Landscape record MYO5254 - Parkland and Gardens, Bootham Park Hospital


Landscaped gardens associated with Bootham Park Hospital. Historic mapping shows 12 distinct areas of ‘airing yards’ or gardens with paths and planting. Some of the areas have been built over but others survive as grassed areas and may retain buried evidence for the earlier planting/layout.


Grid reference Centred SE 6005 5266 (454m by 447m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (2)

Full Description

Romano-British (800BC-AD410)

Although no Iron Age remains have been identified within the study area, there is a known potential for Roman remains to be present. The most significant of these is the extensive inhumation cemetery identified in the area of St Mary’s/Bootham.

Medieval (AD1066-1539)

The remains of medieval ridge and furrow cultivation have been recorded to the north of the site, just on the edge of the study area. This means that during the medieval period the site may well have been used for agriculture. The evidence for ridge and furrow cultivation has been levelled by subsequent changes in agricultural practice. This would seem to show a low potential for medieval remains within the site beyond small scale dumping, levelling and manuring with domestic refuse.

Post-Medieval (AD1540-present)

Bootham Park seems that the hospital is the first major development on the site. This means that as it predates the large influx of people associated with the huge changes in the country as a result of the industrial revolution, there was no major opportunity for the area to become developed for housing or industry. The park is bounded to the west by the railway line and large, mature trees. To the east, a tree-lined avenue leads from Bootham to the hospital, and to the south there are iron railings along the Bootham pavement and a gated entrance, both
dating from 1857. The extensive green open space of the grounds of Bootham Park, close to the city centre, were used throughout the Victorian and Edwardian periods for public events and exhibitions.

The asylum was set in extensive landscaped grounds on what was, at the time, the north-western edge of the City. As historic map evidence shows, the land on which it was founded was previously agricultural land. The grounds were originally held on lease, land was then purchased between the years 1815 and 1860, including the seven acre field in front of the asylum (Webb 1993 & 2002b). Webb (1993) cites a number of reasons for the acquisition of this land: “to prevent the encroachment of buildings and to ensure privacy; to create relaxation and work opportunities
for patients; to provide farm and garden produce for the institution; and not least as an investment “.

Webb (1993) describes the grounds in the Victorian period in some detail: From the mid nineteenth century onwards, much attention was paid to creating a landscaped environment and providing recreational areas for patients. The patients’ Airing Courts close to the Asylum building were originally bounded by high walls, but from the 1850s, a policy of “opening out” these areas and replacing walls with railings, and later by sunken fences, was followed (Airing Court walls were finally removed in the 1950s). Patients, meanwhile, were given greater amounts of freedom within the grounds at large. “Pleasure Grounds”, designed and built by patients, were laid out to the north east of the Asylum in the early 1850s. These were bounded by a new wall and a lodge and, outside the wall, with a new public footpath (now Bridge Lane). The pleasure grounds incorporated nearly a mile of winding gravelled walks and numerous and tastefully arranged mounds and hillocks planted with flowering shrubs and evergreens. The 1850s and 1860s also saw the erection of greenhouses, summerhouses, a hot house and vinery, and two large fully-stocked pigeon cotes. During the 1870s and 1880s, walks were extended around the edges of the front field and the terrace in front of the Asylum was created. A high boundary wall behind the houses on Union Terrace was built so that more private walking areas for patients could be laid out on the east side of the grounds. The early twentieth century saw the addition of shelters in the grounds and verandahs attached to the wards, as part of the then fashionable open-air therapy. A new rock garden with rare flowers and shrubs was laid out in the front field in 1923. Sporting facilities within the grounds were not neglected, and in the 1860s,
there were two croquet lawns, a fives court and a tennis court. Football and quoits could also be played and patients could go out for drives in a wagonette. In the early twentieth century, patients could use their own bicycles.

It is uncertain exactly when the ‘airing yards’ were first created but they may well have been part of the original or early design of the hospital. From the mid-19th century onwards they were opened out and more extensive ‘pleasure grounds’ were created as part of the treatment for, and welfare of, the patients. These grounds appear to have become quite extensive with planting schemes and landscape features such as paths, mounds and hillocks. In addition, there were glasshouses, a summer house and even pigeon cotes. This all shows a planned garden landscape which would create the impression of a much more rural setting but one which is very much set in an
urban landscape. This, in addition to the significance of the buildings themselves, adds to the level of importance of any remaining evidence for the gardens. Experience in Victorian city parks has shown that even though the
areas may have been levelled and the planting removed, evidence for the flower beds and associated features can still survive just under the modern turf.

A notable feature of the 19th and early 20th century was the proliferation of galas and fetes which often featured the latest in industrial developments and inventions. The first of these seems to be in 1858, with two Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition’s in the 1860s. These events featured exhibition halls constructed of glass and timber. The profit of the Fine Art Exhibition was used to found the City Art Gallery. These events had numerous stalls, booths and temporary buildings being erected on the site and latterly included tethered balloon flights
(Figures 7&8). Historic photographs show that the majority of these structures were around the edges of the open space and particularly along the Bootham frontage.

Geophiz, 2020, Report on a fluxgate gradiometer and topographic survey carried out at Bootham Park (Unpublished document). SYO2602.

JB Archaeological Services, 2021, Bootham Park Hospital (Unpublished document). SYO2601.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: JB Archaeological Services. 2021. Bootham Park Hospital.
  • --- Unpublished document: Geophiz. 2020. Report on a fluxgate gradiometer and topographic survey carried out at Bootham Park.

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Events/Activities (6)

Record last edited

Dec 10 2021 10:37AM


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