Our Lady’s Row

60-72 Goodramgate YO1 7LF

Possibly referring to the Viking king Guthrum who ruled the Danelaw from York in the 9th century, Goodramgate runs north to south from Monk Bar. The street is first recorded in 1177-81 and, despite some losses over the centuries due to redevelopment, it still contains some of York’s finest timber-framed medieval houses. Goodramgate is mainly in the parish of Holy Trinity and the churchyard used to border the street, although the church itself is now hidden from the street by a row of tenements. A deed was granted in 1316 for the construction of a range of houses, originally 128ft long and 18ft wide, along the boundary of the churchyard with the street. Rents from the tenements were to be used to endow a chantry of the Blessed Virgin at Holy Trinity and the row of houses became known as Our Lady’s Row. A chantry is an endowment founded for a priest to celebrate masses for the soul of the founder and the deed also allowed for the construction of a separate house for the chantry priest in the churchyard.

The southern section of the range is the best preserved although the end house was demolished in the 18th century to make way for an arched gateway leading to the churchyard. Originally these would have been simple two-storey cottages with one room on the ground floor and one above. A register of rentals dating from the 16th century records nine dwellings which means that two of the cottages were larger, each occupying two of the 11 bays of the building. The northern end of the range has seen the most alteration. Sometime before 1784, John Lund rebuilt the second and third bays from the north end in brick adding a third storey and, in the early 19th century, the adjoining end house was similarly increased in height and extended, becoming the Noah’s Ark public house by 1878. Between 1796 and 1819, another public house, the Hawk’s Crest, occupied two bays at the south end of the range.

Jettied construction

The external appearance of Our Lady’s Row has been altered over the centuries with the introduction of shop windows on the ground floor and the plastering over of the originally exposed timber framing. Glass in windows only became common in lower-status houses in England in the early 17th century and the Yorkshire sliding sash windows mostly date from the 18th century. Like many of the medieval houses in York, most famously in the Shambles, the upper storey of Our Lady’s Row on the street elevation is jettied, one of the earliest examples of this type of construction in England. Jetty derives from the Old French word jetee or getee, a projecting part of a building, a structure “thrown out” – jeter. The origins of this building method are unclear but it has several benefits: it provides for additional floor space on the upper storeys in crowded medieval city centres; the overhang protects the lower walls of the house from the weather and also provides some shelter for pedestrians; and it has structural advantages, strengthening the timber framing and distributing loads more evenly.

Now a Grade I listed building, Our Lady’s Row is a remarkable survival; in 1827 a proposal to demolish the range of houses to once more open up Holy Trinity Church to Goodramgate was, fortunately, quashed, although the chantry priest’s house which, at the time, was very dilapidated was pulled down. In recent years, part of the upper storey collapsed into the street in December 2015 and, in 2017, the houses were put on English Heritage’s Buildings at Risk Register; a passing vehicle had hit the building – a frequent problem with jettied houses in city centres – revealing the parlous state of the exposed structure. However, the matter was resolved following negotiations with the building’s owner and repairs carried out to English Heritage’s satisfaction.

Higher-status houses

York Conservation Trust purchased No.60 Goodramgate in 2001 and owns several other historic houses in the street. The higher-status houses are on the east side of the thoroughfare. Nos.43 and 45 were acquired by Cuthbert Morrell in 1931-2 and were transferred into the ownership of the trust in 1957. No.45 is an impressive three-storey house dating from the late 15th/early 16th century with jettied upper storeys and expressive timber framing which was exposed in a restoration undertaken in 1929 by architects Brierley and Rutherford. There are oriel windows on the first floor; the dormer windows were added in 1929 although there is no attic floor.

Nos.49 and 51 were also acquired by Cuthbert Morrell in 1931-2 and restored by Brierley and Rutherford. No.51 is behind Nos. 47 and 49 which face on to the street. Its main elevation faces north on to a courtyard. Known as Wealden Hall, due to its form of construction which is rarely found outside Kent, it was built in the late 15th/early 16th century. The house would have been built for a very high-status merchant. Wealden Hall houses have a large central hall open to the roof flanked by two, jettied, two-storey ranges. The central hall of No.51 was reinstated by Brierley and Rutherford, clearing away later alterations and additions, and many other original features were re-created. Windows to the courtyard would have been unglazed and there were no windows on the south elevation due to site constraints.

Sources

‘Houses: Goodramgate-High Ousegate’, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central (London, 1981), pp135-148. British History Online, www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/york/vol5/pp135-148 [accessed 2 August 2018]

 

© Richard Wilcock