Guildhall and Chamber Range, Atkinson block, Common Hall Lane and boundary wall containing entrance to lane

Overview

Heritage Category: Listed Building

Grade: I

List Entry Number: 1257929

Date first listed: 14-Jun-1954

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Mar-2016

Statutory Address: Coney Street (west off), York

Map

Ordnance survey map of Guildhall and Chamber Range, Atkinson block, Common Hall Lane and boundary wall containing entrance to lane
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Location

Statutory Address: Coney Street (west off), York

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: York (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference: SE6010151894

Summary

Guildhall and chamber range, council chamber (Atkinson Block), Common Hall Lane: a boundary wall with the Lendal Cellars Public House (Grade II), Lendal containing an entrance to Common Hall Lane.

Guildhall 1449-1459, built for the Mayor and Commonalty of York and the Guild of St Christopher, masons Robert Couper, city mason, and John Barton, master mason of York Minster; restored 1958-1960 by the London architects’ practice Miller and Craze with glass by H W Harvey, following extensive damage in a Baedeker air raid in 1942; chamber range C15; council chamber (Atkinson Block) 1808-1810 to designs by Peter Atkinson the younger, City Surveyor, restored 1958-1960; boundary wall of various dates incorporating medieval work on the Lendal Cellars side relating to the boundary with the former Augustinian Friary.

Reasons for Designation

The 1449-59 Guildhall and chamber range, the 1808-10 Atkinson Block, and medieval Common Hall Lane and boundary wall of various dates from medieval times, containing an entrance to the lane, are listed at Grade I for the following principal reasons: * Historic Interest: the Guildhall was built in 1449-59 by Robert Couper, City mason, and John Barton, master mason of York Minster, funded jointly by The Mayor and Commonality of York and Guild of St Christopher as a manifestation of both the wealth and social standing of the Guild and the centre of York’s political and administrative focus; * Civic identity: built on an already important religious and civic site, the medieval Guildhall resonates with the civic history of York continuing as its seat of power since that time, an identity it continues to hold through its close association with the adjoining late-C19 Council Chamber and the C18 Mansion House, residence of the Lord Mayor of York; * Architectural Interest: the medieval Guildhall is built of stone unlike other guildhalls in York, denoting its primary status, and takes the form typical of a medieval hall, an arrangement still readable in the fabric, with an intact contemporary inner range of chambers fronting the river, next to the early-C19 restored Atkinson Block containing additional council rooms and designed with a similar appearance; * Urban layout: the northern boundary wall marked the boundary between the Guildhall and the adjoining Augustinian Friary, while the site contains Common Hall Lane, a pre-existing lane which led down to the river and presumed location of the Roman bridge over the Ouse, and was reconstructed to run beneath the Guildhall to a Watergate; * World events: the Guildhall suffered a devastating attack in the Second World War as a target of the German Baedeker raids, the city’s defiance publicly demonstrated by the proceeding of the Assizes Court two months later within the roofless building; its subsequent historically accurate restoration served to underline the medieval building’s symbolic importance to the city; * Aesthetic value: the primary outward-looking elevation of this constricted site is the river façade comprising the C15, Perpendicular-style chamber range with Guildhall behind, flanked by the similarly-detailed, early-C19 Atkinson block to the right and the 1889-91 Municipal Offices and Council Chamber and the early-C20 Guildhall Annex with corner tower to the left, all carefully designed to play a supporting role to the medieval building and together presenting an impressive composition in limestone ashlar; the material used for many of the city’s most important historic buildings and structures such as York Minster, the city walls and numerous urban churches.

History

The Guildhall was built by the Mayor and Commonality of York and the Master, Brethren and Sisters of the Guild of St Christopher to replace an earlier Guildhall (also known as Common Hall) mentioned in 1256 in a charter of Henry III. A lane, known as Common Hall Lane, ran down to the river under that hall, which survived, although substantially reconstructed, beneath the new Guildhall. On the north side of Common Hall Lane was a boundary wall between the Guildhall site and the Augustinian Friary to the north.

Work on the new Guildhall started in 1449 under the charge of Robert Couper, city mason, helped by John Barton, master mason of York Minster. The building was sufficiently complete by May 1459 for use by a public meeting. The hall followed the usual medieval pattern in having a screens passage across the east end and a dais at the west end with an open fire in the middle and a louvre above. It was used for a variety of purposes including the Court of Assizes, the Court of Nisi Prius (a trial court for the hearing of civil cases before a judge and jury), civic feasts, and plays until the latter were forbidden in 1592 due to damage caused. At the west end was a chamber range with an Inner Chamber which was used as a court room, for meetings of the Council of the North, and meetings of the City Council. Grouped around the east end were service buildings including a kitchen, buttery and pantry, all later removed. Underneath the hall were cellars with access from Common Hall Lane; these were filled with earth in 1649. There was also a cellar beneath the Inner Chamber, now filled in. At the east end of the site an arched gateway to Coney Street, known as Common Hall Gates, was built. The Guild of St Christopher also built a chapel and maison dieu for the poor (replaced in the early C18 by the Mansion House, residence of the Lord Mayor of York).

