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Thursday, 21 June 2012

York and Treasurer's House

Yesterday, in a bid to spend some time with my father doing the things we used to enjoy on holidays, we decided to visit York and a National Trust property we'd previously brushed over - Treasurer's House, right next door to York Minster. It hadn't struck either of us in the past as particularly interesting but a closer look at the small print convinced us we should at least give it a go.

In all honesty, we were bowled over. We'd heard the place may have Wakefield links but the sheer amount in the place about Frank Green, son of a manufacturer who used his fortune to buy a house to - basically - house his antiques in 1897, was impressive. Green was the last owner before he handed the property to the National Trust in 1930 and the work he put into refurbishing the house was truly outstanding. Consequently, when he handed the property to the National Trust, he left very specific instructions on how it should be maintained. The controlling aspect of his personality shone through when he left marks on the floor to demonstrate where every single piece of furniture should be - he promised to come back and haunt the place if his wishes weren't carried out!

One of the most important changes Green made to the house was to extend the roof of the Great Hall, essentially taking the floor above out. While this was an excellent alteration in the sense that it increased light to the Great Hall and showcased the beauty of the building, it came with a slight problem: by taking out the floor above, Green had removed the access for the male servants of the house!

Being as interested as I am in Victorian and Edwardian houses, me and my father decided to take the optional attic tour. It cost £3.00 extra but was well worth the money and I'd recommend it to anyone visiting the house. The groups are limited to eight at a time but, luckily, we were the only ones on this particular tour so it felt like a particularly intimate lecture. Although the furniture was removed from the servants' quarters by  Green, the structures remain, however dilapidated parts of them seem. There are a few fascinating things about the servants' quarters, the first of them being how the male servants got from there to the house after the works on the Great Hall. Well, Green put in a walkway along the side of the roof. There's a safety rail and wooden flooring up there now but in Green's day the servants would simply be walking along the lead roof from one small opening to another. Imagine carrying a chamber pot across there in high winds! Secondly, in the female quarters, Green installed a lift, first operated with pulleys before it was electrified. However, they seemed to have had serious issues with people not shutting the door properly down below meaning that the lift just refused to move: as this was the only way of access for the female servants it essentially left them stranded in their quarters!

The tour was full of little titbits like this and our guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. In fact, the entire body of staff and volunteers were wonderful. We visited the shop and tearoom - I indulged in a very naughty but lovely cream tea - and finished off the visit in the gardens.

After we'd finished at the Treasurer's House we meandered back down through the streets of York stopping - of course - at a second-hand bookshop to feed my literary appetite. I heartily recommend a visit to The Minster Gate Bookshop, though don't expect to come out of there with much money left! Here's Eeyore posing with my loot.

So I think the day in York was a success and it looks like we grabbed the last day of good weather for quite a while. When it picks up again, I'd really suggest a visit to the Treasurer's House - and don't forget the cream tea! 

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