Treasurer’s House, Minster Yard

Treasurers House

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The Treasurer’s House, in Minster Yard, York, was built in the late 11th century as a home for the Minster’s treasurer, a role it fulfilled until 1547; after the Reformation it came under private ownership, and had many different owners. The Grade I listed mansion displays several architectural styles and thirteen individual period rooms; the attics contain Edwardian servants’ quarters.  Its treasures include Flemish tapestries, a collection of medieval furnishings and 17th and 18th-century furniture. The cellars hold a ghostly tale of Roman soldiers while outside, a peaceful walled garden with a sunken lawn offers spectacular views of the nearby Minster.

Fountain in the gardens

Fountain in the gardens

The house was originally built over a Roman road with the city walls behind it and Roman columns can be seen in the cellars; its remaining medieval structures are in the cellars’ stonework and the 12th-century external wall on the inside of Gray’s Court. The house has Dutch gables, some Venetian windows and a 17th to early18th-century interior plus an impressive William and Mary staircase.

Statue in the garden

Statue in the garden

The house rightly mirrored the grand status of the post of treasurer, whose responsibility was to not only manage the Minster’s plate but also entertain and accommodate influential visitors. The main body of the house was rebuilt during the 16th and 17th centuries including the current frontage. The house was sold during the English Civil War, being internally divided into three separate dwellings for the homes of nobility and clergymen. In 1720 Gray’s Court with its 12th-century foundations and splendid courtyard and the Treasurer’s House became separate structures with the division of the building.

Entrance to the grounds

Entrance to the grounds

Frank Green, a Yorkshire industrialist, bought the Treasurer’s House in 1897 and began to reassemble it as a whole unit. His intention was to restore the building to its former medieval glory, but also realising it could contain his huge art and antiques collection.He duly removed all 19th-century additions and alterations. Being a pernickety man he instructed workmen always to wear slippers indoors and monitored their progress fanatically.

Frank bequeathed the house to the National Trust in 1930 specifying that each room be kept as per his exact wishes; if not, he threatened to haunt the building. Following several items being moved or changed solely for conservation purposes it appears Frank may have carried out his threat. In the 1990s all the rooms were restored to Frank’s original design.

Workmen repairing the cellars in 1953 reported seeing and hearing a group of Roman legionnaires marching along, though only visible from the knees upward as though marching behind a low wall. Later excavations discovered a Roman road running beneath the cellar floor, at the very spot of the apparition. Were these the ghosts of the 9th Roman Legion who went missing without trace?The house is said to have other resident ghosts apart from those of the Roman soldiers.

The Treasurer’s House remains under the ownership of the National Trust and was the first house donated to the National Trust complete with all its contents.

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