12 October 2023

The King’s Manor
is a collection of
mediaeval buildings
in the heart of York

The King’s Manor in the centre of York is part of the University of York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The King’s Manor is an attractive and unusual group of mediaeval buildings in the centre of York, beside the York Art Gallery at Exhibition Square and near Bootham Bar.

Today, the King’s Manor is at the heart of York’s strong academic reputation for teaching and research in archaeology, mediaeval studies and 18th century studies at the University of York. But in the past, the site has been the house of the abbots of Saint Mary’s Abbey, the seat of government in Tudor and Stuart York, a private residence in the 18th century and a school in the 19th century.

Saint Mary’s Abbey was founded by the Benedictines in 1088 and rebuilt in 1271 just outside York's city walls. The King’s Manor was originally built to house the abbots of the abbey, and stands east and south-east of the abbey church. Although the earliest parts of the buildings date from the 15th century, the first house on the site was probably built ca 1270 for Simon de Warwick, Abbot of Saint Mary’s (1258-1296).

Archaeological evidence suggests the house was U-shaped and of the same extent as the later mediaeval rebuilding. The outer West Range stands in part on the site of the chapter house of Saint Mary's Abbey, and a fragment of rough walling near the north end of the end front may represent the east wall of the chapter house.

The King’s Manor stands on the site of the house of the abbots of Saint Mary’s Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The house as it now stands is mostly a rebuilding of the late 15th century. The work, usually assigned to Abbot William Sever (1485-1502), was begun by his predecessor Abbot Thomas Boothe in 1483. The building work was continued by Abbot Sever until he became Bishop of Durham in 1502.

At the dissolution of the monastic houses during the Tudor Reformation, the Abbey of Saint Mary’s, York, was formally surrendered on 29 November 1539. The house became Saint Mary’s Manor or the King’s Manor and by 17 December 1539 it was the seat of the Council of the North.

Henry VIII visited York with Queen Katherine Howard in 1541, and lived there for 12 days. In anticipation of the royal visit, the city repaired and improved the house. The royal party stayed there for 12 days, and it was this visit that gives the building its popular name, King’s Manor.

A survey shortly before Henry VIII died in 1547 shows that many of the abbey buildings still remained, but the church and most of the former monastic buildings were roofless. One of the few buildings to be listed ‘in good state’ was the gatehouse by Saint Olave’s Church.

The south doorway has an elaborate stone surround with the initials of James I and Charles I and a large heraldic panel with the arms of Charles I (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

In the past, it was thought that Henry VIII had a palace built between the abbot’s house and the river and that it was ruined a few years later. But architectural evidence suggests 1600-1620 as the correct date.

A plaster frieze around the walls of the Huntingdon Room, the former Council Chamber, contains three motifs: a pomegranate between two wyverns, the crest of Hastings; a bull's head erased gorged with a ducal coronet between two Hs all within a garter under an earl’s coronet, for Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, President of the Council of the North 1572-1595; and a bear and ragged staff for his wife Lady Catherine Dudley, daughter of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland. A magnificent fireplace has a segmental head formed of carved stone voussoirs and ornamented pilaster jambs.

Thomas Cecil, Lord Burghley, was President of the Council of the North when Elizabeth I died in 1603. He wrote to Sir Robert Cecil that he had moved out of the house, so that the new king, James I, could stay there on his journey from Scotland south to London. The house was empty of furnishings and ‘quite out of order.’ Lord Burghley stocked the wine cellars and larders.

King James came to the ‘Manor of Saint Mary’s’ in 1603 and stayed in York for three days. On that first visit to York, James I ordered the house to be embellished. Lord Sheffield, President of the North (1603-1619), repaired the King’s Manor in 1609.

The last great building period at the King’s Manor was when Thomas Wentworth (1593-1641), Earl of Strafford, was President of the North (1628-1641). He added the external staircase and the doorway with the arms of Charles I over it in 1633, put new windows in the hall, and added a gallery and a chapel.

Wentworth’s south doorway has an elaborate stone surround bearing the initials IR for James I and, above, a large heraldic panel with the initials CR for Charles I. The niche above the arms probably contained a bust. The north doorway dates from 1480 but has a stone surround dating from 1610 brought from the W. elevation and reset.

Charles I stayed at the King’s Manor when he visited York in 1633 and 1639, when Wentworth expressed the hope that Saint Mary’s Abbey would once again become a church.

