10 October 2023

Bishopthorpe Palace
near York: home of
the Archbishops of York
for almost 800 years

Bishopthorpe Palace on the banks of the River Ouse is the official residence of the Archbishop of York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

One afternoon last week, we took the 3 or 4 km journey from York, where we were staying off Bishopthorpe Road, south to the suburban village of Bishopthorpe, to see Bishopthorpe Palace, the official residence of the Archbishop of York, to see the village churches and pubs, and to walk along the banks of the River Ouse.

Bishopthorpe Palace has been the official residence of the Archbishops of York since 1241, apart from 10 years during the Cromwellian era from 1650 until the Restoration in 1660. The Palace is set in a wooded, rural area, 5 km south of York, on the bank of the River Ouse. It is a Grade I listed building and has a gatehouse, stables, brewhouse and brewster’s cottage.

The village is named in the Domesday Book and referred to as Torp, Thorpe or Badetorps in various translations. It was known as Thorp-super-Usam or Thorpe-on-Ouse in 1194.

The Prior and Gilbertine monks of Saint Andrew’s at Fishergate, York, built the first church there in 1202 and dedicated it to their patron saint. The name Thorp-super-Usam therefore gradually superseded by Andrewthorpe or Thorpe St Andrew.

Bishopthorpe Palace was first built in 1241-1250 by Archbishop Walter de Gray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Bishopthorpe Palace was originally built in 1241-1250 by Archbishop Walter de Gray after he bought the then village of Thorpe St Andrew (St Andrewthorpe) in 1226. He demolished the old manor house and used some of its local stone in the undercroft of the new palace and chapel he built by the river.

The archbishop conveyed this property to the Dean and Chapter of York, ensuring it remained with successive Archbishops and did not fall into the king's hands during a vacancy.

The house became known as Bishopthorpe Palace, and the village became known as Bishopthorpe. The earliest written record of the name Bishopthorpe, spelt ‘Biscupthorpe,’ appears by 1275.

Bishopthorpe was the site of great council in 1323 to agree a truce between Edward II and Robert the Bruce, whose forces had been harrying Yorkshire after the Battle of Bannockburn.

Over the years, the Palace has seen many changes. Archbishop John Thoresby extended his private rooms in 1365, and Archbishop Thomas Rotherham doubled the size of the living quarters in 1480-1500 when he added a red brick north wing and upgraded the kitchens.

The Enclosure Act in 1757 saw common land enclosed, placing restrictions on where local people could graze their animals and affected Bishopthorpe.

The Palace was remodelled in the Gothic Revival style by Thomas Atkinson of York in 1763-1769 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Archbishop Robert Hay Drummond transformed the Palace in the 1760s by building the now familiar ‘Strawberry Gothick’ west front and gatehouse. The architect John Carr designed the Gothic stable block and gatehouse in 1761-1769.

Around the same time, the Palace was remodelled in the Gothic Revival style by the architect Thomas Atkinson of York in 1763-1769. The front of Bishopthorpe Palace was rebuilt with a new entrance hall and drawing room, and the drawing room has several portraits of previous archbishops.

Controversy surrounding the 1832 Reform Bill saw rioters from York attempt to invade the Palace, angered by initial lack of support from Archbishop Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt. Archbishop Harcourt made further additions to the north wing in 1835 and also had rooms built above the chapel. He built a new village school and the Almshouses in 1846.

Since 1900, successive Archbishops of York have made more effective use of the space in Bishopthorpe Palace, designating separate areas for personal apartments, public rooms and offices for the archbishop’s staff.

The clock on the Gatehouse was made for Archbishop Cosmo Lang in 1913 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The clock on the Gatehouse at the entrance to Bishopthorpe Palace, was made for Archbishop Cosmo Lang by W Potts & Sons in 1913. It has gilded numerals and hands painted in blue. The clock was restored by Smiths of Derby in 2013.

The first ‘Bishopthorpe Play’ or Bishopthorpe Pageant was staged in June 1928 in the grounds of the Bishopthorpe Palace in 1928. Further productions were held in 1930, 1954, 1956, 1965 and 1970.

Bishopthorpe Palace is a multi-functional place today. It is, primarily, the Archbishop’s home and office, and there are also working offices, meeting rooms, worship areas and living quarters. The Palace and its grounds are also used for charity days, retreats, receptions, village fetes, and dinners.

Parts of the village, including the Palace were designated a conservation area in 1989.

Many of the street names in the village recall past Archbishops of York, including: Ramsey Avenue (Michael Ramsey, 1956-1961), Maclagan Road (William Maclagan, 1891-1908), Lamplugh Crescent (Thomas Lamplugh, 1688-1691), Coggan Way (Donald Coggan, 1961-1974), Garbett Way (Cyril Garbett, 1942-1955), Temple Road (William Temple, 1929-1942), Lang Road (Cosmo Gordon Lang, 1909-1928), Vernon Close (Edward Venables-Vernon-Harcourt, 1808-1847), Drummond Way (Robert Hay Drummond, 1761-1776), Wolsey Drive (Thomas Wolsey, 1514-1530) and De Grey Place (Walter de Gray, 1216-1255).

