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A History of York
from Baine's Gazetteer (1823)

Part 10

Prisons and Courts of Justice

The prisons in York are the Castle, the New Gaol, the new House of Correction, and St. Peter's prison. The Castle is situated at the end of Castlegate, near the confluence of the Foss and the Ouse. Formerly the waters of the Foss were drawn in a deep moat round the Castle, and in the early part of the last century, this prison was inaccessible, except by two draw-bridges; but the moat is now entirely filled up, and the access is by folding doors, and a porter's lodge, from Castlegate. According to Drake, there was a Castle in York before the time of William I. at the place called "the Old Bayle;" but that fortress has now disappeared, and the present Castle was, as our historian conjectures, built on a Roman tower, by the Conqueror, and made of unusual strength to keep the citizens and the Northumbrians in awe of their tyrant. For some ages after the conquest this was the constant residence of the high Sheriffs of the county in succession, as the Mansion-house is now the residence of each successive Lord Mayor: it was likewise the storehouse for the king's magazines, and the treasury for such part of his revenue as was kept in the North. It was then a fortress, in which however, the Assizes were held; but towards the end of the seventeenth century, it was converted into a prison, to which purpose it has been ever since appropriated. Though the Assizes for the three Ridings are held here, the Castle is not within any of them, nor is it in the jurisdiction of the city; it is extra parochial, though it is assessed, and bears charges with the parish of St. Mary, Castlegate. The extent of the city's liberties are within twenty-nine yards of the Castle gate, and the boundary is marked by the city arms, of five lions, cut in stone, and placed in the wall on each side of the street.

(Note: The city arms were formerly argent, with only a cross gules. The live Lions were afterwards added by William the Conqueror, in honour of the five brave magistrates, Clifford, Houngate, Talbot, Lascelles, and Errington, who so valiantly defended the city against his arms, in 1070, until obliged to surrender through famine.)

The Castle, with its appendages, occupies about four acres of ground; the walls are 1100 yards round, and within the walls, in front of the Castle, is an area, called the Castle yard, of the size of about an acre, in which the county meetings for the election of knights of the shire, and other public business are held.

The buildings, which form three sides of a square, consist of the County Gaol, in front, the Record Office, &c. to the East; and the County Hall, to the West of the Castle yard; the wall to the North, which, with the lodge, completes the square, is built at the foot of the mound, formed by the ruins of Clifford's tower. The County Gaol occupies the site on which the towers of the Castle anciently stood. These towers having sunk into a ruinous state during a lapse of six centuries, they were taken down in the year 1701, and the present structure was raised in their stead. The funds for this public work were obtained by a tax of three-pence in the pound on all lands, &c. within the County; and, at the time of its erection, was considered an edifice "so noble and complete, as to exceed all others of the kind in Britain, perhaps in Europe." This building consists of two wings, divided by the felons' court yard. The right wing is a prison for debtors, ascended by a large double series of steps, and contains twenty-two rooms, sixteen feet square, and nearly twelve feet high, with apartments for the use of the governor; which office is at present, and has been for many years filled, much to the public satisfaction, by Mr. Wm. Staveley.

(Note: This is considered a situation of great trust and responsibility, and the Governor has a salary of £700 a year, besides the prison fees, which amount to a considerable sum annually.)