During the Civil War (1642-1651) the Inner Chamber was used as an arms store. Additional arms were brought to York by Queen Henrietta Maria before the Battle of Marston Moor (1644) just to the west of York. Their weight caused the floor to collapse and repairs had to be ordered. After the defeat of the Royalist army the city became a parliamentary stronghold. The Council of the North was abolished and replaced by a county committee which used York as its administrative and tax-gathering centre. In 1679 the Inner Chamber was refurbished with oak panelling at the expense of John Hewley.

In 1808 plans were prepared for the construction of a new council chamber to replace that at Ouse Bridge which was pulled down when the bridge was rebuilt. A two-storey purpose-built chamber block was added on the south side of the Inner Chamber in 1808-1810 (now known as the Atkinson Block). The architect was Peter Atkinson the younger, the City Steward, who was paid fifty guineas in January 1811 for designing it and superintending its erection. It had a Lower Chamber used by the Common Council and an Upper Chamber where the Lord Mayor, Recorder, City Council, Sheriffs and the Twenty-Four assembled.

In 1889-91 the Municipal Offices and new larger Council Chamber were built on the north side of the Guildhall to designs by E G Mawbey and Alfred Creer, City Surveyors. That building’s construction resulted in the demolition of two small rooms on the north side of the Guildhall, latterly used as magistrates’ and surveyors’ offices.

Between 1852 and 1892 the Ordnance Survey maps show a group of small buildings on the south side of the Guildhall, which may have been the stabling, coach house and boot house which were demolished around 1900. The 1:2500 Ordnance Survey map published in 1909 shows the present buildings abutting the east wall of the 1808-1810 block. On the west side a range was built to provide additional WCs and cells during Assizes. At the east end a single-storey meeting room was built, later used as the Liberal Democrat Meeting Room and electoral offices, now used for archive storage.

In 1935 an extensive programme of repairs to the Inner Chamber and later the Guildhall was begun after it was discovered that the timber roofs, bosses, and pillars had been attacked for decades by death-watch beetle. The work repairing and restoring the Guildhall roof was nearing completion when the building was bombed in a German Baedeker Raid on 29 April 1942. The targets of these raids were chosen by the Luftwaffe for their cultural and historical significance rather than military value. The oak roof of the Guildhall was totally destroyed and the upper storey and most of the interior of the Atkinson Block was also destroyed; only the Inner Chamber interior survived largely intact. Historic photographs dating from June 1942 show the city’s defiance to the bomb damage as the assizes proceeded in the roofless building with the judge sitting beneath a temporary canopy for shelter.

In 1956 it was agreed that the Guildhall should be rebuilt. Work began in 1958 with the restoration keeping to the original design as far as possible; the oak pillars were replaced by historically accurate copies from trees on the Lowther Estates in Cumberland (now Cumbria). The work was undertaken by the London architects’ practice of Miller and Craze (no longer practising). The restoration involved replacing the roof and pillars of the Guildhall, extensively repairing the medieval stonework with the old masonry pulled down to the level of the springing points of the windows and renewed using Portland oolitic limestone, patching the interior stonework, renewing the floor, and reconstructing the eastern doorway using old and new stone. The upper storey and most of the interior of the Atkinson Block was also rebuilt. The repaired and restored Guildhall was opened by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on 21 June 1960.

Details

Guildhall and chamber range, council chamber (Atkinson Block), Common Hall Lane: a boundary wall with the Lendal Cellars Public House (Grade II), Lendal containing an entrance to Common Hall Lane.

Guildhall 1449-1459, built for the Mayor and Commonalty of York and the Guild of St Christopher, masons Robert Couper, city mason, and John Barton, master mason of York Minster; restored 1958-1960 by the London architects’ practice Miller and Craze with glass by H W Harvey, following extensive damage in a Baedeker air raid in 1942; chamber range C15; council chamber (Atkinson Block) 1808-1810 to designs by Peter Atkinson the younger, City Surveyor, restored 1958-1960; boundary wall of various dates incorporating medieval work on the Lendal Cellars side relating to the boundary with the former Augustinian Friary.

