Building record MYO1572 - The King's Manor


The King's Manor, now incorporated into the University of York, was built in 1483-1502 as the abbot's house of the Benedictine abbey of St Mary. The abbey was dissolved in 1539 by Henry VIII and the abbot's house was established as the northern headquarters for the King's Council. When Henry VIII visited York with Queen Catherine Howard in 1541 the building was altered extensively in preparation for their arrival. In the mean time however, the abbey church was gradually being dismantled and by 1550 many of the buildings had been taken down or fallen into disrepair. Between 1568 and 1570, Thomas Radcliffe, President of the Council of the North, ordered extensive alterations and by 1570 the house was described as a U-shaped building. It was altered even further over the next fifty years and in 1641 the Council of the North was abolished. From 1667 the manor was the residence of the governor of the City of York and in 1688, when Parliament took possession of the house, it was leased to Alderman Robert Waller and divided up into dwellings, workshops and warehouses. In 1723, when Waller's lease expired, it was leased to Sir Thomas Robinson of Newby, in whose family it remained until the early 19th century. The Yorkshire School for the Blind occupied many of the buildings between 1835 and 1958 after which time they were acquired by the York City Council and leased to the University of York in 1963. Today the King's Manor accommodates the university's Department for Archaeology, Centre for Conservation, Centre for Eighteenth-Century studies and the Centre for Medieval Studies.


Grid reference SE 6002 5219 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (23)

Full Description

Formerly known as: The King's Manor and The Abbot's House EXHIBITION SQUARE. Abbot's house of St Mary's Abbey (remains in Museum Gardens, qv); offices of the King's Council of the North and occasional royal residence 1539-1641; subdivided in multiple occupation 1660-1812; Manor National School 1813-1922 and Yorkshire School for the Blind 1833-1958; part of the University of York from 1964. Abbot's house rebuilt 1483-1502. Porch and block of chambers, now flats, added 1561-63. Huntington Room with kitchen below added c1590. Abbot's house remodelled; hall, gallery and anteroom range, outer west range of which cellars survive, and extensions to chambers block added 1610-20. Some rebuilding and repair of Civil War damage 1682. Alterations, part refenestration and re-roofing of C15 range in C18. Remodelled and rebuilt as school buildings by JB and W Atkinson c1870; further alteration c1900 by WH Brierley. Restoration, some rebuilding and modernisation by Fielden and Mawson 1963-64.

MATERIALS: Abbot's house timber-framed encased in orange-brown brick in random bond with some brick diapering and on moulded limestone plinth; faced on left return in ashlar c1900, retaining C15 terracotta window of 3 segment-headed transomed lights. Tumbled brick gable ends. Porch extension and chamber block of re-used magnesian limestone ashlar and orange-brown brick with stone quoins. C16 and C17 extensions of magnesian limestone ashlar. Post-Civil War rebuilding in orange brick in random bond. C19 school buildings partly red brick in English garden-wall bond variant, partly ashlar. Refectory staircase c1900 of concrete. C20 buildings of orange brick in stretcher bond, banded with concrete. Roof to Abbot's house of plain tiles edged in stone slates; other roofs of plain tile or pantile, with stone copings; brick stacks, several diagonally set. Abbot's house and porch extension enclosed in low stone parapet above coved eaves cornice.

EXTERIOR: ABBOT'S HOUSE FRONT: 2 storey range part with attic; irregular fenestration and diagonal buttress at right end. Left of centre double doors in round-arched doorcase with strapwork frieze and moulded cornice supported by herms on high pedestals bearing defaced IR cyphers; above, pedimented moulded panel enclosing the Royal Arms and initials CR. Right of centre reset round-arched doorcase in original opening, flanked by herms on high pedestals as first door, with fretwork frieze and moulded cornice, spandrels carved with female figures, soffit with jewel mouldings. Four 2-light windows on ground floor are mullioned, other multi-light windows are transomed or double transomed: at centre right, one squat 2-light attic window. Two window surrounds to right of central stack covered with early C19 Roman cement. At left end of first floor is round-headed terracotta window. Various elliptical brick arches are visible in the fabric. Two external chimney stacks, one corbelled from first floor, the other full height with moulded strings and weathering.

