Monument record MYO5022 - Davy Hall


Site of the Medieval Lardiner Hall, the court, prison and house of the king's lardener who was responsible for the Forest of Galtres. The hall was sold to the Corporation of York in 1731 and demolished.


Grid reference SE 6024 5190 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (4)

Full Description

Davygate runs from St. Helen's Square to St. Sampson's Square, inside and parallel to the S.W. wall of the Roman fortress and overlying its barrack blocks. It takes its name, as did Davy Hall, from the family of David, king's larderer in the Forest of Galtres. The site of Davy Hall, a prison and liberty purchased by the Corporation in 1729 and demolished in 1745, is now occupied by St. Helen's burial ground (20), Cumberland Row (287) and the N.E. end of New Street. Until the removal of St. Helen's churchyard in 1745 and creation of the square, Davygate ran to the end of Coney Street. The S.E. part was widened soon after 1891, and nearly every building in the street has been erected since 1900.

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1981.

Davy Hall

Davygate takes its name from Davy Hall, a building now demolished, and Davy Hall in turn from the family of David the larderer. This family was one of high antiquity, tracing its ancestry back to the early 12th century if not to a remoter time. It exercised by inheritance the function of stocking the king's larder in York with both game and domestic animals, and kindred rights and privileges which may have been implicit in that function or have subsequently accrued to it.

The first of the York larderers known by name was called John. To him and to his son David (I) King Stephen confirmed between 1135 and 1137 certain unspecified socage tenements, together with the larderership, as father and son had held them in King Henry's time. Presumably the lands had been given in recompence for the burdens of office. A larderer of York is not mentioned again until 1173 when the Crown began to pay David the larderer, presumably the same as the foregoing, a livery of £7 12s. 1d. a year, or 5d. a day, out of the issues of Yorkshire. David's son Thomas succeeded to that wage and continued to receive it until 1189. In that year the sum appears twice over in the pipe roll, once as a livery and once among the terre date. This suggests the intention to transmute the annual payments into a territorial reward. But whatever the intention may have been, the sum drops out of the pipe rolls completely for some time to come, so it must be supposed that, if the larderership went on, its only profit was the land that King Stephen had confirmed.

It is not until 1219 that the evidence about the larderership is resumed. David (II) the larderer, Thomas's son, then appears as the keeper of the gaol of Galtres Forest, and the vendor of those beasts which had been taken in distraint for the payment of the king's debts. In 1226-8 the reward for this serjeanty is defined as a plot of ground (unam terram) in York, and the value of the serjeanty is expressed as 5s. (fn. 102) Presumably this plot was Davy Hall, which was to become the prison of the larder. In the pipe roll of 1230 the daily wage of 5d. recurs, though now it issued out of the city farm, ( and the same sum was allowed out of the same issues for centuries to come. Later documents declare this wage to have been paid to the larderers for keeping the forest gaol, though in 1252 it was said to be due for selling the distresses. The wage is actually the same as that that had been paid since 1130 to the warden of the Fleet Prison, so at first sight it looks like the rate appropriate to a gaoler of the better sort. More probably, however, the earlier statement is the truer, and after the larderer's functions as the salesman of distresses had been swept away, (fn. 109) the wage was justified upon the other ground. At all events David was now a gaoler in fee, an uncommon though not a unique figure in 13th-century society, (fn. 110) in hereditary charge of almost the only special forest prison known to history. A little later on we learn rather more about the history of the prison building of which he was in charge. It seems to have been a royal building, repaired in the shrievalty of Geoffrey de Neville (1216-22) out of the king's revenues and with timber from the forest. After Geoffrey's day its custody was conveyed to David by charter, but the responsibility for its repair was left in doubt. After a public inquiry in 1247 the cost of maintenance was firmly set upon the Exchequer in 1248.

About the time of this award David started proceedings against the citizens of York in the King's Bench, with the idea of asserting the privileges of his serjeanty, some of which the citizens were challenging. The matter was referred to the justicesin-eyre, who in the eyre at York in 1252 secured from a local jury a statement of the rights and duties of the larderer's office. The statement showed that David and his ancestors were required to 'make' the king's larder, to have the measurement for the king of all corn sold in the city, to look after the forest 'prisons' and to act as the king's purveyors. All these functions were said to have been authorized by charter. David himself laid no express claim to the third and fourth of these rights or duties; perhaps they were burdensome and unprofitable. He claimed, however, to take from every baker, bread shop, alewife, and flesh shamble in the city certain fixed weekly tolls, either in cash or kind, and similar tolls from carts and packhorses entering the city laden with sea fish. He also said that it was his privilege to distrain for the king's debts within the city and take 4d. for each distress. The jurors admitted that David exercised all these further liberties, and that since the days of Henry II his ancestors had exercised them, as parcel of their serjeanty, 'until they were hindered therein'. They expressed no view, however, about the authority for their exercise. In the upshot the suit was compromised, David accepting 20 marks from the city in return for releasing all the liberties not grounded upon a charter.

