Building record MYO1837 - The Bar Convent


Entrance range of 1786-9, fronting earlier buildings of which the Chapel block of 1766-9 remains relatively unaltered; 1790-3 outer range on north side of Court; 1834-5 inner range on north side of Court and range north of the Chapel block; 1844-6 Chapel block altered and Schoolroom block on corner of Nunnery Lane. The Court was roofed c1865 and other alterations made later in C19.


Grid reference Centred SE 5975 5139 (80m by 51m)
Map sheet SE55SE
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (12)

Full Description

Convent and school of The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary; now convent and museum. Entrance range of 1786-9, fronting earlier buildings of which the Chapel block of 1766-9 remains relatively unaltered; 1790-3 outer range on north side of Court added; 1834-5 inner range on north side of Court and range north of the Chapel block added; 1844-6 Chapel block altered and Schoolroom block on corner of Nunnery Lane added. The Court was roofed c1865 and other alterations made later in C19. Parts of the building were damaged during the Second World War and some alterations were made during conversion for museum use c1985.

C18 buildings by Thomas Atkinson; work of the 1830s by JB and W Atkinson, of 1840s and later by GT Andrews.

MATERIALS: entrance range of red-brown brick in Flemish bond with window arches of orange brick; plinth, dressings and cornice of painted stone. 1834 range of buff brick in Flemish bond with timber bracketed eaves guttering. Schoolroom block of orange-brown brick, Blossom Street front in Flemish bond, Nunnery Lane front in English garden-wall bond; window arches are of orange brick; plinth and giant order with entablature on Blossom Street front of ashlar. All roofs are hipped and slated and have brick stacks except for lead roof to clock tower and glass roof to Court. Stone gable cross.

EXTERIOR: entrance range: 3 storeys and attic; 7-bay front; 3 centre bays are pedimented and break forward slightly. Ground and first floors in centre are treated as centrepiece and set in 2-storey round-arched recess: moulded stone steps lead up to 6-panel door in rusticated surround, with plain fanlight behind decorative iron grille. Detached doorcase is of paired fluted Doric columns supporting mutule cornice and pediment. Window above is 12-pane sash in shouldered surround with balustrade below window and moulded cornice above. All other windows on ground, first and second floors are 12-pane sashes, those on second floor squatter. On ground and first floors they have sill band, on second floor painted stone sills: all have flat arches of rubbed brick. Broad raised bands to first floor and attic. Moulded cornice and pediment are modillioned and pediment has clock face in tympanum. Plain attic has 6 squat 3-pane windows.

Railings braced to ground floor and forming gates across porch are of square section with tapered finials.

Rear: 3-storey 3-bay pent-roofed extension. Square clock tower in centre rises above roof and is crowned with ogee-roofed open cupola of timber columns.

Schoolroom block: 2-storey 3-bay front articulated by attached giant order pilasters, raised on high podium, carrying pedimented entablature. Windows are 12-pane sashes on both floors, squatter on first floor. On ground floor, moulded sill band forms coping to podium: on first floor, sills extend full width of each bay. All windows have flat arches of rubbed brick. Left return: 3 storeys with scattered fenestration. Chamfered stone plinth and entablature are returned from Blossom Street front. Curved corner bay has inserted round-arched doorway with moulded imposts beneath keyed hoodmould and curved door of 6 moulded panels. Further left, two 4-panel door approached by steps break plinth. Windows are sashes, two of 12 panes, one of 16 panes, one 4 panes, all with stone sills; all except 4-pane window have segmental brick arches.

Chapel block from garden: 2 storeys and attics; 5-bay front, right end masked by extensions housing the Lady Chapel and a staircase. Ground floor has two square-headed windows each of 4 round-headed 'Gothick' lights; first floor has three inserted lunette windows with central pivoting lights. 4-course raised brick first floor band. Lady Chapel extension has one round-arched small-pane light. Attic windows are two box dormers and one flat skylight.

INTERIOR: entrance range. Ground floor: Portress' Room to left has a sleeping alcove at the rear. Great Parlour to right has original marble fireplace flanked by round headed alcoves. Schoolroom block: main rooms on both floors have one apsidal end. Ground floor room has divided ceiling formed by cased corniced beams with gaslight connection in circular surround in each ceiling bay.