FIRST COURTYARD: rear of entrance range: 2 storeys and attics; 3-window centre range flanked by 4-window wings; porch extension in re-entrant with right wing. Chamfered doorway inserted in centre beneath projecting stack carried on cogged brick corbels and rising through first floor. To left, blocked quoined doorway with shaped lintel and 2-light window further left: similar window at far right. On first floor, original 3-light window in quoined surround is broken by external stack: to left is an inserted cross window, to right restored 5-light window in quoined surround: all beneath moulded string stepped over windows and broken by stack. Early windows have ovolo-moulded surrounds. Gabled extension incorporates re-used moulded and chamfered plinth. Blocked original doorway in moulded hollow chamfered surround on ground floor. First floor and attic windows are of 3 lights with chamfered mullions. Left side has inserted doorway to right of 2-light window, both in chamfered surrounds.

WING TO RIGHT (NORTH): shallow projecting porch has glazed and panelled door in restored moulded surround with depressed arched head. To right, blocked door arch of moulded brick with 2-centred head: further right, two 2-light windows: to left, two similar windows and at left end small inserted 1-light window. On first floor, three windows are of 2 lights, one with segmental brick arch altered from former door; one window is of 4 lights with king mullion. Mullions and surrounds are ovolo moulded.

WING TO LEFT (SOUTH): C20 board doors on strap hinges in chamfered openings in centre and right end. Ground floor windows are inserted or restored of 2-lights. On first floor, windows are of 2, 3 and 5 lights in chamfered, hollow-chamfered or ovolo-moulded surrounds, one of C16 rendered moulded brick. Gable end: on moulded and chamfered plinth. Ground floor window is of 3 lights in double hollow-chamfered opening: similar restored window of 5 lights with return stopped hoodmould. Windows are diamond or square lattice casements or divided vertically into 4 panes by iron glazing bars. Unless indicated otherwise, windows are mullioned, those on first floor transomed: attic windows are gabled or half-hipped dormers with 2-light casements.

GALLERY RANGE: 2-storey 4-window front, flanked by 2-window wings; south wing connected to Abbot's house by linking porch and rebuilt staircase. Central semicircular passage arch flanked by tapered pilasters beneath moulded cornice, with spandrels and pilasters carved with strapwork: above is pedimented panel with round-arched head bearing the crested arms of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Windows on both floors are of 4 mullioned lights; similar fenestration to north wing. Arcaded frieze beneath moulded cornice runs above ground floor windows and returns on north wing. South wing has two double chamfered semicircular arches blocked by multi-light windows on ground floor: on first floor two 4-light windows. Windows have ovolo mouldings; first floor windows are transomed. Porch bay approached by external staircase with squat balusters and flat coping on square piers with ball finials. On first floor, round-arched doorway is flanked by tapered pilasters carved with strapwork supporting entablature and pedimented achievement of Stuart arms in round-headed panel. Wrought-iron weathervane with KM pennant on gable end.

SECOND COURTYARD: rear of gallery range: 2-storey 5-window front, gabled at north end. South range of 2 storeys of varying heights, 5 bays, terminating in C16 gatehouse with attic. West range of 2 storeys on high basement, 14 bays, with 2-storey cross-gabled return at north end. Courtyard completed by 2-storey 5-bay school extension to north end of gallery range, with gabled centre bay and pent-roofed bay at end. Gabled return and school extension linked by 1-storey 7-bay covered way forming northern boundary of courtyard. Rear of gallery range has doorway with moulded 4-centred head in square-headed surround and, further north, blocked doorway with keyblock. Windows are of 2, 3 and 4 lights, ovolo-moulded. South range has blocked doorway adjacent to gallery range: windows generally are of 2 lights on ground floor, of 3 or 4 lights with transoms on first floor, those in centre block gabled half dormers. Gatehouse has 4-centred arch with 3-light window above and half-hipped attic dormer with similar window: traces of C17 windows remain on outer side. In west range, C17 basement retains ovolo-moulded windows and moulded string stepped up over C20 door. Two external flights of concrete stairs lead to glazed doors on first floor: C20 aluminium windows are slide horizontally. C19 bay at north end has C20 door on ground floor, 3-light mullioned and transomed window on first floor. School extension has inserted C20 door; 1- and 2-light windows are ovolo-moulded, some with transoms, with square-lattice glazing, in surrounds of contrasting stone. Covered way has chamfered ogee-arched doorway at each end: between are 5 arcades of segment-headed lights separated by short gabled pilaster buttresses. Wall capped with moulded coping.