The palace at Bishopthrope seen through the arch of the gatehouse (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

In addition to the palace at Bishopthorpe, the Archbishop’s Palace, north of York Minster in what is now Dean’s Park, was the residence of the mediaeval Archbishops of York.

Roger de Pont L’Évêque, Archbishop of York in 1154-1181, rebuilt York Minster, after a fire in 1137 began building the palace. The college and chapel of Saint Mary and All Angels, also known as Saint Sepulchre, was built next to the palace in 1179. The palace grounds were extended up to the city walls in 1268.

While the archbishops lived mainly at Bishopthorpe, the palace in York served a wide variety of functions. Courts sat there in 1275, while Edward III based his court at the palace in 1327-1328 while he was leading a campaign against the Scots. The palace also housed the archbishop’s prison by 1385. A new chamber was added in 1400 so that Henry IV could watch a tournament held in the palace grounds. Richard III stayed at the palace in 1483, as did Henry VII in 1487, and Margaret Tudor in 1503.

During the Tudor Reformation, Saint Sepulchre’ s College was dissolved in 1547 at the Dissolution of the monastic houses. Thomas Young removed the lead from the palace roof in 1560 to pay for Grays Court, which he bought for his son George.

The palace in York was in ruins by 1616, and the grounds were sold to Arthur Ingram. He rebuilt part of the palace as his own house, and laid out gardens, including a fishpond, tennis court and bowling green. Charles I stayed in the house in 1642, but after Ingram’s death, his descendants divided the property into small tenements and let them out.

A theatre was built on the site of the tennis court in 1734. The former great hall of the palace was rebuilt as a riding school in 1780, and in 1785 it was the site of an early balloon ascent.

The former palace chapel in York has become the minster library and is known as the Old Palace (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Ingram’s house was largely in ruins by 1799. York Minster bought the whole site in 1814, demolished Ingram’s house and the riding school, and used the site for its stone yard. The palace’s former chapel was restored for use as the minster library, and is now known as the Old Palace.

The remainder of the site was laid out as the Deanery Gardens in 1823, when the demolition of some sheds revealed a 12th-century arcade from the original palace.

More recently, the grounds have become known as Dean’s Park, and the stone yard has moved to Deangate. The surviving arcade from the palace was rededicated in 1987 as a war memorial, and it has been Grade I listed since 1997.

A former Dean of Cork, William Connor Magee (1821-1891), a key figure in the debates about the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, was Bishop of Peterborough when he was appointed Archbishop of York, but he died only four months after his appointment. The present Archbishop of York, the Most Revd Stephen Cottrell, is visiting Cork this week, and is the speaker at the annual Cork, Cloyne and Ross Clergy Away Days.

A surviving arcade from the palace at York Minster has been rededicated as a war memorial (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (135) 10 October 2023

The tower of Saint Michael’s Church is incorporated into the Synod Hall beside Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and the week began with the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVIII, 8 October 2023).

Today, the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers the lives and witness of Paulinus (644), Bishop of York and Missionary, and Thomas Traherne (1674), Poet and Spiritual Writer.

Later today, I have a post-stroke consultation with the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. But, before the day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer and reflection.

The Church recently celebrated Saint Michael and All Angels last month (29 September). So in my reflections each morning this week I am continuing the Michaelmas theme of the last two weeks in this way:

1, A reflection on a church named after Saint Michael or his depiction in Church Art;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Saint Michael’s Church on High Street, Dublin, gave its name to one of three prebendal stalls in Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael’s Church, High Street, Dublin:

Saint Michael’s Church on High Street, Dublin, which gave its name to one of three prebendal stalls in Christ Church Cathedral, was originally erected by Donat, Archbishop of Dublin, in 1076. It was converted into a parish church by Archbishop Richard Talbot in 1417, and it was used by the mediaeval Guild of Shoemakers.

From 1541, the Rectors of Saint Michael’s were Prebendaries in Christ Church Cathedral and they were also the Dean’s Vicar in the cathedral from 1541 to 1604.

Saint Michael’s was rebuilt in 1676, but in 1807 the Visitation Book describes the church as being in ruins, and the parish services were being held in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral.

Thomas Taylor, founder of the Bective family, who worked with William Petty in compiling the Down Survey of Ireland, was buried there in 1682. It was also the burial-place of the Fielding family, ancestors to the Earls of Desmond. Ford Lambart, 5th Earl of Cavan, was buried there in 1772.

