‘Get To Know Your York’

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48/50 Stonegate Y01 6AS

Demolition work in 1939 behind Nos.48 and 50 Stonegate revealed two walls of York’s oldest house. It is unusual for minor domestic architecture from the 12th century to survive, particularly in city centres. Timber-framed houses from this period have been either completely replaced or substantially altered over the centuries; a handful of houses built from stone have proved more enduring.

The remaining two walls, built from dressed magnesian limestone, are viewed from what was originally the inside of the house. Set back around 14m from the shopfronts on Stonegate, the house comprised an undercroft used for storage and, above this, a first-floor hall lit by windows in the south-west wall. One of these windows, with two arched lights divided by a shaft with moulded base and water-leaf capital, survives relatively intact. Window glass was first developed by the Romans for use in important public buildings and prestigious villas. It remained a luxury in the medieval period and the Norman House windows had only timber shutters. A rebate for shutters can be seen on the inside of the window and one hinge survives. Excavations in 1939 found that the floor of the undercroft was approximately one metre below the current level of the courtyard and the foundations of three central columns were discovered. These supported the timber floor of the upper hall. A setback in the masonry indicates the original position of the first floor. There was also evidence of the base of a garderobe, a medieval toilet. This was a closet off the main hall on the first floor, corbelled out from the main wall. Waste would drop to the level of the undercroft into a cess pit.

Jewish community in York

No records of the house survive prior to 1376 so the early tenants of the house are unknown. Only the wealthiest citizens could afford to build in stone. York was experiencing an economic boom in the 12th and 13th centuries and amongst the richest men in England at that time were Jewish financiers. The remaining Norman stone urban houses in England are sometimes associated with Jewish owners as they had the necessary wealth and also required security from possible anti-Semitic attacks or robbery. There are two Norman houses on Steep Hill in Lincoln, one formerly called Aaron the Jew’s House – now known as the Norman House – and the Jew’s House. The surviving window in the York house is almost identical to one in the Norman House in Lincoln so it is likely that the two dwellings were constructed at the same time.

The Jewish communities in York and Lincoln were closely linked. Aaron of Lincoln was a Jewish financier specialising in lending money for the building of abbeys and monasteries and was said to be the wealthiest man in England, richer than the King himself. He had a national network of agents including Benedict and Joceus in York. On Aaron’s death in 1186, Benedict and Joceus became the leading money lenders in England. The 12th-century historian and chronicler William of Newburgh, a canon of the Augustinian priory at Bridlington, wrote, ‘with profuse expense they [Benedict and Joceus] had built houses of the largest extent in the midst of the city, which might be compared to royal palaces and there they lived in abundance and luxury almost regal, like two princes of their own people’.

Clifford’s Tower massacre

Clifford’s Tower, all that remains of the Norman castle

The two men would pay a severe price for this ostentatious flaunting of wealth. William of Newburgh recounts that, in 1189, the two Jews travelled to London to attend the coronation of Richard I. Resentment to the imposition of taxes to fund the Crusades had been growing and there was opposition to the presence of Jews at the coronation. The situation came to a head at the coronation ceremony and anti-Semitic riots broke out in the streets of London. Benedict was wounded and died of his injuries whilst fleeing back to York. Due to their importance to the economy of England, Jews benefited from royal protection and when Richard I left for France in December 1189, he ordered that they should be left in peace.

However, the king’s command was not heeded and, in March 1190, rioting broke out in King’s Lynn, Norwich, Stamford and Lincoln. In York, Richard de Malbis (Richard Malebisse – mala bestia or “evil beast”), a debtor of Benedict, incited the mob in York and led an assault on the Jew’s house in Spen Lane. Benedict’s family was slaughtered, his treasure stolen, the house set on fire and the loan agreements publicly burned. Led by Joceus, the remaining Jews sought protection in the castle. They were besieged by an angry mob and, on 16 March, fearing capture and forced baptism, they committed mass suicide. It is thought that around 150 Jews died.

When the king learned of the massacre, he sent his chancellor, William de Longchamp, to York to punish the rioters. The Sheriff of Yorkshire was dismissed along with the Constable of the Castle; Richard Malebisse fled to Scotland and his lands were confiscated by the Crown; heavy fines were inflicted on the other ringleaders. By 1240, the Jewish community in York had been re-established and Leo Episcopus and Aaron of York, both residents of the city, were said to be amongst the six richest Jews in England. However, the turbulent history of Jews in England would continue and, in 1290, the entire Jewish population was expelled from the country by Edward I.

