closed to traffic so there’s plenty of room to wander around and explore what’s going on.

Fingers crossed for some good weather!

Meet Jack – Village Hall Performance

Mind Matters for Education and Falling Stars Theatre bring to you an interactive, fun and engaging performance for parents and primary aged children.

This performance follows the story of a boy called Jack and all the emotions that he experiences in a busy week.
Jack’s week ends with an explosion of feelings, the play flashes back to see what happened in Jack’s week to make him feel anxious and withdrawn. Football, school, family, friends have all contributed to Jack’s current state of mind and his refusal to talk about how he feels. Are you okay is a repeated question asked by other characters, to which Jack replies I’m fine!
The post-performance emotion workout will explore strategies for helping young people identify and talk about their feelings and consider ways to manage emotions.


At Mind Matters for Education (Dunnington based) we believe that identifying emotions and developing helpful coping strategies is key to helping children in these unusual times.

We want to let children know that its ok to feel all their emotions and it is also ok to feel overwhelmed. Our message is that ‘You will be ok; you can manage your emotions and build up skills to look after yourself and your mind!’


‘Meet Jack’ is going to be performed with an accompanying mini drama workshop in small York venues. We want children and parent/guardians to access our work and use it as a good starting point for conversations. Come along and see the performance!

The performance is touring in the following York Venues:
Sunday 27th June 4pm Poppleton Road Memorial Hall
Sunday 4th July 10.30am Stockton on forest Village Hall
Sunday 4th July 4pm Bishopthorpe Village Hall
Sunday 11th July 4pm Oaken Grove Community Centre, Haxby
Sunday 11th July 10.30am Copmanthorpe Sports and Recreation Centre

The production will be run in accordance with the current government guidance for performance venues and audience management.

Tickets are available at:

Box Office: 07816 269 690

“The children in school loved the video of ‘Meet Jack’ They were able to relate to the characters and talk about what had happened very coherently.” Year 2 Teacher Mrs.Elliott.

“It was Brilliant! We both really enjoyed it! You touched on everything that a child can feel….. Loved it!”  Year 2 Parent Mrs.Taylor. transport guru stands down

One of the original founders of, Ian Hodson, has decided to retire from editing the Local Travel section of the site.

Ian has performed this role from the very start of, but changing times and the way information is shared have forced him to re-think the value of this part of the site.

I’d like to thank Ian for all the time and effort he’s put into making a success, and hope he’ll continue to feed through snippets of information whenever he has anything to share.

Ian describes his reasoning in his own words in the message below:-

I have contributed local travel information to this site throughout its existence, but nowadays operators have made it very easy to obtain accurate, up-to-date information at source. This is therefore my last contribution.

Local bus information is available via or from individual operators, e.g. who also have various apps indicating next bus arrivals and allowing on-line ticket purchase.

Train information is available on      Again, apps are offered for current info and for booking.

I am very grateful to Ian Keeton who operates  and has tolerated my  ignorance of matters technical through the years. Thank you, Ian.

Good travelling!

Ian Hodson

Bishopthorpe Library Set to Re-open Soon

Great news at last.
Bishopthorpe Library will re-open from Monday 12 April.
The self-isolation rules when using the library will be the same as before the third lockdown, so we won’t have to learn another way to visit.
Unfortunately, this means that we can’t have any events or even story times for little ones n the foreseeable future, although Sonia hopes that they may be able to have a story time in the garden at some point.
When the library reopens, please call in; even if only to say hello.