Thirteenth century probable guest house to St Mary's Abbey. It is a two storey building, constructed of stone, with a timber-framed upper storey and an old tile roof. Remains of another building and watergate adjoin it.


Grid reference SE 5983 5207 (point)
Map sheet SE55SE
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (8)

Full Description

Possible Abbey guesthouse and watergate attached to north-east corner; now part of The Yorkshire Museum (qv). Lower storey of house C14, upper storey C15, partly reconstructed and heavily restored 1930-31: gateway c1500. MATERIALS: lower storey of hospitium of magnesian limestone ashlar on chamfered plinth; upper storey timber-framed with rendered infilling; plain tile roof. Gateway of re-used magnesian limestone, inner face of upper storey of orange wall-tiles: unroofed. 6-bay hall and aisled undercroft. EXTERIOR: Hospitium: 2-storey 6-bay front, with exposed timber-frame to hall. Undercroft has rebuilt double chamfered doorway with plank double doors on iron strap hinges in 2-centred moulded arch. Windows to left are single slits in chamfered openings, to right of 2 lights in double chamfered openings. Access to hall by reconstructed external staircase to 2-centred timber doorway with double doors on C-hinges. Windows are of 4 lights. River front: repeats main front without doors. To left return, undercroft has three slit lights, hall 3-light window flanked by 1-light windows: to right return, three 2-light windows to undercroft, to hall 2-light outer windows, 5-light centre window. All multi-light windows to undercroft have chamfered stone mullions: to hall, timber mullions. Watergate: incorporated in wall approximately 8 metres long, between 6.5 and 7.5 metres high on chamfered plinth, stepped up at left end. Cart arch is 2 centred, of 2 moulded and chamfered orders beneath coved hoodmould: smaller foot-gate to left is similar: both are rebated on inner side. Further left is decayed square-headed window opening. On first floor two square-headed windows of 2 trefoiled lights, one now fragmentary. INTERIOR: of Hospitium: two colonnades of octagonal columns with moulded bases and capitals support hall floor. Scheduled Ancient Monument. (An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York: RCHME: Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse: HMSO London: 1975-: 13-14).
Listing NGR: SE5983852070

Derived from English Heritage LB download dated: 22/08/2005

NMR Information:

No further description provided.

Architectural Survey

Heritage Statement:

Historical, Historical Development and Background information
The Hospitium building and the adjacent remains of the Watergate are some of the main standing remains of
the medieval St Mary’s Abbey, although their present appearance owes a lot to the extensive C19 and C20
restoration and extension. The name Hospitium suggests that the building was used for housing guests such as
merchants who were not allowed to stay in the main abbey with the monks. The site of the Hospitium in the
Museum Gardens are one of the most complex historical sites in the UK with continual overlaying of activity
throughout history from the Roman occupation of York in 51AD through to the present day. Immediately
outside the Legionary Fortress with the site crossed by Roman roads approaching the Roman bridge over the
River Ouse. This is thought to have passed just east of the Hospitium. The site was important during Anglian
and Viking York and may have been a residence of the Earls of Northumbria. This is shown in the burial of
Earl Siward of Northumbria in 1055 at the Minster of St Olaf that he founded on/near the Museum Gardens
site. This is the origin of St Olave’s Church which still stands on Marygate. The abbey church was refounded
as St Mary’s Abbey in 1088 to accommodate Benedictine monks from Lastingham and rapidly grew to become
one of the wealthiest abbeys in the country with properties throughout the North. St Mary’s Abbey was
closed during the dissolution of the monasteries on 26 November 1539. Because of its proximity to the City
of York the site remained important and the former Abbot’s House became the King’s Manor, seat of the
Council of the North. The Hospitium building as now seen was constructed in several phases over a long
period of time. The lower storey of the Hospitium was built of ashlar Tadcaster limestone in the C14 and may
have been the sartrina (tailors’ shop) of the abbey. The stone base of the Hospitium would have been prudent
as the River Ouse floods the site, which could have occurred more frequently during the Middle Ages before
the present embankments were constructed and the River Ouse was tidal. The timber framed upper storey
(the four bays north of the external staircase) was constructed in the C15 and then extended with two
additional structural bays southwards in 1930-31. Also at this time the roof was reconstructed to a steeper
pitch than originally constructed. The section of wall adjoining the Hospitium are the ruins of the C15
Watergate. These are of Tadcaster limestone on the first floor and brickwork with stone facing at the first
In 1828 the Yorkshire Philosophical Society on taking possession of the site made significant repairs to the
Hospitium enabling it to house their collections before and after the erection of the Yorkshire Museum. The
first floor door already existed but a new external staircase was constructed to reach it and provide access to
the upper hall. The appearance of the external staircase remained consistent from its C19 construction until its replacement in 2006.

Bertram Hyde Ltd, 2005, St. Mary's Precinct Conservation Management Plan (Unpublished document). SYO1736.

Ferrey and Mennim, 2018, Hospitium Design, Access and Heritage Statement (Unpublished document). SYO2250.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: Bertram Hyde Ltd. 2005. St. Mary's Precinct Conservation Management Plan.
  • --- Unpublished document: Ferrey and Mennim. 2018. Hospitium Design, Access and Heritage Statement.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (1)

Record last edited

Apr 6 2021 1:35PM


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