Prebends to York Minster

By 1376, the Norman House was the home of the Prebend of Ampleforth, one of the 36 prebends of York Minster. The system of prebends to cathedrals was introduced sometime after 1150. A prebend is a canon of the cathedral supported by revenues from a specific ecclesiastical estate. Income varied and some prebends were extremely wealthy. The manor of Ampleforth was granted to the Archbishop of York in the 11th century and this supported the Prebend of Ampleforth. An Anglo-Danish chief, Ulf, transferred several manors, including Ampleforth, to the Dean and Chapter of York in the 11th century. As a form of transfer deed, he presented the cathedral with a ceremonial drinking horn inscribed with the words “Ulf, a prince in Western Deira, gave this horn with his lands”. A rare survival from the 11th century, the horn is an elephant tusk carved with Islamic style figures which may originate from workshops in Salerno in Italy. The horn disappeared during the Civil War (1642-51) but was, later, returned to York Minster where it is on display today.

The house continued to be used by clergy attached to York Minster but later development surrounded the house and, by the eighteenth century, the Norman House had mostly disappeared until the two remaining walls were discovered in 1939.


YAYAS, Report,1951–52, pp36–39

“Houses: Stonegate”, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central (London, 1981), pp. 220-235. British History Online – www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/york/vol5/pp220-235 (accessed 12 April 2018).

Jewish Heritage Walk, York Civic Trust, www.yorkcivictrust.org.uk/heritage/walks-in-york/

York Jewish History Trail, www.historyofyork.org.uk (York, 2012)

© Richard Wilcock

photos by Rachel Semlyen

13 Stonegate, York YO1 8AN

No. 13 Stonegate, is a 15th century house with additions of the 16th and 17th centuries. At an unknown date a wooden female figure was attached at ground-floor level to the house on its corner with Little Stonegate. Usually now referred to as a “ship’s figurehead”, close inspection shows that the bare-breasted lady – anatomically endangered by passing traffic – has only one arm and one feathered wing and is much more likely to have come from not the prow but the stern of a sailing ship, probably having been attached to the side of a projecting quarter gallery. This female figure – is she arising from the sea like a mermaid or is she a protecting angel? – dates from the mid- or late seventeenth century, a time when formerly open quarter galleries at the ship’s stern were now being enclosed and had windows added.

It was always thought that women, bare-breasted or not, would bring bad luck if they were aboard a ship, so why use them so often for decoration? Sailors believed that the gods of the sea would be so taken with such images that they would calm the wind and waves and give the ship safe passage. Just why this stern figure was removed we shallprobably never know. It could have been that the ship had merely come to the end of its days or was, perhaps, too large to enter port with the silting up of the River Ouse and was then dismantled. We can only speculate.

Haven for ships

York grew up at the junction of two rivers: the Ouse and the Foss, and thus was readily supplied with transport and communications links to the outside world via the Humber Estuary and the North Sea. The Romans built jetties here, with wharves and warehouses on both rivers. In the eighth century, the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin confirmed York as being built by the Romans ‘to be a merchant-town of land and sea’ and ‘a haven for the ships from distant ports’. A century later, further developments came with the Vikings whose larger ships and skills in navigation opened new routes, allowing York to export its own timber and import goods from as far away as China. Archaeological finds from Viking York include amber and furs from Scandinavia, silk from China and the Middle East, copper alloy pins from Ireland, a cowrie shell from the Red Sea and pottery from Germany.

York continued as an important trading port after the 11th century Norman Conquest and by the 14th century the city was England’s richest city after London and the Merchant Adventurers its richest guild. York’s merchants exported wool, grain and cloth to Northern Europe and continued to import luxury items from overseas such as olive oil, figs and raisins from Spain. By the late-16th century, however, larger sea-going ships could no longer navigate York’s rivers partly due to their greater size and partly due to the increasing build-up of sediment in the Ouse. Only smaller, lighter boats could now reach York and, as a result, Selby and Hull began to assume much of York’s trading importance. As the wool trade of the West Riding increased, the shorter land route to these ports became preferable, as did the later canal route via the Rivers Aire and Calder. The Corporation of York was under pressure to act and, after much debate, Naburn Lock was finally built in 1757 and the river Foss canalized, but the river trade failed to revive.