Court: decorative tiled floor: glazed roof carried on iron trusses supported on cast-iron columns. Clock by Henry Hindley, before 1770, connected c1790 to pediment clock on Blossom Street front.

Chapel block: from ground floor, stone staircase with square section iron balusters and moulded handrail wreathed at the foot rises to chapel on first floor. Chapel has domed sanctuary, north and south transepts and 3-bay nave.

Sanctuary is domed Ionic rotunda composed of 8 detached fluted columns supporting entablature with frieze enriched with vine leaf festoons, urns and posies. Dome is divided by eight ribs into bays each enclosing a garland of fruit and foliage of varying kinds, and surmounted by painted glass lantern. Transepts lead from rotunda through openings flanked by panelled pilasters with foliate corbels at the head. Beneath north transept is a square cavity said to be a Priest's hole. South transept opens into Lady Chapel lit by small dome and cupola. Nave has round-headed recesses in north and south walls, those to south glazed as lunettes.

West end organ gallery with wrought-iron balustrade is carried on four round arches springing from slender columns with foliate capitals and recessed spandrels. 'Gothick' panelled double doors at west end. Ceiling is coved above bold cornice returned from organ gallery. Fittings: altar of 1969 re-using scrolled legs with winged cherub heads and pelican in piety from C18 original; C20 reredos surmounted by C18 carved figures of Saints Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine and Gregory supporting Spanish ivory crucifix.

(RCHME: City of York: South-west of the Ouse: HMSO: 1972-: 40-7). Listing NGR: SE5978451382

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

Convent of the Institute of St. Mary called The Bar Convent (R.C.), stands on the corner of Blossom Street and Nunnery Lane. It is built of red brick with stone dressings and has roofs of Welsh slate.

The founding of the Bar Convent was due to the establishment of an Institute of Religious Women, a body concerned with the education of girls, as the outcome of the work of Mary Ward (1584/5–1644/5). A house of the Institute, endowed in 1678 by Sir Thomas Gascoigne, was temporarily set up at Dolebank near Fountains, but was transferred to the present site in York, where a messuage and garden had been purchased, on 5 November 1686, to provide a home of Religious women and a boarding school for young ladies. Mother Frances Bedingfield, a companion of Mary Ward, became the first Superior and the Bar Convent Grammar School can claim to be one of the oldest girls' schools in England.

A prospect of York by John Haynes, dated 1731, and other early views show that the original 'Nunnery' was accommodated in a two-storey house of late 17th-century type, with a porch. Between this house and the corner of Nunnery Lane was a house, belonging to Mr. Benson in 1731, of early 18th-century character, which was later added to the convent; it was rebuilt as the Poor School in 1844–5.

The present buildings were begun in 1765 to designs by Thomas Atkinson, and a foundation stone was laid on 4 March 1766. The residential parts were ready for occupation early in 1768 but the Chapel was not used until 27 April 1769. The moving spirit behind the building programme was the Superior, Mother Ann Aspinall (d. 1782), who obtained from Rome a small model for the chapel. The fittings of the chapel were not completed until 1775, when a new wing containing rooms for music and drawing was built between the chapel and the old house on Blossom Street. Rebuilding of the street frontage followed between 1786 and 1789, and a total of £1091 6s. 6d. was spent. In 1790–3 a new range, with children's refectory below and dressing room and a long dormitory above, was built to N. of the main court, costing £987 13s. 4½d. Thomas Atkinson was still the architect; John Prince was the main contractor and Richard Hansom supplied the roof and other woodwork. Fittings for the Chapel were provided and payments in 1790 included 'the Glory at the Large Alter in Burnished Gold'.

