Saturday, 31 March 2012

Zero House

York planners are ultra conservative, there are very few houses in the city centre that are anything other than conventional looking. Zero House is a refreshing exception. This picture does not really do justice to the stunning design as it only shows half the building, imagine another wing on the back of this with a gull wing roof joining both sides.
Finished in 2008 it is called Zero House as it sits below No 2 on the street and is almost carbon neutral. The site and house combined cost around £750,000.

As I took the picture several passersby stopped to chat, one hadn't noticed the property before(!) one was enthusiastic, whilst a third felt it was 'in the wrong place'.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Mediaeval Spectacle

All Saints' Church North Street is renown for the quality of its stained glass windows including some stunning 14th century and 15th century panels. This tiny example can be found in the 15th century window known as the Nine Orders of Angels.
The window consists of 9 panels in total each panel depicting a different angelic form, Seraphim, Cherubim, Archangels etc. This panel depicts 'ordinary' Angels but what makes it especially interesting is that it also shows, in the centre of the group between the two red-robed figures, one of the 15th century figures wearing spectacles. One of the earliest instances of these being worn and depicted in glass.

Thursday, 29 March 2012


This is the back view of the lantern on the gate in yesterdays post. It does not carry a light any more and a each year a pair of Bluetits make their nest in here, using the hole as the entrance to their home. It does not seem to bother them in the least that several times each day their precious nest containing eggs and babies are swung backwards and forwards to allow cars to cross the rail line!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Strensall Crossing

This is a level crossing gate at Strensall Common (around 5 miles ouside York) with the gatekeepers cottage beyond. There are 3 or 4 houses on the far side of the tracks and driving across to them requires the gates to be opened by the keeper who clearly would prefer not to be summoned by a blast on a car horn! This crossing is on the edge of a local nature reserve , come back tomorrow to find out more about the lantern on the gate.................

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Four graves, one memorial

This is Fulford cemetry where many citizens of York were buried after York Cemetery was deemed to be full around 50 years ago. I had never visited this rather modern cemetery until very recently and this set of four graves really stood out. From a distance the shape and balance of them was clearly intended to link these four burials.
These are the graves of four victims of a plane crash in Ljubljana Yugoslavia on Sept 1st 1966. The plane concerned was a Bristol 175 Britannia that flew into a forest whilst attempting to land, 98 out of 117 people aboard died. 
These graves are for two sets of young sweethearts and their final markers mirror and balance one another in the inscriptions, fonts and stone carvings used (click on image to enlarge). The two young men are on the outside each next to his girl. I think it must have been some comfort to their grieving families to place them in the cemetery in this united way.
Taking part in Taphophile tragics

Monday, 26 March 2012


A classic shot of St Mary's Abbey in the Museum Gardens surrounded by daffodils on a lovely spring morning.
Taking part in  MellowYellowBadge

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Drill Hall detail

This is a portion of the outside wall of the former Drill Hall on St Andrewgate. Now part of Barnitts hardware store it was designed in the late 19thC by Gould and Fisher for the First West Yorkshire (York) Rifle Volunteer Battalion. It has an attractively dressed red and white brick facade inset with tile mosaics one of which is shown above.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Ancient and Modern

This is a view of St Andrewgate. It is a typical York scene with bollards across the street to prevent cars entering the city centre, and a mixture of old and new buildings. Here they range from the white 14th century stone of  St Andrews church, through to the modern brick development of St Andrew Place. Many new houses were built here in the 1990s with the aim of bringing people back to live in the city centre. To buy a 3 bedroom townhouse here would cost around £375,000. In the 13-14th century before St Andrews church was built this street was known as Ketmongergate meaning street of the meat or flesh sellers.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Balloon Seller

Just recently I have noticed more and more children walking around the city clutching large colourful balloons. I think this street seller in St Sampsons Square may be the reason why! They were doing very well to keep their feet on the ground with all that helium. I say they as I never did find out who was under all those balloons.Wonder how long it takes to untangle a string to sell a balloon from the middle of the bunch? Dalmation and Spiderman balloons seem most popular today.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Let Sleeping Cats

Sometimes, when the first really warm day of the year comes along, you just got to get outside and enjoy it.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

A Close Shave

Walked into one of my favourite York courtyards this week, usually a shady haven from the sun under the London Plane Trees, and this was the sight that greeted me. Mad pollarding or a chance to see the beautiful buildings of Greys Court as they have not been seen for years? Tell me what you think

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Local Hero

The church of St Mary Senior Bishophill no longer exists but the graveyard is still there. For many years it was strewn with empty beer cans, needles etc. Recently a local group calling themselves the Bishophill Billies have transformed the place into somewhere pleasant to visit. I was wondering through when the CAPITAL LETTERS on this grave caught my attention.