Now the River Ouse is primarily used for pleasure and recreation. It is one of the key attractions in York’s tourist trade with leisure cruisers, canoes and rowing boats plying the routes once used by the city’s trading ships. Many of the wharves and jetties have gone giving place to restaurants, cafés and pubs and paved riverside walks provide a welcome escape from the bustle of the city.

Master woodcarver and stonemason Dick Reid OBE restored the figure on behalf of the York Civic Trust in 1978.


L.G. Carr Laughton, Old Ship Figure-heads and Sterns (originally published in 1925, reprinted New York, 2011)

Baron F. Duckham, The Yorkshire Ouse, The History of a River Navigation (Newton Abbot, 1967)

Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave: The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (London, 1995)

‘Houses: Stonegate’, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central (London, 1981), pp.220-235. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/york/vol5/pp220-235


© Dinah Tyszka


by York Civic Trust

(for potential new YCT members)

Friday 21 June 2019
From 9.00am—4.00pm

St Crux Hall, The Shambles, York

This is an opportunity for people interested in York – its present, past and future – to learn about the history of York, as well as a chance to chat with volunteers and learn about the events, activities and membership benefits of York Civic Trust, whilst supporting us by purchasing refreshments, homemade cakes and sandwiches.

Visit our displays at St Crux Hall to book on a walk and chat to York Civic Trust volunteers.

The 2019 walk schedule can be downloaded Get To Know Your Your Walk Details leaflet.

There is no pre-booking for these walks except on the day at St Crux Hall.
As walks will be limited to manageable numbers, please arrive early to avoid possible disappointment.

Help us to promote this event by downloading the 2019 A4 Get To Know Your York poster.

Get To Know Your Your Walk Details leaflet or collect a leaflet detailing walk times and descriptions at the Reception area of Fairfax House, Castlegate, York, YO1 9RN.

We hope you enjoy the walks and marquee displays, and are tempted to become a member of the York Civic Trust

The purpose of the weekend is to give the opportunity for members of the public to discover more about York Civic Trust and the heritage of the city of York through guided walking tours.  Priority will be given to non-members of YCT.

Plaque in Library Square, Museum Street, YO1 7DS

The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York (AVG) was formed in 1951 as a part of the city’s contribution to the celebration of the Festival of Britain. Although the main site of the Festival was in London, at a site on the South Bank, the festival was a nationwide affair with exhibitions in many towns and cities throughout Britain. The City of York Council’s librarian suggested the idea of using knowledgeable citizens to show both the people of York and visitors around their historic city. This idea was quickly supported by the council and a public meeting called to promote the idea. A group was formed at the very first meeting and a walking tour devised.

The plaque is to the left York Library’s entrance in Library Square

Over the years, as more and more tourists began to arrive, so more and more walks were planned, until now there are between 80 and 90 voluntary guides, mostly retired people, with a detailed knowledge of the city. In 2017 the Association guided 13,300 visitors to the city around their tour which has remained virtually unaltered since 1951. The AVG trains its own guides following a five-day course culminating in an oral exam. There are tours of the city every day of the year except Christmas Day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a third on summer evenings. They all leave from outside York Art Gallery in Exhibition Square, last two to two and a half hours and are free of charge. The standard tour starts from Exhibition Square and ends in the Shambles, looking on the way at Roman fortifications, St Mary’s Abbey, King’s Manor, Bootham and Monk Bars, the Treasurer’s House and St William’s College. The AVG tours do not include the Minster which has its own guides.

For more information visit www.avgyork.co.uk

Our sincere thanks to Barrie Ferguson, Secretary of AVG, for information about the voluntary guides.

Photos by Rachel Semlyen

© Dinah Tyszka

Heslington East, University of York

The new University of York campus at Heslington East has a large lake and extensive areas of grassland managed as […]

Micklegate II

Last year Darrell Buttery began a new series of walks looking at famous names connected with different areas of the […]

Plaque at 89 The Mount, York YO24 1AX

Saint Stephen’s Orphanage was founded around 1870 by Lady Harriet, wife of Augustus Duncombe, Dean of York Minster (after whom Duncombe Place was named), her two daughters, Mrs Harcourt and Mrs Egerton, together with the Revd James Douglas, curate at Kirby Misperton. It was named after Saint Stephen who was one of the seven deacons charged by the apostles to minister to widows, orphans and the poor.