Charles I stayed at the King’s Manor when he visited York in 1633 and 1639 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Strafford was executed in 1641, the Council of the North was abolished, and no major additions were made to the manor after that until the 19th century.

The place was caught up in the siege of York and at least one range, the outer one to the west, was half demolished. In 1644, the Parliamentarians exploded a mine that blew up the corner tower of the abbey precinct wall on Bootham, attacked the manor house and captured 100 people, before retreating with the loss of 300 men. By 1653, it was reported that the King’s Manor which had been spoiled and wasted.

But the King’s Manor was repaired and kept habitable. Humphrey Harwood was still living in the manor in 1662. Henry Darcy, who became keeper in 1665, repaired the house and its rooms and chambers.

The Manor became the official residence of Lord Freschville, Governor of the City of York, in 1667, and he lived there with a family or household of 30 people. From 1667 to 1688, the manor was the residence of the Governor of York

The manor was leased to Father Francis Lawson, one of the King’s chaplains in 1687. He converted the manor into a ‘Popish School’ and used the hall or Councill Chamber as a chapel. During the Williamite rebellion in 1688, the Governor, Sir John Reresby, remained loyal to King James II. But an armed party led by Thomas Osborne, Earl of Danby, captured the Manor and the City of York, and held them for William of Orange. Lawson fled as a Jacobite exile.

After 1688, the building was hired out to private tenants, including Ralph Rymer, Robert Waller, and Sir Tancred Robinson. In the early 18th century, parts of the King’s Manor were occupied by the artist Francis Place, and a Mr Lumley who ran a boarding school.

The Banqueting Hall, which had been Lawson’s chapel in the late 17th century, was converted into an Assembly Room and was also used by the High Sheriffs to entertain their friends during the assizes and races.

An ornately carved Jacobean doorway in the King’s Manor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The York Diocesan Society and National School leased part of the manor in 1812 from Lord de Grey, and the Manor National School opened in January 1813.

The Yorkshire School for the Blind was founded in 1833 and moved into the King’s Manor, although the Manor National School also remained on the site until 1922. While the Blind School was there, a new headmaster’s house was built in 1899. It was designed in a Jacobean style by Walter Brierley. For a long time, a statue of the abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833), founder of the school, stood in the entrance.

The Blind School remained there until 1956. The City of York acquired the King’s Manor in 1958. It was restored, modernised and extended in 1963-1964 for the University of York by William Birch and Sons of York under the direction of the architects Feilden and Mawson of Norwich in association with Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall & Partners.

The main university later moved to the Heslington Campus. The Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies (IoAAS) was the main academic department to use the Manor from 1966. There were several other departments in the King’s Manor, including the Centre for Mediaeval Studies, a Language Teaching centre and the Design Unit, an architectural practice. The building also housed six university staff flats.

Since 1997, the main occupants have been the Department of Archaeology, the Archaeology Data Service, the Centre for Mediaeval Studies and the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies.

The City of York acquired the King’s Manor in 1958 and it was restored, modernised and extended for the University of York (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (137) 12 October 2023

Saint Michael’s Church, Killorglin, Co Kerry,is probably the newest Church of Ireland parish church built in the Republic of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

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

Today (12 October), the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers the lives and witness of Wilfrid of Ripon (709), Bishop, Missionary; Elizabeth Fry (1845), Prison Reformer; and Edith Cavell (1915), Nurse.

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.

Inside Saint Michael’s Church, Killorglin, Co Kerry, designed by the architect Peter O’Farrelly in 1997 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael’s Church, Killorglin, Co Kerry:

Saint Michael’s Church, Killorglin, and Saint Cartach’s Church, Castlemaine, form the Kilcolman Union of Parishes in the Ardfert and Aghadoe or Co Kerry part of the Dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe in the Church of Ireland.

Killorglin is on the Ring of Kerry tourist route, 26 km south of Tralee and 22 km west of Killarney, and has a population of about 2,200 people. The annual events include the Puck Fair festival in August, which starts with the crowning and parading of a wild mountain goat as ‘king.’

The name Killorglin (Cill Orglan in Irish) means ‘Orgla’s Church.’ The Anglo-Normans built a castle at Killorglin in 1215. Within a few years, the Augustinian priors established a church at Dromavalla on the banks of the river Laune. A small village grew up at this location on the boundaries of the Norman Shire of Kerry and the Gaelic territories of Desmond.