A building E. of the Chapel was remodelled in 1814– 16 at a cost of £1149 4s. 1d., the principal builder being Thomas Rayson. Richard Hansom, the carpenter, supervised the work and Robert Mountain provided masonry. In 1826 additional land was bought and laid out as a garden, and in the next year a new oratory (since demolished) was built in the burial ground to S.E. In 1834–5 there was a fresh campaign of building under the architects J. B. and W. Atkinson, and this included a range closing the N. side of the main court to S. of the children's refectory, and a large conventual range running N. from the E. end of the Chapel. The latter range cost £2313 9s. 9¼d.; the main builder was Richard Dalton, bricklayer; Richard Hansom was the carpenter, and Michael Taylor, a distinguished sculptor, provided stone from Elland, Harehill and Oulton and chimney pieces made of Illingley and Roche Abbey stone. The building was lit with gas and provided with flushing water closets. Minor works were also done in the Chapel, which was fitted with gas, and in 1837 the Sacristy was enlarged; two marble basins were supplied by Michael Taylor.

The house on the corner of Nunnery Lane was demolished in 1844 and a new Poor School, designed by G. T. Andrews, was built on the site. The total cost, inclusive of the fees to the architect and the clerk of works, was £1472 3s. 11d. The principal builder was John Lakin, bricklayer; Noah Akeroyd, mason, provided the stonework, and John Bacon was the joiner. The work was completed in 1847. In 1844–5 a third storey to contain a dormitory was built over the children's refectory, and in 1846 the sanctuary of the Chapel was enlarged and seats for the bishop, priests and acolytes provided. Lunettes in the nave and the window lighting the S. transept were inserted at this time. The architect throughout this period continued to be G. T. Andrews, who in 1850 added new kitchens adjoining Nunnery Lane, at a cost of £999 4s. 11d. Later works included the formation of a Lady Chapel and its decoration in 1853–5 and the roofing of the central court in railway-station style after 1865. The School Infirmary was destroyed by enemy action in 1942. Further accommodation was added between 1945 and 1957 (VCH, York, 442). The Chapel was altered and redecorated in 1968–9. (H. J. Coleridge, St. Mary's Convent, Micklegate Bar, York (1887); Convent archives.)

Architectural Description—The main Front Range of 1786–9 is of three storeys and attics, built of red brick with stone dressings; the windows have rubbed brick flat arches, stone sills and 19th-century plate-glass hung sashes (Plate 138), recently (1969) fitted with glazing bars. The pedimented central feature (Plate 137) is set within an arched recess; this design was used by the architect Thomas Atkinson also for the façade of his own office in St. Andrewgate. The ends of the range are cloaked by other buildings, and the four-storey rear face has an annexe of three storeys built against it. The annexe has a pent roof above a modillioned cornice and, projecting above the roof, a square brick clock-tower (Plate 151) rising to the height of the wall of the main range and supporting a wooden cupola. This last has an ogee lead-covered roof and moulded cornice supported on columns. The clock was made by Henry Hindley of York (d. 1771) and cost £60 in 1789, additional expenses were £39 2s. for erection and £3 4s. for the two faces and scaffolding to put them up. In 1790 Robert Dalton supplied three 'Turrett Clock Bells' for £24 15s.

Inside, the main rooms retain their late 18th-century character and have moulded cornices and skirtings but in general have lost the chair rails. The doorways have moulded architraves and doors with six fielded panels; the windows towards the street retain their shutters. The entrance hall has arcading with pilasters on each side with doorways opening into the Great Parlour (so called in 1834) on the S., and the portress's rooms on the N.; N. again is the Little Parlour. The Great Parlour, which contains original portraits of Sir Thomas Gascoigne and four of the Mothers Superior, has round-headed recesses in the E. wall; these flank the fireplace for which £56 7s. 10d. was paid in 1788. It is of white marble with inserts of veined green marble in the entablature and originally had oval wreaths on the pilaster entablatures and a large wreath set above swags and festoons on the key block. The passage in the annexe on the inner side of the main block is open to the Court.

The Court to the rear of the main range has arcades of round-headed arches on oblong piers to E. and W. Cast-iron columns (not shown on the plan), supporting a glass roof on iron trusses were added after 1865. An ornate floor of Minton tiles and iron benches, chairs and tables, all of mid 19th-century date show the influence of G. T. Andrews. Large benches in iron and wood, with a nasturtium pattern, are by C. B. Dale.