In a room at the entrance to this wing, is a large closet or recess, occupied by the under gaoler, Wilson, in which the curiosities of the Castle, quaintly called "the King's plate," consisting of the deadly weapons, and heavy chains of the most notorious offenders, are deposited and exhibited. In the left wing of this building is a chapel, used for divine service, and ascended by steps, corresponding to those on the right. The Rev. William Flower, jun. is the present Chaplain, and the Rev. James Richardson, is the Lecturer. The felons' cells in the rear of the court yard, are in general about seven feet square, and eight feet high. The building on the East side of the Castle yard contains apartments for the Clerk of Assize, the county records, an indictment office, hospital rooms, (attended by Mr. George Champney, the surgeon,) and cells for the female prisoners; it was erected in the year 1780, and considerably enlarged three years afterwards. The whole length of this building is 150 feet, and its front is adorned with an elegant colonade, with four Ionic pillars, corresponding to the County-hall. The County-hall, or Basilica, on the West side of the area, was built in 1763, at the charge of the county, John Ramsden, of Byrom, Esq. being then High Sheriff. In 1777, it was rebuilt in a more modern style of architecture, with a portico entrance of six Ionic columns, thirty feet high, surmounted by an elegant statue of Justice, and other emblematic devices. The length of this building is 150 feet, and its breadth 44 feet. Here the business of the various courts is transacted through the year, and the Lent and Lammas Assizes are held in the crown court to the left, and the nisi prius court to the right of the entrance. Near the Grand Jury room, in the rear of the building, with an aspect to the Ouse, is the New Drop, used for the execution of criminals. Formerly, the last and most awful sentence of the law was executed on a gallows, out of Micklegate bar, at a place called Tyburn, about a mile from the city; but, in 1802, the present platform was erected, and on the 28th of August, in that year, the first execution in this situation took place. Since that time, to August, 1822, seventy-three malefactors have been executed here, making an average sacrifice in this county alone of nearly four lives a year to the criminal laws. The county of York is in that judicial division of the kingdom, called the Northern Circuit; and the High Sheriff for the county, for the year 1822; is Richard Bethell, Esq. of Rise, in Holderness.

The New Gaol, for the City and Ainsty, of York, is a handsome and commodious stone building, of modern erection, begun in the year 1802, and completed in 1807. This structure occupies part of the site of the ancient castle, called "the Old Bayle," near Skeldergate postern. The outer wall, which is of brick, incloses about three quarters of a square mile in the centre of which stands the prison, with a neat court yard in front, adorned with a cupola and vase, which are seen in various parts of the city and its neighbourhood. The building consists of three stories, part of which is occupied by felons, and the second and third by debtors. The office of governor is filled by Mr. George Rylah, who has a salary of £150 a year, exclusive of gaol fees; his apartments form an outshot building behind the prison, in the attic story of which is a chapel, in which the Rev. William Flower, sen. the Chaplain, preaches a sermon every alternate Sunday, and reads prayers every Thursday evening to the prisoners. Mr. George Champney discharges the duties of surgeon to this prison. The executions here are happily very rare; during the last fifteen years there have been no more than two, and when they take place a scaffold is erected without the wall, next to the Old Bayle hill.

The Gaol for the imprisonment and correction of "lessor criminals," was formerly a part of St. Anthony's hall, on Peaseholme green; but in the year 1814, a structure was completed on Toft-green, under the direction of Mr. Peter Atkinson, architect, and city steward, which may rank amongst the best constructed prisons in the kingdom. The expense attendant upon the erection of this prison, like that for the building of the city gaol, was defrayed by a joint assessment on the City and on the Ainsty, for the use of both of which it is intended, the former contributing three-fifths and the latter two-fifths. The governor is Mr. John King; the Rev. Wm. Flower, sen. is the Chaplain. and performs service once every alternate Sunday, and reads prayers every Tuesday evening. This establishment, which admits of the classification of prisoners, may serve as a model to those who may be engaged in the erection or management of prisons.

The Courts of Justice in York are the Castle, for the County, (as has been already explained); Guild hall, for the City; and the Court of Pleas, for the liberty of St. Peter's. The Ecclesiastical Court is held in the Minster-yard, and the list of its officers will be found appended to that of the Cathedral clergy.

The Corporation, Mansion House and Guildhall

The government of the city of York, like the government of the kingdom of Great Britain, is in three estates-- the Lord Mayor, as Sovereign; the Aldermen and body of twenty-four, as a House of Lords: and the Common Council, corresponding in some degree to the House of Commons. The members and officers of the Corporation for the year 1822, are:-

The Right Hon. ISAAC SPENCER, LORD MAYOR, (2d Time) (Whose office will expire on the 3d of February, 1823.)

Robert Sinclair, Esq. Recorder.

John Pemberton Heywood, and S. W. Nicholl, Esqrs. City Counsel


!Thomas Wilson, Esq. and father of the city.

!George Peacock, Esq.

*W.H. Hearon, Esq

!William Hotham, Esq.

!Right Hon. Lord Dundas

*John Dale, Esq.

!William Ellis, Esq.

*Thomas Smith. Esq.

*R. Chaloner, Esq. M.P.

*John Kilby, Esq.

*William Dunslay, Esq.

*James Saunders, Esq.

