Castlegate

Castlegate

About the Author

York resident and regular contributor. Fascinated by this historic city and always keen to promote local, independent businesses. The man taking the photographs and tweeting from @Jorvik

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Castlegate as its name implies was and is the narrow thoroughfare leading to York Castle and where, as in other parts of the city, contrasting periods of architecture stand in some harmony shoulder to shoulder. Castlegate offers an ideal, central location within the York city walls from which to set out and explore.

The Georgian architect John Carr strongly influenced the style of Castlegate with his two notable Georgian buildings. Castlegate House, which dates from 1759, was built for the City Recorder, Peter Johnson, having a Masonic Temple extension added in 1920, and, opposite this, Fairfax House, thought to be the finest Georgian town house in England, dating from 1755, was created as a dowry for Viscount Fairfax’s only surviving child, Anne.

Castlegate House

Castlegate House

Fairfax House has on display the Noel Terry Collection – a magnificent collection of Georgian furniture plus other Georgian articles. The house ceased to be a private residence in 1865 becoming a gentlemen’s club, a Friendly Society and finally a cinema and first floor dance hall known as St George’s Hall; it thrived in its new role. York city council bought the cinema in the 1960s – the ornate entrance of which seems to have been retained – while the dance hall remained until 1980. From 1982 to 1984 the York Civic Trust went ahead, painstakingly restoring Fairfax House to its former glory. It is well worth a visit.

Fairfax House

Fairfax House

Castlegate’s St Mary’s Church, with its landmark high steeple, now a much-visited visual arts centre, has been a site of worship for almost a millennium; most of the present-day church can be dated to the 12th-13th century although a dedication stone within the church dates to around 1020. Once a year, an artistic installation, in tune with the church’s history and ambience, is displayed in the evocative surroundings through summer into early autumn.

The Mount School was founded in Castlegate in 1831, specifically for daughters of Quaker families. Known initially as The York Friends’ Girls’ School, originating from the Quaker girls’ school at Trinity Lane, formed in 1785, it moved to its current position on The Mount in 1857.

Medieval Water Lanes: Three Water Lanes ran from Castlegate, near St Mary’s Church, and led down to the river. These were much like the Shambles in appearance, though considerably longer and of an even more disorderly fashion. Artists were attracted to capture the essence of the long, narrow Water Lanes and their shambolic buildings. Poverty and crime were rife in these areas; consequently in 1852 the Corporation of York demolished the buildings and created a new road, Clifford Street, running more or less parallel to Castlegate. Prior to this Castlegate was the main route through to the York Castle.

Castlegate joins Coppergate near Fairfax House and opens out by Clifford’s Tower, the keep of York Castle. Today Castlegate bustles with tourists en route to the Castle Museum who may be at risk of overlooking Castlegate’s own charms with its many restaurants, cafes and antique shops

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