The North Range, of 1834–5 and by J. B. and W. Atkinson, is built of dark red brick. On the S. side, facing the Court, the ground floor has two windows flanked by two doorways, all under segmental heads and with deep reveals. Above the glass roof to the Court the first floor has four large windows and one blind recess all with slightly segmental heads and stone sills; above a projecting band of four courses of brickwork the second floor has square-headed sash windows cutting into the cornice. In the E. wall there are round-headed windows above the doorway. There is a straight joint between this range and the parallel Refectory range to N. On the ground floor the W. room, formerly a scullery, has been remodelled and the chimney-breast has been rebuilt; there are some remains of a former chimney carried by a moulded corbel on the E. wall and the ceiling in the E. part of the room is lower than in the W. The first-floor passage on the N. has a round-headed archway leading E. to a staircase off the N. angle, rising from first-floor level. The latter, of 1834–5, has a moulded rail, cantilevered stone treads and plain square iron balusters. The second-floor landing has turned wooden balusters with square knops and a heavy newel, of c. 1765–70 and probably reused. The fielded panels of the cupboard doors under the stairs are also 18th-century and reused.

The South Range, of 1778 and earlier, was remodelled in 1834–5 when the N. wall was reconstructed to match the S. elevation of the N. range, giving symmetry to the Court. The S. elevation incorporates some older brickwork of the late 17th or early 18th century towards the E. end. The ground floor is lit by two hung-sash windows of the early 19th century; higher up two arches of 1778, for openings now blocked, remain. Incorporated into the E. end of the range is the staircase to the chapel, originally built in 1766–9; it is lit by a window of c. 1840 with two small round-headed lights on the S., and a big window with semicircular head on the E. On the ground floor, a passage on the S. has been opened into the two adjoining rooms in the range by the insertion of arches. On the first floor, the passage on the S. is terminated by round archways with recessed panels to the reveals; the arches of 1834–5 are supported on volute corbels. The E. room has doors flanking the fireplace, all of 1778, and a door of 1834–5 in the S. wall. The W. room likewise has an 18th-century fireplace and doors. The chapel staircase has a moulded rail, stone treads and square iron balusters, as in the N. range, of 1834–5. Again the timber balustrading to the top landing embodies a heavy rail, a bottom rail or string, a heavy newel, and turned balusters with square knops, of 1766–9, but here in situ.

The Chapel Block, of 1766–9, with major alterations of 1847–53, closes the fourth, E., side of the Court. At ground-floor level a corridor opens to the court, as on the W. At first-floor level a blocked round-headed opening in the middle is flanked by windows under plain brick segmental arches, each of the two windows being of two round-headed lights with Gothic shafts, with moulded caps and bases to mullions and jambs, all of c. 1830–40. The second floor has three segmental-headed windows with sashes. Above the cornice is a hipped roof, and on the roof is a wooden bell-housing with pyramidal lead top. At each corner is a tapered rainwater head with moulded cornice and base on a lead fall pipe with opposed fleurs-de-lis on the junction bands.

The rear, E., elevation are also symmetrical. The window proportions and eaves cornice are unusual for 1766–9. The plate glass casements and top lights of the ground and first-floor windows may be by G. T. Andrews. The heads of the side lights of the ground-floor Venetian windows are of painted ashlar. The arched and segmental heads of all other windows on this elevation are of plain brick. The simple cornice on shaped modillions is cut into by the small-paned sash windows of the second floor.

The N. side, of buff-red brick, has four-brick bands separating the floors. The windows all have small panes and are a mixture of sash and casement types set irregularly. Widely-spaced brackets support a plain wooden cornice.

On the S. side two floors correspond to three floors elsewhere. Towards the E. end the Lady Chapel projects southward; it was lit by a round-headed two-light window with vesica at the head at first-floor level, but this was replaced in 1969 by a sash window. The ground floor is lit by two Gothic windows, each with four round-headed lights under lozenges as tracery. Above the ashlar heads is a four-brick band. Three lunettes at first-floor level are set under a brick arch, which cuts a four-brick band related to the sash windows originally here. There is a gutter supported on metal brackets to the hipped roof; in this last are two flat-topped dormers and a roof-light towards the E. In annexes against the Lady Chapel are round-headed windows, with stone sills, perhaps by G. T. Andrews, of c. 1850.