I think it reads as follows;

IN MEMORY OF Lieutenant GENTLE VICKERS who having bravely fought with the
DUKE of WELLINGTON in several of his Engagements in Spain and also at the memorable Battle of WATERLOO died in this City on the 9th May 1823. Aged 35 Years

A little research established that Gentle Vickers was a 1st Lieutenant in the 3rd battalion of the 95th Regiment of Foot, later to become the Rifle Brigade. A real life Richard Sharpe in fact. He fought at the Battle of Biddassoa in 1813 where he was severely wounded. He recovered to take part with two companies of the 3/95 and Colborne's 52nd Regiment in the famous assault on the flanks of the advancing Imperial Guard that triggered the final rout at Waterloo in 1815.

A mystery I couldn't solve is the that The Waterloo Roll call notes his death in 1823 but states he 'died in South America' whereas his gravestone above clearly suggests otherwise.
Taking part in Taphophile Tragics

Monday, 19 March 2012

A Fine Pint

This is the entrance to Thomas's Bar in York. Currently they have my all time favourite Real Ale on tap. Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild is brewed in Sedgley and rarely makes it's way up to this part of the world. Mild is a bit of a misnomer as it is a 6% ABV brew. Sarah Hughes was the grandmother of the current brewery owner and this is brewed to her original recipe, give that woman a medal! What is the beer like? Well it is a deep red colour as the name implies and is a complex mix of sweet syrup, dates, raisins, molasses and dark chocolate, it has a brief dry hoppy flavour but leaves a lasting sweet caramel taste in the mouth. Not to everyones taste thank goodness but very very drinkable.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Barley Hall

The patio heater has nothing to do with Barley Hall it belongs to a nearby cafe. But it is a typical York scene in that modern and mediaeval often live side-by-side.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Saturday Morning Shopping

Fossgate leads from Pavement down to the River Foss. During mediaeval times the sea-fish market was held on Foss Bridge (which is coincidentally just before the Loch Fyne Seafood Restaurant in the photo) and the lower part of Fossgate was known as the Fish Shambles. Nowadays it has an eclectic mix of pubs, restaurants, quirky shops and an entrance to the Merchant Adventurers' Hall some of whose signs you can see above.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Giant Catherine Wheel

There have been some murmours of disapproval at the way the York Wheel dominates the skyline, but it is only a temporary structure and I think it looks great, especially at night

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Lady in Red

I walked past this car parked on a driveway before I registered what I had seen and went back for another look. Someone has a vivid imagination and a sense of humour, I have scrambled the numberplate to save their blushes. Hope they don't get stopped by the police for a closer look, no idea if those eyelashes are legal!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Memory Lane

This is part of Strensall Common, one of the many areas of common land around the city of York. I used to live near here and this lane was a regular walk on my local birdwatching 'patch'. As I stood here this week and took this photo I could hear in the trees and fields all around me the song or call of Blue Tit, Great Tit, Longtailed Tit, Blackbird, Rook, Robin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Collared Dove, Treecreeper, Song Thrush and a distant Green Woodpecker. I think spring is just around that corner at the top of this lane.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Plane Man

I took this picture in the Victorian section of York Cemetery because I was intrigued by the name Summers Varvill. On further investigation I discovered that Summers was the eldest son of Michael Varvill who started a planemaking (woodworking tools) business in 1793. By 1829 this company was known as Varvill & Sons but Summers and his brother Fraser decided to go their own way in June 1838 as this notice in the local paper stated

NOTICE is hereby given, that the Co-partnership lately subsisting between us the undersigned, Michael Varvill,Summers Varvill, and Fraser Varvill, as Plane-Makers and Joiners' Tool-Makers, at the city of York, trading under  the firm of M. Varvill and Sons, has been dissolved by mutual consent, as far as regards Michael Varvill; and that all debts due or owing by the said copartnership will be received and paid by the said Summers Varvill and Fraser Varvill, by whom the said business will in future be carried on, at their warehouses in Saint Martin's-lane, York; As witness our Hands this l l t h day of June 1838.
Michael Varvill.
Summers Farvill.
Fraser Varvill

By 1840 Summers Varvill had set up a business at Without North-Street Posten known as the Ebor Works and this link to an advert he took out is a fascinating glimpse into how business was conducted in the mid 19th century. I dare say he would be sued today! The company operated from the Ebor Works, North Street, York from 1840-1867. As we can see above Summers died in 1862 but his wife, Mary, kept the firm going until they were eventually incorporated into Robert Varvill & Son. The tools his company made are still for sale today albeit in antique rather than joinery shops.