The orphanage was originally housed in Precentor’s Court and provided shelter for up to 13 female orphans under the supervision of Miss Mathew and Mrs Blencowe. The accommodation proved to be too small so two houses were purchased in Trinity Lane, off Micklegate, in 1872.

Rules of the establishment

  1. The annual payment will be £9. But in urgent cases, a girl from York, or its immediate neighbourhood may be admitted on payment of an entrance fee of £5. Clothing as undermentioned will be required in each case: 2 night gowns, 3 chemises, 3 pairs of coloured fitted stockings, 2 flannel petticoats, 1 pair of slippers, 1 pair of boots (strong), 2 frocks and 6 pinafores (Holland).
  2. Age of admission, from 3 to 10.
  3. No girl afflicted with any such physical or mental infirmity as would be a decided obstacle to placing her out at the end of the term can be admitted.
  4. No girl can be allowed to visit any friends, or be visited by any, except those of whom the Superintendents approve.
  5. Each girl must be provisionally admitted for a month, in order that the Superintendents may decide whether she is likely to profit by the care which would be bestowed upon her throughout her term, so as to become a useful member of the commonwealth; as, otherwise, it is not right to expend upon her the funds of the Institution.
  6. Visiting days will be appointed (as occasion may require) which will be made known to the friends of the girls.
  7. Anyone placing a girl in the Home must promise not to attempt her removal without the full consent of the Superintendents or in any way to encourage disobedience.
  8. In ordinary cases a girl will be retained until after her Confirmation, the time for which will be determined by the Visitor.

It was expected that, under Rule 1, each girl should be paid for at the rate of £9 per annum but payments at this rate were only received for about three out of eight children. In 1872 there were two Visitors to undertake the requirements of Rule 8 when the girls entered into domestic service. The two superintendents moved with them into Trinity Lane but they had to be dismissed for their deception and indulgence in eating and drinking – for their evenings were spent in a manner unbecoming to teachers of sobriety.

Worsley family funding

By 1874 the finances of the home were in difficulty and debts of £409 15s 0d had arisen. The increased number of girls meant extra equipment and alterations were needed for the premises. This put still further pressure on the finances, which meant a possible closure of the home. Fortunately Major William Cayley Worsley of Hovingham, his wife and some of his friends, formed a committee of management which came to the rescue and provided a loan of £125 until a legacy of a further £660 came to fruition. To save money, the number of girls was reduced to 18. The involvement of the Worsley family continued and they served on the Management Committee until shortly before the home was closed.

A new superintendent, Miss Mary Arlidge, was appointed in 1876 and by 1877 the committee believed that the orphanage was now established on a permanent basis, especially as a bazaar held in the Guildhall had raised £815 16s 9d to support the 26 children squeezed into the home. Fortunately, 25 Trinity Lane became vacant and was purchased to provide a laundry, bathroom, larger dormitories and a playground. By the following year there was a further increase in numbers so 27 Trinity Lane was purchased, enabling an additional dining room, dormitory and an isolation room to be added.

By 1879, 31 girls were living in Trinity Lane and, although there was enough room for them, there were insufficient funds available. The number of girls needing a home continued to expand so, in 1881, 21 and 23 Trinity Lane were purchased. By 1885 there were 49 girls in residence of whom 23 paid no fees while the others were supported by an annual fee of £12 each.

Daily dinners

In the 1880s, as well as providing a daily dinner for the girls, other children from all over the city was sent in by subscribers. The meal was provided free as their parents could not afford anything. Some visitors describe the scene at dinner time: ‘We discovered a passage lined with children of all sizes and ages; about 300, we were told, all waiting their turn to go into the dining room, which held about 50 at a time. We were invited to go up and see the children, it really was a sight to gladden one’s heart, in these days of sore distress and want, to see so many happy faces enjoying the basin of good Irish stew, to be followed by a slice of roley pudding.’ The stew was made of 36 lbs of meat and between 112 to 140 lbs of potatoes. Together with other vegetables, this made a sufficient quantity for 200 children at a cost of 21/4d per child. The food was cooked by the girls as part of their training. By 1887 10,255 dinners were being provided each year.

Seaside holidays

A summer holiday home in the country called Wood Knoll was loaned to the orphanage by Sir William C. Worsley from 1881 for his lifetime to help improve the health of the girls. Unfortunately Lady Worsley died in 1883 followed by Sir William’s death in 1897, both having watched over the welfare of St Stephen’s for 18 years. A new holiday home was donated by Lady Londesborough, Scarborough House in Scarborough, and the children went by rail to the seaside for at least one month each year until the outbreak of the war in 1914.