The interior retains many cornices, skirtings, doorways and other fittings of the 18th century. The ground floor is divided longitudinally by a central passage, N.E. of which is a large room, the 'Sitting Room of the Lady Abbess' in 1834, with a Venetian window in the E. wall and, in the W. wall, between the doorways a simple round-headed niche at a high level. The second main room on this side of the passage has been sub-divided; the E. half has a good late 18th-century fireplace with moulded dentil cornice, fluted frieze, and blank centre panel. The Library, to S., has been formed out of two rooms, called in 1834 the 'First School' and the 'Drawing School'. In the E. part of the S. wall are two groups both of three recesses, the middle recess of each having a round-arched head. The W. wall has a round-headed niche in the middle flanked by doorways with moulded surrounds and heavy overdoors each with a pedestal to carry a bust centrally placed in a broken pediment. The lobby at the W. end has a blocked doorway at the S. end and a blocked window at the N. end respectively of the W. wall. On the first floor, a passage at the W. end is spanned by a series of round-headed archways with moulded architraves. The square-headed entrance to the chapel from this passage has a surround like the archways.

The Chapel has complex internal arrangements, but the structure is hidden by a simple hipped roof; this disguised its function before Roman Catholic emancipation. To the E. and defining the Sanctuary, eight freestanding Ionic columns with an entablature comprising an enriched dentil cornice and a frieze decorated with festoons of grape vine between urns and ribboned sprays of flowers support a large ribbed dome. The dome rises to a cupola with glazed top and a drum enriched with close-set brackets above a band of palmette. A narrow glazed zone at the base of the cupola, possibly an insertion by G. T. Andrews and removed in 1969, formerly separated the tops of the individual radial ribs; these last, eight in number, are round in section and enriched with leaves. Each bay of the vault contains an oval medallion framed by enrichments which alternate from bay to bay: some with curved swags of conventional foliage supporting crossed sprays of foliage and fruit, and the others with intersecting swags supporting palm leaves. The entablature towards the nave (as opposed to the Sanctuary) is simpler and has a heavy dentil cornice; the 19th-century painting on the frieze was obliterated in 1969.

The plasterwork, probably by Thomas Atkinson, which is now white and gilt, was painted in 1847 by Mr. Bulmer, perhaps to designs of G. T. Andrews. The N. and S. bays of the rotunda open to small transepts under a curved trabeation supported by heavy foliated corbels and pilasters with a round recessed panel between two shaped panels in their height. They are probably a remodelling of 1847 by G. T. Andrews. In the N. wall of the N. transept, round-headed panelling frames both the square-headed doorways, and the window to the staircase has a round head framing two round-headed lights and a blind spandrel; the E. wall has a square-headed recess between two oblong panels. A trapdoor in the transept floor gives access to a cavity about 8 ft. square. The S. transept extends eastward beneath a small dome and the cupola to form the Lady Chapel; entry to the extension is between responds similar to those at the entry to the transepts. The cupola has a glazed top and elongated brackets and is supported on radial ribs springing from a modillioned cornice. The recess departs from G. T. Andrews's plan of 1845, but it was constructed to his design in 1853 and decorated in 1855. A niche was discovered in the E. wall in 1969 when the decoration was altered.

The Nave has a coved plaster ceiling, with an iron grille in the centre. The three round-headed recesses in both N. and S. walls may be by Thomas Atkinson. Those on the N. are blind, those on the S. contain glazed lunettes probably by G. T. Andrews, of 1847. The W. gallery may have been fitted between 1847 and 1855 by G. T. Andrews, for the W. end had assumed its present shape by 1855 (Sheahan and Whellan, 1, 556). The gallery, which contains the organ, is carried by four round columns of painted timber with caps of Early English type, square abaci, moulded bases, and bands at mid height. The columns support round-headed arches with recessed spandrels under a bold coved cornice. The organ gallery has an elaborate scrolled iron railing. The cornice returns on either side of the organ recess at gallery level.