CHAMBERS BLOCK AND EXTENSION: 2 storeys and attics; 5-bay front, two bays gabled. Central doorway is quoined and chamfered with sunk-panelled door. To left, two 3-light square lattice casement windows with ovolo mullions in hollow chamfered surrounds: to right, three 18-pane sashes. First floor windows are five 18-pane sashes, mostly original. Gables have 2-light attic windows, one in double chamfered surround, one ovolo moulded. Rear: 2-storey parallel extension with gabled attics; 4-window front on moulded plinth. Windows on ground floor are 3-light, on first floor 3- or 4-light, to attic 2-light: surrounds and mullions are ovolo moulded. Right side: paired gable ends of chambers block and extension, of 2 storeys with attics. Original block has 2-storey polygonal bay window on chamfered plinth. Window side lights are blocked on both floors: ground floor windows are 18-pane sashes, first floor cross-windows with diamond lattice casements. On both floors, windows have coved cornices, with plain parapet over first floor. Extension range has former door altered to 2-light window on ground floor; 3-light window on first floor. In both ranges, attic windows are of 2 diamond latticed lights in ovolo moulded surrounds. EARLY C17 EXTENSION: 3 storeys with attics; 3-bay front on chamfered plinth: two upper storeys articulated by tiered brick pilasters with stone bases beneath moulded brick entablatures. Outer bays are gabled and joined by flat parapet over centre bay: gables enclose glazed oeils de boeuf. Ground floor has 3-light window flanked by 1-light windows: first floor three cross-windows, centre one recessed beneath 1-course segmental brick arch: second floor three mullioned windows. Windows are square latticed in ovolo-moulded or chamfered stone surrounds. Right return has inserted doorway on ground floor; blocked window on second floor; C20 flat dormer with 5-light window to attic.

INTERIOR: ABBOT'S HOUSE: some timber-framed partition walls retained in front range: a number of C15 and C16 moulded doorways with depressed 4-centred arched heads survive in various places. Original and reset fireplaces include the following: on ground floor, in end left room C18 timber carved surround; in end right room early C17 surround sunk carved with jewel motifs; in room beneath Huntington Room, wide kitchen hearth with segmental brick arch. On first floor, in south wing, one of moulded brick, one of moulded stone, one of stone with chamfered brick arch; Huntington Room has surround of carved stone pilasters and arch of voussoirs. Fine ceilings include the following: room on ground floor, room above and part of Huntington Room panelled with C15 moulded beams; room beneath Huntington Room with C16 moulded beams; room on first floor fitted with elaborate early C17 plaster ceiling saved from demolished house in North Street. Other important fittings include: in Huntington Room, plaster frieze depicting Huntington heraldic motifs and C18 graffiti on the window glass. GALLERY RANGE: on ground floor, round-arched stairhall doorway carved with heraldic flowers with heavy moulded entablature and cornice on elaborate voluted brackets. C17 stone staircase with roll moulded coping to balustrade. On first floor, fireplace in anteroom enriched with jewel ornament. Doorway to Huntington Room has pedimented entablature flanked by squat pyramid finials on carved pedestals. Hall on first floor has chamfered fireplace with 4-centred head; early C18 octagonal ceiling lantern.

WEST RANGE: early C17 vaulted cellars survive. Reset C14 2-centred arched doorway with colonnette jamb shafts beneath damaged crocketed gable filled with blind tracery.

(An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York: RCHME: Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse: HMSO London: 1975-: 30-43).
Listing NGR: SE6002452195

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

NMR Information:

Alternate Name (Former) THE ABBOTS HOUSE
Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.) NY 12
Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.) YK 12

[SE 60025217] School for the Blind formerly The King's Manor [GT]. (1)

The buildings known as the King's Manor are the result of successive alterations and additions to the abbot's house of St. Mary's Abbey. At three points 13th cent. work is visible. (2)

The buildings are in good condition. See G.P. AO 63/114/7 for N.E aspect, and AO/M for illustration of northern range from the inner quadrangle. (3)


14.6.54 The King's Manor (The University of York)
(formerly listed as The King's Manor and The Abbot's House)
1.7.68 and basement below modern building adjoining The Yorkshire Museum on the north-east side

SE 5952 SE 12/26
SE 6052 SW 27/26


Originally the Abbot's House of St Mary's Abbey, and built by Abbot Sevier between 1485 and 1495. After the Dissolution, it was retained by Henry VIII as the official residence of the President of the Council of the North. Robert Holgage, the first to hold this appointment, altered and rebuilt the house for the visit of Henry in 1541; and it was repaired in 1569 by the Earl of Sussex. Circa 1572 Henry Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon added the large brick wing on the north-west side, and various additional buildings on one side of the quadrangle for the High Commission Court. Circa 1616 Lord Sheffield built the north side of the principal quadrangle and the 2 external doorways bearing the Royal Arms of James I. Between 1626 and 1633 Thomse Wentworth, later Earl of Strafford, added a gallery and chapel on the west side of the quadrangle and the large doorway with the arms he assumed on being created Viscount Wentworth. James VI and I stayed here on his way south from Scotland to claim the English throne. Charles I also stayed here. Interesting interiors. The basement of the building to south-west of the inner quadrangle, of limestone ashlar, survives and is included although it has a mid C20 brick superstructure.
(RCHM Vol. IV, Monument 11.) (4)