After the Desmond Wars (1579-1583). the castle of Killorglin was granted to Jenkin Conway, who originally came from Conwy in north Wales. His son, Jenkin, secured a patent from King James I in 1613 for a three-day fair in Killorglin, believed to be the origins of the Puck Fair.

It is said John ‘Black Jack’ Blennerhassett of Castle Conway, Killorglin, built a private chapel for his family on Bridge Street in the 1690s. The site and chapel passed to Thomas Mullins (1736-1824) of Dingle, later Lord Ventry, in 1795 when he bought the Blennerhassett estate, castle and lands of 7,000 acres in the Killorglin area from his kinsman Harman Blennerhassett.

Lord Ventry transferred the site in 1812 to his son, the Revd Frederick Mullins (1778-1833) to build a new Church of Ireland parish church in Killorglin. Mullins received financial assistance from the Board of First Fruits, and the church was built on Bridge Street (later Lower Bridge Street) in 1816.

Saint Michael’s Church was substantially rebuilt in 1868 to designs by the church architects William Joseph Welland and William Gillespie. It is believed that the belltower and the minor nave remain from the original structure, but the main nave dates from 1868.

Saint Michael’s was a double-height church with a three-bay side elevation and a single-bay three-stage entrance tower at the west gable end with a battlemented parapet. It has a pitched slate roof with gable parapets, limestone rubble stone walls, a rose window of five quatrefoils in the east wall, and a timber boarded door. The gateway, built ca 1820 has a pair of rubble stone piers with iron gates.

Saint Michael’s Church was closed and deconsecrated in 1996, the building was offered for sale, and a new Church of Ireland parish church was built in the town.

A new Church of Ireland parish church, also named Saint Michael’s Church, was built on Iveragh Road in Killorglin, in 1997 with broad support from the local community. Saint Michael's Church was designed by the architect Peter O’Farrelly. It is octagonal in shape, with a high conical roof. It is built of ragstone, and a community centre is attached to the church.

Saint Michael’s Church is probably the newest Church of Ireland parish church to be built in the Republic of Ireland.

A stained-glass window in the entrance lobby depicts the Archangel Michael. This one-lancet window measures 2720 mm x 1090 mm. It was moved from Knockane Church, Churchtown. It was made in 1945 by the artist Douglas Strachan (1875-1950).

A two-lancet window with one tracery-light in the south chapel depicts the emblems of the Four Evangelists in the two lancets, measuring 2680 mm x 670 mm. It was made in 1866 by Charles Alexander Gibbs (1825-1877), one of the major stained glass suppliers of the Victorian period. It too came from Knockane Church, Churchtown, where it had been placed as a memorial to Richard The Macgillicuddy of the Reeks.

The Revd Ann-Marie Stuart and the Revd Isabel Keegan retired from Saint Michael’s Church, Killorglin, and the Kilcolman Union of Parishes earlier this year, five years after coming to Co Kerry, and the parish is currently vacant.

Meanwhile, the Victorian parish church was bought and restored by Nicholas Foley and his daughter Cliodhna. When the building first opened a restaurant and event space in 2006, it was called ‘Sol y Sombra,’ a Spanish phrase meaning ‘light and shadow’ and referring to the play of light inside the building through the stained glass windows. With a new name, it was launched as 10 Bridge Street last year (2022).

The window in the entrance lobby depicting the Archangel Michael was made in 1945 by Douglas Strachan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 11: 5-13 (NRSVA):

5 And he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7 And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

9 ‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

The window with emblems of the Four Evangelists was made by Charles Alexander Gibbs in 1866 (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 (12 October 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

As yesterday was International Day of the Girl Child, we pray that women and girls everywhere may live life abundantly as God intended for them.

Saint Michael’s Church, the earlier church on Lower Bridge Street, was closed in 1996 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

Almighty God,
who called our forebears to the light of the gospel
by the preaching of your servant Wilfrid:
help us, who keep his life and labour in remembrance,
to glorify your name by following the example
of his zeal and perseverance;
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 revea
l the fullness of your peace,
gather people of every race and language
to share with Wilfrid and all your saints
in the eternal banquet of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Inside the former Saint Michael’s Church, now the restaurant 10 Bridge Street (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

The new Saint Michael’s Church on Iveragh Road, Killorglin, in the springtime (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)