MATERIALS GUILDHALL AND CHAMBER RANGE: magnesian limestone ashlar with 1958-1960 restoration in Portland oolitic limestone, roof not visible. Chamber range to the river front; magnesian limestone ashlar on a gritstone wall, the roof is not visible. Common Hall Lane; walled in magnesian limestone, ceiled with stone flags on timber joists. Atkinson Block; the river front is magnesian limestone ashlar and a 1958-60 restoration in Portland oolitic limestone, elsewhere buff-brown brick and cream brick in Flemish bond, the roof is not visible. Boundary wall; is double-skinned with ashlar and coursed and squared magnesian limestone blocks, partly rendered on the Guildhall side, and on the Lendal Cellars side is a mixture of squared magnesian limestone blocks, orange brick in stretcher bond and darker orange brick in random bond.

PLAN: the Guildhall runs east-west and comprises a six-bay aisled hall, originally over cellars (now infilled) with a chamber range at the west, river end with a rectangular, single-storey Inner Chamber, originally over a cellar (now infilled), with a spiral staircase in the south-east corner up to the roof and a straight staircase in the north-east corner rising to the first-floor room of a smaller, two-storey block on its north side. Common Hall Lane runs beneath the north side of the hall and the chamber range down to a river staith on the west side of the building. The two-storey with cellar Atkinson Block abuts the south side of the chamber range.

EXTERIOR GUILDHALL AND CHAMBER RANGE (1449-1459, hall restored 1958-1960): the gabled east front of the Guildhall faces into a small yard to the rear of the Mansion House. The upper section of wall is renewed using paler oolitic limestone ashlar with a crenellated parapet above a moulded eaves string. A moulded plinth steps up near the right-hand end over the arched entrance to the Common Hall Lane arch, of which only the top is now visible due to a rise in ground level. The central arched doorway has moulded jambs, a moulded hoodmould with head-stops and a demi-angel holding a shield at the apex. The oak double doors with tracery panels were installed during the post-war restoration. To the left is a small, restored two-light window in a hollow chamfered elliptical arched opening, originally deeper. Immediately left of the doorway is a blocked opening marking the position of the head of the cellar stairs. To the right of the doorway is a blocked square window. Above the doorway is a large, five-light Perpendicular window with small-pane leaded glazing and a hoodmould. A moulded string runs between ground and first-floor levels, stepping down beneath the window. To the right of the window is a pitched roof scar. The north and south side elevations are divided into six bays by buttresses, and have moulded plinths and plain parapets over moulded eaves strings; the use of paler oolitic limestone shows areas of restoration. The bays contain large three-light Perpendicular windows with hoodmoulds and moulded string sills and small-pane leaded glazing. On the north side the left-hand bay contains a blocked doorway and overlight, both with four-centred heads, which originally gave access to the screens passage, with an adjacent two-light window, and a shortened three-light window above. The right-hand bay on the south side has a small, stone-built, flat-roofed structure housing services, built in the early C20 and obscuring the wall beneath the window.

The west front faces onto the river. The gabled west wall of the Guildhall rises behind the chamber range. It has a plain parapet above a moulded eaves string and a large, five-light Perpendicular window containing stained glass. On the right-hand side is a small, engaged octagonal turret with a pointed roof rising above the parapet. The chamber range, and the Atkinson Block to the right, is built on a basement formed by the river wall. To the left is a two-storey, three-bay chamber block (abutting the 1889-91 Municipal Offices and Council Chamber to the left) with the single-storey, four-bay Inner Chamber to the right with the masonry coursing through both elevations and crenelated parapets above moulded eaves stings. The Watergate arch to Common Hall Lane is set into the river wall beneath the two-storey block with a small, square, chamfered unglazed window to the left. The ground-floor windows of the chamber range have four-centred heads with hoodmoulds with two-over-two pane sashes. The first-floor windows to the two-storey block are square-headed with two trefoiled lights and hoodmoulds.

ATKINSON BLOCK (1808-1810, restored 1958-1960): the main elevation of this 1808-10 block faces west onto the river and is designed to respect the medieval chamber range which it abuts to its left. It is a tall, two-storey, four-bay block, also built on a basement formed by the river wall, and similarly has a crenellated parapet above a moulded eaves string; there is a tall, brick stack set back. The first floor has been restored post-war using paler oolitic limestone ashlar. The windows are similar in form to those in the adjacent chamber range. The ground-floor windows have four-centred heads with hoodmoulds, and metal casements with small pane leaded glazing. The first-floor windows have square heads with two trefoiled lights and hoodmoulds, and metal casements with small pane leaded glazing.

The south, side elevation has one bay of ashlar returning from the river front with a similar window with four-centred head and hoodmould on the ground floor and similar square-headed window with trefoiled lights and hoodmould on the first floor. The rest of the elevation is built of cream brick in Flemish bond on the ground floor and buff-brown brick on the first floor, the whole topped by a crenellated ashlar stone parapet above a moulded eaves string. Two small rectangular windows have been inserted towards the right-hand side of the ground floor. On the first floor the brick section has a similar, central, square-headed window of ashlar with two small rectangular windows towards the right-hand side. The rear, west elevation is built of buff-brown brick in Flemish bond with a plain, ashlar parapet. The ground floor is obscured by the later cells. The first-floor has a horizontal row of windows with a four-light window flanked by two-light windows.