David died in 1271. He was then seised of a house in York, his 5d. a day, two yearly rents within the city, lands in Bustardthorpe (W.R.), and land called 'Cotteburn'. All these he held by the serjeanty of keeping the gaol and the larder and selling the king's distresses. For every such sale 2s. 8d. was due to David. The third of these liberties was one that had been released to the city in 1253. Evidently it had since been revived. More than this, David was now exacting at each distress eight times the original levy. David was succeeded by David (III) (d. 1280) and he by Philip the larderer, whose right to the levy was challenged by the Crown in 1293 upon a quo warranto. Indeed by this time Philip was taking 3s. 4d. or ten times the original levy at each distress, even when the money raised by a sale did not exceed the levy. The Crown confiscated the liberty and amerced the offender. Philip also failed to claim on the first day of the eyre his rights to the custody of forest prisoners, his daily fee, and estate (landam) in the forest, and his rights to chase hares and foxes, and these lands and rights were likewise confiscated. Whatever the effect of this forfeiture may have been, Philip died in 1305 seised of Davy Hall, his daily fee, and a rent in Bustardthorpe, all which he held by keeping the prison. David's practice of exacting tolls from the catering trades and deducting brokerage upon the sale of distresses, and Philip's resumption of the second of these practices, easily give rise to the suspicion of extortion. Such an imputation may be just. It is, however, also possible to infer that the duties attaching to their offices were out of proportion to the covenanted rewards. Their estates were never large, and their daily fee, settled in 1173-4, had probably lost its value with the progress of inflation.

When Philip died his lands were partitioned between his daughters Margaret and Ellen. Margaret married Ralph de Leek and Ellen, John de Clifton, who predeceased Leek. When Ralph died in 1353 the property, as defined in 1305, was being held jointly by him and by John de Wythornsee, husband of Ellen's daughter Alice. The premises in York were then worth no more than the cost of maintaining the gaol.

Ralph left no children, and Robert, John de Wythornsee's minor son, became heir to Margaret's purparty and presumptive heir to Ellen's also. The property is next heard of in 1369 when John de Thornton died seised of both purparties in right of his wife Alice. It seems clear from this that Robert never succeeded to his inheritance. John de Thornton like John Wythornsee married an Alice, so perhaps the two are the same person. If not the descent of the lands upon John de Thornton remains unexplained. John was succeeded by Robert Thornton, 'of Davygate', who died in 1425 seised of 'the manor' of Davygate, called the prison of the larder, and rents in Bustardthorpe and Hessle (E.R.). He continued to keep the prison, but it was then ruinous and worth nothing. He also drew his daily wage from the citizens of York, and enjoyed vert, venison, and hunting rights in Galtres. (fn. 126) The property descended to Joan his daughter and her husband John Thwaites and from them to the Fairfax family by the marriage (ante 1519) of Isabel Thwaites to Sir William Fairfax. In 1679 Henry, Lord Fairfax owned it.

By Philip and Mary's time Davy Hall was being treated as a 'liberty' into which the city officers had no right of entry. By 1679 this immunity had attracted a 'poor class' of artisans, chiefly shoemakers, for whose benefit the hall had been split up into tenements, and who, to the dismay of their 'respectable' fellow tradesmen, produced or sold within it undressed or ill-tanned leather and illmade footwear. Probably in consequence of continuing abuses the corporation began in 1719 to treat for purchase and 'a few years after' concluded with the owner. In 1744 they ordered its demolition. Part of the site was turned into a new burial ground for St. Helen's, Stonegate, and part into a new road, New Street, in which Charles Mitley and William Carr erected in 1746 six houses called Cumberland Row after the Duke of Cumberland.

Of Davy Hall as a prison very little is known. Philip the larderer was in effective custody of venison trespassers in 1289 and the prison was being used for like offenders in 1370 and 1389. (fn. 134) By 1392, however, a person suspected of a forest offence was shut up in York castle. In any case it would be rash to assume that forest offenders were always enclosed in the larderer's prison, even in its prime.

'Prisons and gallows', in A History of the County of York: the City of York, ed. P M Tillott (London, 1961), pp. 491-498.

Davygate was the 'street of David the King's Lardener'. The family to which David belonged were hereditary lardeners, exercising in the King's name jurisdiction over the royal forest of Galtres, and in Davygate was their cour, prison and dwelling house. We know little about Davy Hall. There was an order for the repair of the prison with oak from the forest of Galtres in 1246. By the 15th century the office of Lardner had fallen into disuse. In 1427 it is described as ruinous and worth nothing. In 1679 Henry, Lord Fairfax of Denton, was proprieter, and at this time it was split up into tenements. In 1731 one of the tenements was an alehouse. The hall was brought by Toek Corporation, In 1746 the City Council granted a lease at a rent of £9 to Charles Mitley and William Carr, carpenters and joiners, of the residue 'of the messuage or tenement lately pulled down, garth and ground called Davy Hall now set for a buryinh place or street upon which Mitley and Carr have lately built six new houses with liberty of using the said new street called Cumberland Row'. In an undated 12th century charter the witness es were evidently people who lived in Davygate; two were leather sellers, two fellers and two parmenters. The road from Stonegate to Blake Street into Davygate made a circuit of St Helen's churchyard, but a short cut for people on foot passed through the churchyard in front of the west end of the church.

Raine, A., 1955. Medieval York. pp126-7

NMR Information

BF060250 ST HELEN'S BURIAL GROUND, YORK File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued.

NMR, NMR data (Unpublished document). SYO2214.

Victoria County History, 1961, A History of the County of York: the City of York (Bibliographic reference). SYO1174.

RCHME, 1981, City of York Volume V: The Central Area (Monograph). SYO65.

Sources/Archives (3)

  • --- Bibliographic reference: Victoria County History. 1961. A History of the County of York: the City of York.
  • --- Unpublished document: NMR. NMR data.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1981. City of York Volume V: The Central Area.

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (2)

Record last edited

Jun 22 2020 8:25PM


Your feedback is welcome. If you can provide any new information about this record, please contact us.