The rectors and prebendaries of Saint Michael’s in the 18th century included Canon Robert Law (1730-1789), whose son, the Revd Francis Law (1768-1807), married Belinda Isabella Comerford, daughter of Patrick Comerford of Summerville, Cork, and was the father of the Revd Patrick Comerford Law.

Saint Michael’s Church stood on High Street, at the corner of Christ Church Lane, immediately opposite the west end of the cathedral. The church was rebuilt yet again in 1815, when Dr Richard Graves (1763-1829), Dean of Ardagh and Regius Professor of Greek in Trinity College Dublin, was Prebendary of Saint Michael’s (1801-1823).

Rectors and prebendaries of Saint Michael’s in the 19th century included Canon Thomas Percival Magee (1797-1854), father-in-law and uncle of Archbishop William Magee of York; the hymn-writer Canon Thomas Bewley Monsell; and Canon William O’Neill, 1st Baron O'Neill (1813-1883), who was at Saint Michael’s from 1845 to 1859.

William O’Neill was born William Chichester, a younger son of Canon Arthur Chichester, Chancellor of Armagh. He changed his surname to O’Neill in 1855 when he succeeded to the large O’Neill estates in Co Antrim at the death of his distant cousin John O'Neill, 3rd Viscount O’Neill. The O’Neill title was revived in 1868 when he was made a peer as Baron O’Neill, of Shane’s Castle, Co Antrim.

Two of his descendants were prominent in politics in Northern Ireland. His grandson, Robert William Hugh O’Neill, was Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons and was given the title Baron Rathcavan. His great-grandson Terence O’Neill was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and became Baron O’Neill of the Maine in 1970.

The parish was one of the smallest in Dublin, covering just over 5 acres (20,000 sq m), and had 1,317 inhabitants in 1850.

When the Church of Ireland was disestablished, the rectors of Saint Michael’s ceased being prebendaries in the cathedral, although their title has been retained in the chapter. The last Rector of Saint Michael’s in Dublin was Canon Edward Seymour, who held office until 1872. He later became Precentor of Christ Church Cathedral.

When Christ Church Cathedral was being rebuilt in 1870-1878, Saint Michael’s Parish was amalgamated with Saint Audeon’s in 1872, the church was demolished, and the Synod Hall was built on the site.

The new Synod Hall was designed by George Edmund Street, the same architect who led the restoration of Christ Church Cathedral in the 1870s, and incorporated parts of the later church, including the church tower.

Street’s original design for the Synod Hall placed it to the south of the cathedral, but it was decided instead to situate it on the site of the Church of Saint Michael and All Angels. The new design connected the synod hall to the cathedral by an elevated passageway over Winetavern Street, and incorporates the tower of the earlier church. The building is in the pointed style, with simple buttresses, circular turrets and plate tracery, an element of stonemasonry that supports the glass in a Gothic window.

The former Synod Hall now houses the Dublinia Exhibition. Many of the interiors remain intact. The building contains a two-storey hall surrounded by many passages and lobbies that are now used as exhibition spaces. The Great Hall on the second floor is accessed by a contouring stone stairway. An imposing multi-arched wooden roof still exists on the upper level where the words ‘Aye’ and ‘Nae’ two double doors once facilitated synod voting.

Street’s stone bridge linking the former Saint Michael’s or Synod Hall with Christ Church Cathedral was completed in 1875. It has been compared with the earlier ‘Bridge of Sighs’ by Henry Hutchinson in Saint John’s College, Cambridge (1831), and the later ‘Bridge of Sighs’ by Sir Thomas Jackson at Hertford College, Oxford (1913-1914). Roger Stalley says Street’s bridge is his ‘final touch of genius’ in the restoration of the cathedral.

The present Prebendary of Saint Michael’s in the chapter of Christ Church Cathedral is Canon Mark Gardner.

The former Synod Hall now houses the Dublinia Exhibition (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 10: 38-42 (NRSVA):

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; 42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

When Saint Michael’s Church was in ruins in the 19th century, parish services were held in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘After the Storm.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (10 October 2023, World Mental Health) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for all those who are struggling with their mental health, and who are feeling lost or in despair. May they know how loved and cherished they are. Help us provide support and a listening ear.

Street’s bridge is regarded as his ‘final touch of genius’ in his restoration of Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

God our Saviour,
who sent Paulinus to preach and to baptize,
and so to build up your Church in this land:
grant that, inspired by his example,
we may tell all the world of your truth,
that with him we may receive the reward
you prepare for all your faithful servants;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Holy Father,
who gathered us here around the table of your Son
to share this meal with the whole household of God:
in that new world where you reveal
the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share with Paulinus and all your saints
in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

An icon of the Archangel Michael by Canon Olive Donohoe in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

An icon of the Archangel Michael by Adrienne Lord in an exhibition in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)