Tragedy struck the orphanage in August 1910 when Miss Arlidge suddenly died at the age of 55 having been its superintendent for 34 years without remuneration. She had devoted her life entirely to the care and welfare of the girls in her charge.

Evelyn’s lectures

Dr William A. Evelyn became involved when he married and moved to 24 (now 61) Micklegate in 1885. In 1910 he was asked to review the fire appliances, following which he worked for the home for the next 22 years, becoming its medical officer in 1920 and vice-chairman of the management committee in 1926. In order to raise funds, he prepared a series of five lectures with lantern slides given in St Mary’s Hall, Marygate, between 1 and 29 November 1911, entitled ‘Walks through Old York’ which would be of interest to those who were keen on preserving York’s buildings. Although the hall was not full, £104 was collected for the orphanage. These lectures continued and in 1917 took £115. In 1919 the lectures were held in the larger Tempest Anderson Hall where admission was five shillings and £166 was raised. In 1921 it was £104 and in 1923 was £170.

Move to The Mount

89 The Mount, once the home of St Stephen’s Orphanage. Now Hotel du Vin

At a management meeting at the end of 1919 it was reported that the state of the buildings in Trinity Lane had deteriorated in recent years and were no longer suited to the care of young children. It was proposed that a house which was for sale at 89 The Mount, on the corner of Scarcroft Road, be investigated as a possible home. Within two weeks the house had been purchased for £4,500. The cost of converting the house was £429 and the move to the new home began. Whilst this was being done the children were sent away to a holiday home at Filey. As the committee now carried a debt of £5,000, it sought ways to increase its revenue. It calculated that the annual cost of keeping a child was approaching £40 a year and decided to ask ladies who supported individual children financially to increase their contribution to £35.

By early 1922 the number of girls had fallen to 28 but Ministry of Health recognition was achieved in the same year, a classification which authorised the home to receive children from Boards of Guardians. Unfortunately this did not lead to an increase in the number of residents which remained fairly constant for the next two years, so it was agreed to offer places to York City Council when corporation children’s homes were full. Four years later requests for places were received from Boards of Guardians at Leeds and South Shields, a development which again did not lead to any significant increase in numbers. Occasionally children were now being sent out from the home for adoption, a measure which further depleted numbers.

Grants and donations

The expenses of running the home in 1922 were £1,752, but the income was only £1,620 which resulted in a loss, and this continued in the following year until Lord Grimthorpe offered to cover the deficit. The home continued to run at a loss for a number of years and was supported by grants and donations from a number of organisations. In 1926 Dr Evelyn was elected as vice-chairman and Mrs Frank Terry was invited to join the committee. Half the Trinity Lane houses were sold in 1927 to the Ideal Laundry next door for £1,000 and, gradually over the following years, the deficit was reduced to £735 by 1931. Throughout the 1930s many support groups were active in raising funds by various means.

Unfortunately Lady Susan Worsley died in 1933, having served the home generously for over twenty years. Dr Evelyn died in 1935, having helped run the home for more than 25 years when he was active as a committee member, a fundraiser and the medical officer. In 1936 Sir William Henry Worsley died. They were succeeded by Sir William Arthur Worsley, and it was Lady Joyce Worsley who took over the chairmanship when Sir William left for military service in 1939. 1935 was the Diamond Jubilee of the move of the home from Trinity Lane, which coincided with the Silver Jubilee of King George V. It was a time of financial crisis for the institution, so they decided to sell, for building purposes, the paddock that belonged to the home, which raised £1,600.

Wartime measures

At the time of the Munich crisis in the autumn of 1938, trenches were dug in the garden as an air-raid precaution but these were filled in again two months later. Sir William Worsley offered a house at Hovingham if evacuation of the home became necessary. He also made a successful radio appeal which raised £227 and attracted a lot of publicity and support. When the Second World War broke out in September 1939 the children were evacuated to the home of Mrs Stapleton at Myton-on-Swale. There the hostess was paid five shillings per week for each child and member of staff. For several months the children enjoyed a different lifestyle in country surroundings where they attended the village school and were able to watch milking, butter churning and shoeing at the blacksmiths. In the meantime the potting shed at the home was converted into an air-raid shelter and bunks were fitted with anti-splinter netting applied to the windows. Soon after this was completed the girls returned to York and, when enemy bombs fell on the nearby Bar Convent, the girls sang hymns in the area shelter.