In 1539 the Benedictine abbey of St Mary was dissolved by Henry VIII and acquired by the Crown for the northern headquarters of the King's Council. The abbot's house, which was rebuilt during the reigns of Richard III and Henry VII, proved the most suitable building for this purpose and became the nucleus of the King's House. When Henry VIII visited York with Queen Catherine Howard in 1541 the building was altered extensively so as to prepare for their arrival. In the mean time the abbey church was gradually being dismantled with the bells removed in 1541-2 and the remaining lead removed in 1550. In a survey carried out at the end of Henry's reign it was noted that many of the monastic buildings, including some that had been converted for use by the king, were in a semi-dismantled state. The abbot's house, however, wasn't mentioned in the survey. Between 1568 and 1570 Thomas Radcliffe, Earl of Sussex and President of the Council of the North, arranged for extensive repairs and alterations to be undertaken. In 1570 the house is described as a U-shaped building and was extended even further over the next fifty years. When James I visited York for the first time some time prior to 1609 he stated his intention to repair the manor and convert it as a regal palace for use on his trips to and from Scotland. Between 1609 and 1611 a new hall was constructed and extensive repairs carried out to many of the buildings on the site. Charles I stayed at the manor at least twice during the 1630s and in 1641 the Council of the North was abolished. The buildings had probably fallen into disrepair as when the king visited York in 1641 and 1642 he did not stay there and after his execution the manor was said to have undergone "'great waste and spoil'". In 1667 the manor was the residence of John, Lord Frescheville, the governor of the City, who was succeeded by Sir John Resesby in 1682. In 1687 James II leased the manor to a Roman Catholic priest by the name of Lawson however after the Revolution, when Parliament took possession of the house, it was leased to Alderman Robert Waller and divided up into dwellings, workshops and warehouses. In 1723, when Waller's lease expired, it was leased to Sir Thomas Robinson of Newby, in whose family it remained until the early 19th century. The Yorkshire School for the Blind occupied many of the buildings between 1835 and 1958, and in 1961 they were taken over by the University of York. (5)

This source, on the University of York's website, contains a brief overview of the history of the King's Manor.

The manor was divided into apartments in 1688 and was said to have gone into gradual decline. While occupied by the Yorkshire School of the Blind it was gradually restored by JB and W Atkinson and Walter Brierly. A gymnasium and second courtyard were built in the 1890s and the Principal's house was built in 1900.

The York City Council acquired the building in 1958 and leased it to the University of York in 1963 to house its Institute for Advanced Architectural Studies. Major restoration works were carried out by Fielden and Mawson, which saw the demolition and replacement of several buildings.

Today the King's Manor accommodates the Department for Archaeology, Centre for Conservation, Centre for Eighteenth-Century studies and the Centre for Medieval Studies. (6)

The revised listed building description for the King's Manor dates from 14-MAR-1997. Please see the entry for full details.

The abbott's house was rebuilt in 1483-1502.
The King's Manor was remodelled and rebuilt as school buildings by JB and W Atkinson circa 1870 and further alterations were carried out circa 1900 by WH Brierley. Restoration, some rebuilding and modernisation was undertaken by Fielden and Mawson in 1963-64. (7)

The Abbey of St Mary dates from the 12th century and is now a ruin. Please see the full scheduled monument description for details. (8)

1 Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 1:1250 1961.
2 A history of Yorkshire: the city of York 529-31 edited by P M Tillott
3 Field Investigators Comments F1 RWE 06-JUN-63
4 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest 88 DOE(HHR) City of York, N. Yorks June 1983
5 The history of the King's Works, volume 4 : 1485-1660 (Part 2) 355-364 by H M Colvin ... [et al]
6 World Wide Web page 1998. A brief history of the King's Manor, University of York <> [accessed 21-MAY-2009]
7 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest Revised List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, City of York, North Yorkshire, Part 1, 14-MAR-1997
8 Scheduled Monument Notification 09-Sep-04

Architectural Survey
14-NOV-1995 - 14-NOV-1995

University of York, 2016, Kings Manor (Unpublished document). SYO1880.

NMR, 2019, NMR data (Digital archive). SYO2214.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: University of York. 2016. Kings Manor.
  • --- Digital archive: NMR. 2019. NMR data.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

Related Events/Activities (5)

Record last edited

Jun 11 2020 10:29AM


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