Taking part in Taphophile Tragics

Monday, 12 March 2012

Merchant Adventurer's Hall

This is the Great Hall of the Merchant Adventurers in York. It was built between 1357-61 and was the main room where the business and social activities of the Guild took place. A hospital was built in the undercroft so the Guild could fulfil it's charitable function, and also a chapel which addressed it's religious committments. The Guild controlled the export and import of many items into the city, notably wool. They were a powerful presence in the commercial life of York and their permission was needed to open a shop in York into the nineteenth century.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The King's Arms

The King's Arms Public House is situated on King’s Staithe which was a major quayside until the 19th century. This is an early 17th century building which may originally have been used as a custom house or warehouse. It was first recorded as a pub around 1783.
The monarch on the pub sign is King Richard III, last king of the House of York. He grew up at Middleham Castle, and as Duke of Gloucester visited York frequently from his castle at Sheriff Hutton. He was very popular locally, and invested his son Prince of Wales in York Minster.  After the battle of Bosworth it is recorded in the Council Minutes, "that King Richard, late lawfully reigning over us, was through great treason piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this City".
This building is used as something of a flood barometer for York folk. if the pub is still open then nothing to worry about. If the water has reached the bottom windows then don't go out without waterproof boots. If it has reached the upper storey windows expect to swap the bike for a boat if you need to cross town.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Horizontal Oak Tree

Each time I walk past this old Oak tree it seems nearer the ground. One branch is actually on the grass, some of the others rest on the fence, and ones at the back are propped up by wooden posts. Yet the tree is still alive and covered in leaves every year.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Tall Tale

I must admit when I spotted this fisherman with all his gear, under Ouse Bridge in the middle of York, I thought he would be lucky to catch anything. Just one week later walking on the opposite bank I watched another angler land a Pike that was at least half a metre in length. Unfortunately I did not have my camera to hand so that will have to remain an unrecorded fishy tale. He did return the Pike to the river so Jaws is still out there.....

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Cold as Ice

Built in the early 19th century this brick ice house sits just outside the city walls. It extends below ground level into a deep pit where ice collected in winter would be packed with straw to keep it frozen. During the warmer months of the year the ice would be used to keep food fresh.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Time for Tea

The decor in this elegant tea room was inspired by that of the cruise liner The Queen Mary. Mirrors and wood paneling with lots of coloured lights in the windows combine to give it an Art Deco feel. Waiters and waitresses are dressed up in traditional uniforms and customers may be treated to a musical accompaniment on the baby grand piano. Be prepared to queue to get a seat and watch the world go by as you eat, or treat yourself to delicious take-away cakes to enjoy later.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Friend from the New World

Behind a block of flats I found a small memorial garden on the site of an old Quaker burial ground. John Woolman (1720 – 1772) was an American Quaker preacher who travelled  the Old and New Worlds speaking out against slavery and the slave trade, cruelty to animals, economic injustices and oppression, and conscription. You can read more about his life here
He died from smallpox whilst visiting York four years before America gained her independence. The plain headstone with the month refered to by number rather than name is typically Quaker. Perhaps he was preaching or visiting Friends in York where the Quakers have a long tradition of involvement in the social equality movement.
Visit moreTaphophile Tragics here

Monday, 5 March 2012

The Wizard Express

I managed to catch up with a local movie star recently. The steam locomotive Olten Hall is currently enjoying a new lease of life as Hogwarts Castle, and she called in to visit some young admirers at the National Railway Museum over the half term holiday. Sold for scrap in 1964(!) she is now much in demand to pull The Wizard Express excursions. The name change has led to 5972 becoming known in steam enthusiast circles as the Hall that thinks she is a Castle. Well why not!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Saturday, 3 March 2012

View from the Gallery

The York Mechanics' Institute was founded in 1827 to "deliver scientific lectures to the middle and lower classes". It failed to fire the public imagination, and in an effort to attract more attendees changed it's name in 1898 to the Institute for Popular Science & Literature, and altered it's remit to include more topics focussed around the arts.  From 1893 to 1927 York City Library was housed in a portion of this building. The library was York's contribution to Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations, (not that she had much time for York but that is a story for another day). It is a handsome Grade II listed building and now home to The Gallery Nightclub and the York Dungeon visitor experience.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Ouse Bridge

The first Ouse Bridge was built by the Romans, then repaired by the Vikings. St William's Chapel stood on the bridge throughout the mediaeval period. By 1565 the bridge had a new central arch spanning 81 ft, and was described by Daniel Defoe as "...near 70 foot (21 m) in diameter; it is, without exception, the greatest in England, some say it's as large as the Rialto at Venice though I think not". I should like to have seen that.

The current version of Ouse Bridge is for foot and road traffic only and is without shops houses or chapels. Construction was started in 1810 and a toll was charged until 1829 to recoup the cost of building it.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Electric Avenue

On a cold winter's day in December these experimental plants and seeds in York University science labs were getting a well regulated day length and temperature courtesy of the National Grid.
My contribution to CDP theme day 'Electricity'
Click here to view thumbnails for all participants
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