Post-war decline

After the war ended, things gradually returned to normal. Fundraising was still an issue; the age for leaving was raised to 16; Miss Govan, a new matron, was appointed and she served for 22 years; the Sunday services moved from St Clement’s in Scarcroft Road to Holy Trinity in Micklegate; the National Spastic Society agreed to use a vacant wing of the home; a hostel at Rawcliffe Holt was set up for older girls to live under supervision; in the 1950’s children were inoculated against poliomyelitis; in 1957 there were 15 girls and 10 boys; Miss Katherine Worsley took an active interest in the home, before she married HRH the Duke of Kent in 1961.

In the 1960s there was a steady decline in numbers and liaison meetings with Blue and Grey Coat Schools led to their amalgamation with St Stephens on 14 August 1969 and the formation of York Children’s Trust. Thus ended the life of the home after almost 100 years, providing a caring home life for orphans in the early days of the venture, and for children with difficult home circumstances latterly. The building was sold to Shepherd Building Group in 1976 and in more recent times became the Hotel du Vin.



Hugh Murray Doctor Evelyn’s York (York, 1983, published by William Sessions in association with YAYAS}

W.B. Taylor Blue Coat Boys and Grey Coat Girls: The Blue and Grey Coat Schools and St Stephen’s Home of York 1705-1983 (York, 1997, published by the William Sessions Book Trust)


© Geoffrey Geddes and Helen Hale

photo: Rachel Semlyen


Plaque between St William’s College and York Minster

The Queen’s Path plaque commemorates the distribution of the Royal Maundy by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in York Minster on 30 March 1972 and again in her Diamond Jubilee Year on 5 April 2012. Carried out on the Thursday of Holy Week – Maundy Thursday – the ceremony of the distribution of alms and the washing of the feet of beggars, in imitation of Christ washing the feet of His disciples, by the Sovereign is of great antiquity. It can be traced back in England with certainty to the thirteenth century and there are continuous records of the Distribution having been made from the reign of King Edward 1 (1239-1307). The first recorded Royal Distribution was at Knaresborough, North Yorkshire by King John in 1210. The Service derives its name from the Latin word mandatum (a commandment) when Christ at the Last Supper commanded his followers to love one another. Though the act of washing the feet seems to have been discontinued in about 1730, the Lord High Almoner and his assistants are still girded with linen towels in remembrance and carry the traditional nosegays of sweet herbs.

Maundy recipients

From the fifteenth century the number of recipients has been related to the years of the Sovereign’s life. At one time recipients were required to be of the same sex as the Sovereign but since the eighteenth century they have numbered as many men and women as the Sovereign has years of age. Recipients are now pensioners selected because of the Christian duty they have rendered to the Church and the community.

The location of the plaque on Queen’s Path from the Minster to St William’s College

In Diamond Jubilee Year of 2012 the Royal Maundy Recipients – 86 men and 86 women, the number reflecting the age in years of Her Majesty – were chosen from each of the 43 Dioceses of England plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, thus drawing together members of the Christian congregations from every part of the United Kingdom during the very special occasion of Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Year. Usually Maundy recipients are drawn from one diocese each year.

Symbolic gifts

The gifts which are handed to recipients are symbolic. There are two purses: the red purse contains a nominal allowance for clothing and provisions, formerly given in kind and a payment for the redemption of the royal gown; the white purse contains, in Maundy coins, silver pennies, twopences, threepences and fourpences, as many pence as the Sovereign has years of age. Maundy coins are legal tender. The Sovereign walks round to hand the gifts to each recipient individually as they remain in their allotted places as part of the symbolic act of duty rather than recipients walking towards the Sovereign at the front of the church. The Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeoman of the Guard also plays an important part in the Service, carrying the six alms dishes dating from the reign of King Charles II. This is the oldest Military Corps existing, having been created in 1495 by King Henry VII.

In earlier times the Ceremony was observed wherever the Sovereign was in residence. For many years the Maundy Gifts were distributed in the old Chapel Royal in Whitehall but from 1890 to 1952 the Service was held at Westminster Abbey except for the Coronation year of 1937 when it was held at St Paul’s Cathedral. Apart from Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, Canterbury and York are the only places to hold the Service on more than one occasion.



Office for The Royal Maundy, 5 April 2012, York Minster, (London, 2012)


© Pat Hill