BOUNDARY WALL AND COMMON HALL LANE: the boundary wall between the Guildhall and Lendal Cellars Public House, Lendal is double-skinned and varies in height from approximately 1.5 to 2 metres and extends approximately 30 metres south west of The Mansion House. Abutting the rear of The Mansion House is a rendered section of the wall with stone coping and built against a higher, curved, brick wall on the Lendal Cellars side. The rendered wall contains the entrance to Common Hall Lane with a restored segmental-arched hollow chamfered surround and a nail studded panelled door. The short return, over Common Hall Lane is also rendered. It abuts a higher stone wall with chamfered coping which runs in a south-westerly direction, curving round the north-east corner of the Guildhall and terminating against the rear wall of a brick-built building standing on the Lendal Cellars Public House side of the wall. The wall on the Lendal Cellars Public House side has medieval masonry offset at two levels, combined with brick.

INTERIOR GUILDHALL AND CHAMBER RANGE: the large, rectangular Guildhall has north and south arcades of octagonal timber columns with carved capitals on moulded stone bases. The arches are formed by spandrel braces to moulded arcade plates, with cambered tie beams and aisle ties. The roof is panelled with bosses, mostly renewed, at intersections. Braces at the east and west ends spring from massive corbels carved with grotesques in foliage, and aisle braces from corbels carved with heraldic shields carried by grotesques. At the west end a reconstructed dais is flanked by two doorways in four-centred moulded arches, that to the right is blocked. The left doorway leads to the Inner Chamber and has a blank cartouche incorporating grotesque masks and a door of six fielded panels. In the right-hand, west bay of the south wall an inserted doorway with an elliptical, moulded arch with a hoodmould and a C20 panelled door leads through to the Atkinson Block. At the west end of the north wall two doorways lead into the Municipal Offices and Council Chamber. The wide doorway in the first bay is inserted. It has a chamfer-stopped moulded arch, traceried panelling to the reveals and soffit and timber, traceried double doors. The doorway in the second bay is original with a four-centred, chamfered arch. It has a C20 panelled door. The large west window has modern stained glass depicting incidents in York’s history designed by H W Harvey. The Inner Chamber is approximately rectangular, with projections in the north-east corner for a straight staircase and in the south-east corner for a spiral staircase. The staircase doorways have chamfered reveals marked with masons’ marks. The C15 masonry is visible above the panelling and there are blocked C15 windows in the south wall. The panelling is in two heights divided by a dado rail and surmounted by a cornice incorporating a band of foliage. The fireplace in the centre of the east wall has an early-C19 white marble fluted surround with angle rosettes, and an enriched cornice shelf over a rococo foliage spray enclosing the arms of York. An overmantel panel enclosed in an enriched raised surround contains an inscription framed in foliate scrolls and grotesque masks. Above the overmantel is a cartouche of Sir John Hewley’s arms. In the right-hand corner of the north wall a door of three fielded panels in a panelled two-centred arch leads to the adjacent room in the two-storey block. To the left, above the panelling, is a hatchment of the Stuart Arms. The room has an original panelled ceiling with moulded beams on corbel heads with bosses at the intersections.

ATKINSON BLOCK: the interior has been almost totally reconstructed during the post-war restoration, retaining the original layout of a large room on both floors. At the foot of the staircase is an original door in a segmental-arched doorway with traceried panelling to the reveals and soffit. To its left is a small doorway leading to the cellar steps. COMMON HALL LANE: the lane opens to the staith at the west end of the Guildhall, runs under the north aisle of the hall, and continues underground east of the Guildhall with steps up to the doorway in the boundary wall of the yard. The lane is enclosed by walls of magnesian limestone on the north and south sides. Two-centred arches carry the east and west end walls of the hall and the west wall of the two-storey block of the chamber range. Other, similar arches on each side, now blocked, formerly led to cellars beneath the Guildhall and ancillary buildings. One cellar remains open on the north side at the Watergate end. The lane is ceiled with stone flags carried on timber joists, while the section to the east of the Guildhall has a brick barrel vault, with steps up at the east end.

EXCLUSIONS Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 ('the Act') it is declared that the internal fixtures and fittings of the Atkinson Block other than the tracery-detailed door and doorway at the foot of the staircase and the small doorway leading to the cellar steps date from the post-war reconstruction of the building and are not of special architectural or historic interest.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 463280

Legacy System: LBS

Sources

Books and journals
RCHME, , An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Volume V The Central Area, (1981), 76-81
Other
Purcell Miller Tritton, York Guildhall, Statement of Significance, January 2012.

End of official listing