Plaque on the wall of the White Horse, 6 Bootham, YO30 7BL

Site of the plaque at 6 Bootham
Looking down Bootham with the plaque on the left

As old as the Roman fortress, Bootham is the route from the north and the Forest of Galtres leading to Bootham Bar which is located on the Roman gateway – porta principalis dextra. Roman remains are visible under glass to the side of today’s gate and archaeological exploration has located the Roman road within and outside the Bar. The Bar itself has been much altered and repaired and the earliest visible stones are Norman. Bootham terminated at the barbican projecting out from the Bar. Similar to the Walmgate Bar barbican, it was removed in 1832 partly to allow access to the new St Leonard’s Place. Along the south-west side of the street is the high wall of St Mary’s Abbey, built by the Abbot after a disturbance in 1262 when a town mob killed some monks. The Abbot’s house, now the King’s Manor, must be imagined as enclosed in a precinct facing away from Bootham. It could only be approached through the gatehouse on Marygate or from the abbey’s wharf on the River Ouse. A ditch ran between the city wall and abbey-precinct wall, now the lane running alongside the King’s Manor towards Museum Gardens.

Bootham Bar

A document dated between 1145 and 1161 names the route as Buδum meaning “at the booths”, an Old Norse word. It indicates that there were stalls and small houses for craftsmen on this major road northwards, not licensed by the city authorities and likely to be selling to travellers. City archives contain records of perennial conflict with St Mary’s Abbey concerning river access and the status of the suburb of Bootham. In 1298 the paving of the streets was in utter disrepair and the air was corrupted by pigsties and dunghills in the streets and lanes. In 1354 it was agreed that the city owned Bootham and its associated rental income; in a reciprocal agreement, the abbey retained access to Bootham whilst the city was allowed access to Marygate.

Sir Arthur Ingram (c.1565-1642)

The modern street retains little evidence of the medieval period due to the depredations of the Civil War, particularly the Parliamentarian siege of 1644. Lord Newcastle gave up his outer defences on 6 June, withdrew all the Royalist troops and inhabitants into the city, and set fire to the suburbs, including Bootham, in order that they should not provide shelter for Parliamentary soldiers’ operations against the walls. However, the fire did not destroy the brick-built almshouses, Ingram’s Hospital, which remain on the south-west of Bootham. Sir Arthur Ingram acquired the land to house 10 widows and a chaplain in 1630, a time when he was unpopular because of his deforestation of the Forest of Galtres. Some of the commoners who protested about losing grazing rights lived in Bootham Ward as Galtres Forest extended right up to the city walls.

Ingram’s origins were humble; his father was from Thorpe on the Hill, near Leeds and had made his fortune as a tallow chandler in London. Starting out as a merchant and trader, Arthur Ingram soon gained a reputation as a ruthless investor and, in March 1613, he had sufficient wealth to purchase the post of Secretary and Keeper of the Signet of the Council of the North which he held until 1633. Between 1616 and 1623 he built a large house on the ruined Archbishop’s Palace as his York residence. King Charles I was Ingram’s guest in this house during the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642. Extending his property holdings in Yorkshire, Ingram also acquired two estates in the Forest of Galtres: Huntington in 1612 and Sheriff Hutton in 1615 where he built a new lodge (1619-24). In 1622, he purchased Temple Newsam, near Leeds, and spent the next 20 years rebuilding the house as his principal residence. However, he died in 1642 before the new house was complete.

Forest of Galtres

The Forest of Galtres was established by the Norman kings of England and, in 1361, extended to around 100,000 acres containing 60 villages. In addition to providing the king with the sport of deer hunting, the forest supplied York with timber, purchased from the Crown, for building at a time of economic expansion. By the 17th century, however, disafforestation was becoming a problem as the Crown sold off land to boost the king’s declining finances. Around 1629, Sir Arthur Ingram reached an agreement with the king for the disafforestation of his Huntington estate within the forest and also for the enclosure of 600 acres of common land at Earswick. This allowed him to cultivate the land, paying rent to the Crown, compensating for lost grazing rights with enclosed allotments. There were protests from commoners. York Corporation maintained its citizens’ rights before the Privy Council, but Ingram formally won approval in February 1629. He then petitioned to disafforest the whole 7,600 acres of the Forest of Galtres for arable development which was granted. This proceeded under Exchequer supervision, taking until 1635, when forest law and commoners’ rights were finally ended.

Building the hospital from 1630 to 1632, prominently outside York’s gate, may have been a way for Ingram to make a concession to the corporation, diverting further dissent about Ingram’s Galtres enclosures. Primarily built of brick with stone dressings, the construction of the almshouses was designed to impress. On either side of a central tower, behind which is the chapel, are five almshouses. The centrepiece of the composition is an impressive Norman doorway thought to be originally from Holy Trinity Priory, Micklegate. Completed around 1632, the hospital did suffer some damage in 1644 and the account for repairs in 1649 is still in existence. The property was purchased by Ings Trust (now York Conservation Trust) in 1957 and, in 1959, was converted from almshouses into four modern flats under the name of Ingram House.

In the 18th century, Bootham became one of York’s most desirable addresses and impressive Georgian townhouses line the street. One of York’s earliest Georgian terraces, built in the 1740s, remains at 39-45 Bootham. It was also chosen as the location for a famous venture into mental health when subscriptions were sought from rich and poor to build York Lunatic Asylum, later Bootham Park Hospital. John Carr created the magnificent building in its park from 1772-7 and inmates from all over the county began to arrive.

A landmark on the east side of the street is Bootham School, founded elsewhere in York by Quakers in 1823. Its main building was originally built in 1804 for Sir Richard Vanden Bempde Johnstone, but the school has absorbed Nos 43-59 along Bootham. The importance of the road for travellers continued into later years; the 1852 Ordnance Survey map shows a smithy very near Bootham Bar, on the corner of Bootham Row, for fixing horse shoes. Bootham ends at St Olave’s Road on the west and continues northwards as Clifton.


An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 4, Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse (London, 1975). British History Online, [accessed 1 September 2018]

‘Parishes: Huntingdon’, A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 2, ed. William Page (London, 1923), pp145-150. British History Online, [accessed 2 September 2018].

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

Anthony Upton, Sir Arthur Ingram c.1565-1642, A study of the origins of an English landed family (Oxford, 1961)


© Margaret Scott

Photos by Rachel Semlyen for the Civic Trust