The Sacristy on the E. has a curved W. wall to accommodate the rotunda of the chapel. A blocked square light in this wall formerly provided indirect light for the High Altar. The doorway at the S. end of the curved W. wall which opens to the Sanctuary has an 18th-century architrave and a door of c. 1845. The doorway in the S. wall is of 1847–55. An S-shaped staircase of 1847–55 by G. T. Andrews, of similar design to his staircase in the Schoolroom block (see below), is entered through a doorway in the S. wall of the Lady Chapel. A staircase E. of the Lady Chapel is not accessible from the Chapel block at this level.

The Chapel Roof is original, but where the cupola has been heightened one of the principals has been trimmed back. The truss above the cupola has a king-post and struts above a collar; all other trusses have tie-beams, queen-posts and struts. The 'garet over the chapel' was underdrawn in 1791 and partitions were put in an attic storey.

Fittings—Altars: in Sanctuary, table incorporating two mahogany scrolled legs with winged cherub heads and pellet enrichment and, on floor in front, a pelican in her piety, of oak, from the 18th-century High Altar shown in a lithograph of 1840, and now reinstated in the same relative positions. In Lady Chapel, table of c. 1855 by a Mr. Hayball, possibly designed by G. T. Andrews.

In nave, in niches on N. and S. walls respectively, St. Joseph with infant Jesus, and Virgin of Assumption with crescent moon, clouds and cherubs' heads, two white marble statues bought in Florence in 1823 for £20 each
St. Sebastian; St. Michael; St. Margaret, three 18th-century Baroque alabaster statues, probably Spanish, brought from the Dominican Priory of Bornheim in the Netherlands by Fr. Anthony Plunkett O.P., its last Prior, then in Stourton Lodge Chapel for some time, and placed in the Bar Convent in 1805 when Plunkett was chaplain.
At foot of staircase to S.W. of chapel, seated Virgin and Child, of limestone painted buff with some gilding, early 17th-century, Flemish, on 19th-century wooden restored base, from St. Martin's, Coney Street, removed by Mr. John Leadbitter, after whose death it was in the Spital at Hexham from 1867 to 1893, then given to the Convent by M. Elizabeth, John Leadbitter's grand-daughter.

Reredos: in modern setting, carved oak figures of the four Latin doctors, N. to S., St. Jerome with lion, St. Gregory as pope holding book, St. Augustine as archbishop holding flaming heart, St. Ambrose as archbishop holding book, 18th-century, now painted white and gilded. Paintings: at top of staircase to S.W. of Chapel, triptych in oils, depicting, l., kneeling man, bald and bearded, with eight sons behind, c., Lamentation, with Virgin pierced by dagger flanked by angels bearing instruments of the Passion, r., kneeling woman with two grown-up daughters behind, perhaps 17th-century; the family of Sir Thomas Gascoigne (c. 1596–1686) has been suggested for donor, but the number of children is incorrect.

Panelling: on staircase to S.W. of chapel, eight carved wooden panels (Plate 42), four with enriched round-headed arches, cherubs' heads in spandrels, and fluted pilasters, four with figures in niches and strapwork surrounds, with Netherlandish inscriptions
(1) Resurrection, inscribed 'CHRISTUS IS MIN LEV-. NDT VND SAE EVEN IS MIN GEWIN [illegible]'
(2) Crucifixion, inscribed 'CHRISTVS IS IMME VI. SER SUNDE WILN GEOF. FERT Aō 1597'
(3) Adoration of the Shepherds (?), inscribed 'EHRE SI GOT IN DER HOGE. FREDE VP ERDE VND DEMN. GHE-EIN WOL (blank) ALLEN'
(4) Annunciation, inscribed 'DE ENGEL GABRIEL GENA. NT VAN GODT WERT. TO MARIEN GESANT' and Virtues
(5) Prudence, as double-headed man, inscribed '.. HOFAIOT'
(6) Justice, with sword and scales, inscribed '.. GE. DH. DH'
(7) Fortitude, woman carrying a column, inscription illegible
(8) Charity, woman with child on left arm and another by right side, inscribed 'D .. LE TE', 16th-century.

Carved wood panel of Entombment, with dead Christ supported by an angel, probably 18th-century and French. Miscellanea: patriarchal cross, relic, of silver-gilt chased with scroll work and inscribed, with seal of Chapter of St. Omer 1657–62, presented by Rev. Thomas Lawson, S.J., 1792, enclosed in silver shrine of 1860, perhaps from the Bromholm Rood in existence by the 13th century.

