04 October 2023
A women’s almshouse
or hospital that
has survived in York
for over 300 years
Dorothy Wilson’s Hospital at No 2 Walmgate is an interesting historic almshouse with an attached schoolhouse beside the Foss Bridge and standing on the banks of the River Foss in the centre of York.
The hospital has survived for over 300 years and once provided for 10 ‘poor women’, while also including a schoolroom for 20 ‘poor boys’.
The York Georgian Society says the hospital is ‘notable for its fine brickwork and elegant details such as chamfered quoins, arcaded arches, and a majestic cornice.’ The schoolmaster’s house behind the hospital is of two storeys, with a central porch.
Dorothy Wilson’s Hospital was built as almshouse and schoolroom, with an attached schoolmaster’s house at the rear. The almshouse was established in the will of Dorothy Wilson who died in 1719.
She left money in her will to establish an almshouse for 10 poor women, and a chantry school ‘for the instruction in English, Reading, Writing and Clothing of twenty poor Boys for ever’.
The almshouse and the school were set up in Dorothy Wilson’s former house, on Walmgate, overlooking the banks of the River Foss. The house was rebuilt as an almshouse in 1765 and was rebuilt again in 1812, following the rebuilding of the adjacent Foss Bridge and reusing some materials.
The school was incorporated into the same building, and the schoolmaster’s house was built in 1805.
The main three-storey building is built of brick, and is five bays wide. The almshouse front and left return are of orange brick in Flemish bond on a painted stone plinth. The street front is five bays wide, the centre part projecting slightly. The central doorway and the adjacent windows are set in arched recesses.
Above the doorway, in an arched recess, an inscription records the laying of the foundation stone in 1812 and the names of the charity’s trustees in the early 19th century.
At second-floor level is a heavy moulded cornice, and reset in the top storey is a stone panel from the original building recording the endowment of the hospital and schoolhouse by Dorothy Wilson, spinster. The year of her death is incorrectly shown on the panel.
The reset panel in the centre at second floor level records the original foundation in 1719 of Dorothy Wilson’s Charity for the ‘Maintenance of ten poor Women as also for the instruction in English, Reading, Writing and Clothing of twenty poor Boys for ever.’ The three-bay side elevation directly overlooks the River Foss.
The staircase has been rebuilt, but incorporates balusters from the original stairs. Several original doors to rooms and cupboards survive also survive in the building. In general, the building is plain and undecorated inside.
The schoolmaster’s house was built immediately behind the almshouse in 1810, and the school continued until 1895.
The building has been Grade II listed since in 1954. It was modified in 1958 to offer two-room flats. The charity running the almshouse merged with the Ellen Wilson Hospital Charity in 2011 to form the Ellen and Dorothy Wilson Almshouse Charity.