The School Rooms in the angle between Blossom Street and Nunnery Lane were built to the designs of G. T. Andrews in 1844–45. The Blossom Street, W., front (Plate 138), is set slightly forward from the adjoining main 18th-century front and has a two-storey giant order supporting a heavy pedimented entablature, with a moulded dentil cornice above a deep frieze of good quality ashlar. The brick podium has a chamfered stone plinth. The windows have rubbed brick flat arches; the plate glass sashes were changed to small panes in 1969. The upper sills extend from pilaster to pilaster, the lower sills form a continuous moulded stone top member to the podium.

A curved section of brickwork at the angle is pierced at street level by an inserted doorway of c. 1920. The N. front to Nunnery Lane, though of coarser brick, has the stone plinth and heavy entablature continued from the W. front, but the cornice is without dentils. Windows and doors have segmental heads. The windows are at varying levels since the S. part is of three storeys, the central part fronts a staircase, and the N. part is of two storeys. The E. wall is of similar brick, of three storeys, and the heavy stone entablature continues across it. Inside, on the ground floor a large Dining Room with apsidal N. end has cornices running round cased beams and a circular surround to a gaslight point in the centre of each ceiling bay. A curved door on the N.E. leads to the kitchen. On the first floor is a lofty School Room, also with an apsidal end. The S-shaped staircase has a round handrail and cast-iron balusters and a heavy turned wooden newel; each baluster is decorated with an oval medallion at mid-height with a four-lobed leaf on each side and foliation at head and foot.

The North Range containing the Refectory was built to the designs of Thomas Atkinson in 1790–3 and formed the original N. side of the Court. The Long Dormitory on the second floor was added by G. T. Andrews in 1844. All three storeys are of reddish brick. On the N. side, to W. of a large chimneybreast, the ground floor is lit by an 18th-century four-light Gothic window set high; it has four round-headed lights divided inside by a round shaft with moulded cap and base and sub-divided by lesser round shafts. Three windows on the first floor are grouped within a concrete surround, with a single window adjacent to the chimney-breast. On the second floor two large sash windows with small panes are placed together under a concrete head. A blocked window to the E. has a brick dentil cornice as the sill, showing that the roof has been raised. There is a plain plank cornice.

In the E. end, on the ground floor is a Venetian window with a central arched brick head, but the intermediate jambs and the heads of the side lights are of concrete or painted ashlar; inside, the central opening is flanked by freestanding pillars with moulded caps and bases. The first-floor sash window has a slightly segmental head and retains the original sashes. Immediately above is a statue of the Virgin and Child in a round-headed niche. The second floor has a similar window, but with twelve panes instead of six.

Inside, the Refectory on the ground floor, remodelled in the 19th century, has in the W. wall a simple round-headed entry between two slightly lower shallow niches also with round heads; over the entry is a moulded corbel of c. 1830–40. In the S. wall is a blocked central doorway and a second doorway of c. 1855. Three cased girders have been inserted beneath the ceiling. The 18th-century window in the N. wall contains 19th-century glass in the spandrels, with gold foliated patterns set in blue and red. On the first floor, a room at the E. end has a fireplace and other features of c. 1800.

The Range extending N.E. from the Chapel block, designed by J. B. and W. Atkinson, was built in 1834–5. The top storey was added in the late 19th century, and the two N. bays were rebuilt after damage during the 1939–45 War. It is three storeys high. The E. elevation has six sash windows under slightly segmental arches of ordinary brick and with stone sills on each floor. The 19th-century cornice has reeded wooden brackets set widely apart. The N. elevation is modern. The W. elevation has similar sash windows with flat arches and stone sills on the ground floor, some original round-headed sash windows on the first floor and modern windows above. The S. part of the elevation is now masked by a modern annexe but when the Commission's plan was made a curved passage projected at mezzanine level. It had round-headed lights and resembled an oriel window. The cornice is a wooden gutter supported on widely-spaced brackets.

Inside, the Sewing Room on the ground floor has been rebuilt in the style of 1834–5. The Refectory has a fireplace of Illingley stone in the N. wall set in a round-headed recess and flanked by round-headed recesses; it is by Michael Taylor and has a mantelshelf supported by shaped brackets and, above, a horizontal panel set under a moulded cornice. Three round-headed niches with simple moulded architraves are set high up in the W. wall. The passage on the W. is somewhat altered; it was similar to the passage on the first floor. The latter has a series of transverse arches on pilasters separating plaster groined vaults and intermediate barrel vaults; at the N. end is a large round-headed niche. The plasterwork is by David Jennings. The first-floor Library has been largely rebuilt following bomb damage, eliminating a slightly curved apsidal N. end which existed before. The Community Room has round-headed recesses containing original chests of drawers in the E. wall and another fireplace by Michael Taylor. The Staircase has unpierced walls between flights; it has broad stone steps, stone landings, and plaster barrel vaults. Above the landing between the ground and first floors are two shallow domical vaults and in the corresponding position above are groined vaults.

The Range extending S.E. from the Chapel block and on the site of an earlier building, was drastically remodelled in 1814–16 and its interior retains nothing of interest. It is three storeys high, seven bays long, and one room thick, with a single-storey prolongation of four bays to the E. The N. elevation is stucco-faced. A chimney projects between the third and fourth bays. The ground floor has seven round-headed windows with sills joined to form a continuous band, moulded imposts, and moulded archivolts. The first floor has similar fenestration, but with shorter windows, and the two W. bays are blind. The second floor has square-headed windows; the two W. bays are again blind. The simple wooden cornice is supported on widely spaced modillions. The E. elevation is also stuccofaced and has the first-floor impost moulding and second-floor sill band returned from the N. elevation. The S. elevation is of brick. There is a central three-sided projecting bay rising through all three storeys with three sash windows with stone surrounds in each storey. Various annexes have been put against the W. end of the elevation, and there is a modern range against the other end. A single-storey Range to the E. of the last block has four round-headed openings on the N. side with moulded archivolts and imposts, and roundels with raised mouldings in stucco above the piers. There is a roof light in the slate roof. In the stucco-faced E. end is a single round-headed opening.

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 3, South west. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1972. Monument 13.

NMR Information

Full description
(SE 59735140 - sited from HHR map)

1. 5343 BLOSSOM STREET (south-east side) Nos 15, 17 and 19 (The Bar Convent)
SE 5951 SE 20/81 14.6.54 Grade I

2. Front block 1787-9 by Thomas Atkinson. Red brick with stone dressings; 3 storeys plus attic above eaves cornice; stone string-courses between the lower storeys and at sill levels; 7 sash windows with restored glazing bars. The pedimented central portion of 3 windows breaks slightly forward and contains:- the entrance portico of coupled fluted Doric columns, frieze, Doric cornice and pediment; semi-circular entrance of rusticated stone; above, within a recessed brick arch, is the central window with stone balustrade below the sill with applied reverse consoles, and cornices; modillion eaves cornice with parapet to attic above.

On left-hand side the School Room wing, added 1844-5 to designs of G.T. Andrews, is of red brick, 2-storeyed, with 3 windows, and 4 giant Doric pilasters supporting a deep plain frieze, eaves
cornice and pediment. Early C19 iron forecourt railings extending over frontage of main building. Interior of main building contains many original features, in particular the fine Chapel with the Sanctuary defined by 8 Ionic columns supporting enriched entablature and ribbed dome.

Including altered early C19 wings with project at either side of rear elevation. The Bar Convent was the first Roman Catholic School in England. See also Nos 19 and 21 Blossom Street.
(RCHM Vol III, Monument 13) (2)

1 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest DOE (HHR) City of York, N Yorks, June 1983, 15-16

613515 Architectural Survey Investigation by RCHME/EH Architectural Survey

BF060270 BAR CONVENT, YORK File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued.

RCHME, 1972, RCHME City of York Volume III South-west of the Ouse (Monograph). SYO64.

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

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Digital archive: NMR. 2019. NMR data.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1972. RCHME City of York Volume III South-west of the Ouse.

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Record last edited

Jul 2 2021 2:22PM


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