Those marked thus ! have served the Office of Lord Mayor twice. Those marked thus * have served the Office once.


John Cobb, Esq. Charles Liddell, Esq.

(Whose Offices expire on the 2d. of September, 1823.)

Richard Townsend, Esq. Town Clerk.

Gentlemen who have served the Office of Sheriff, called the Twenty-Four,

George Healey, gent.


Joseph Agar, gent.

Robert Cattle, gent.

John Hodgson

Edmund Gill

William Hornby

Stephen Hartley

William Blanchard

Thomas Beal

James Shepherd

John Sutcliffe

Thomas Rayson


Robert Lakeland

George Darbyshire

Cook Taylor

William Oldfield

William Cooper

William Bilton

John Wormald

George Wilkinson

John Jackson

George Fettes

George Cressey

Thomas Cattley

Wm.Stephenson Clark

Joseph Volans

Christopher Cattle

CHAMBERLAINS.....Whose Offices expire the 3d of February, 1823.

Mr. John Allanson Bulmer

Mr. Edward Elgin

Mr. Wm. Thurnham

Mr. John Wilson

Mr. Wm. Strickland, jun.

Mr. Matthew Hornsey


Walmgate Ward,

Monk Ward,

Bootham Ward,

Micklegate Ward,

Mr. Thomas Bewlay, Foreman of the Commons

Mr. Thomas Bell

Mr. George Burnill

Mr. William Stead

Mr. Matthew Browne

Mr. John Hurwood

Mr. Thomas Brearey

Mr. Matthew Walker

Mr. Joseph Davis

Mr. Richard Kilner

Mr. Samuel Knapton

Mr. William Coates

Mr. William Cartwright

Mr. James Whitwell

Mr. William Judson

Mr. Edward Seagrave

Mr. Thomas Fowler

Mr. William Ingram

Mr. William Hudson

Mr. William Ferrand

Mr. John Ward

Mr. William Scawin

Mr. Richard Williamson

Mr. John Kirlew

Mr. Joseph Wood

Mr. William Dalton

Mr. John Walker

Mr. William Stead, jun.

Mr. Thomas Sanderson

Mr. Emanuel Siddall

Mr. James Barber

Mr. William Chapman

Mr. Francis Richardson

Mr. John Benson

Mr. Richard Brown

Mr. Richard Rawdon

Mr. John James Baker

Mr. Robert Gibson

Mr. William Cattell

Mr. Leonard Overend

Mr. George Ellis

Mr. John Lawton

Mr. George Ellis

Mr. Thomas Rayson, jun.

Mr. Thomas Benson

Mr. Richard Hornby

Mr. Joseph Marshall

Mr. Henry Cave

Mr. James Day

Mr. Thomas Wilkinson

Mr. William Robinson

Mr. Thomas Peacock

Mr. William Peacock

Mr. John Pearson

Mr. Robert Pulleyn

Mr. Francis Calvert

Mr. John Ickeringill

Mr. William Cowling

Mr. William Hargrove

Mr. Michael Varvill

Mr. John Slater

Mr. Henry Cobb

Mr. Edward Jackson

Mr. Christopher Watson

Mr. William Blanchard

Mr. William Pearson

Mr. Robert Jennings

Mr. Henry Steward

Mr. William Evers

Mr. William Huble

Mr. William Storry

Mr. John Simpson

Prothonotary, John Seymour, Esq.- City Steward, Mr. Peter Atkinson,
Esquires to the Lord Mayor - Mr William Baynes and Mr. William Eadon.
Chaplain. Rev. William Flower, Sen.
Four Officers at Mace, viz.
Thomas Kimber, Francis Burr, John Sanderson and Wm. Bell.
Chief Constable for the City, Mr. William Baynes, Petergate.
Chief Constables for Ainsty,
Mr. Tho. Beal, Dring Houses, & Mr. Geo. Steward, Blossom st.
Porter to Lord Mayor, Geo. Lund.
Police Officer, Wm.Pardoe
City Informer, Jas. Pardoe.

The Coroners for the City and Ainsty, are
Messrs. Samuel Cowling, Davygate, and Robert Ellison, Castlegate;
and for the Liberty of St. Peter's,
Mr. John Plowman, of Haxby, and Mr. John Richardson, of Colliergate, York.

The Mayor of York, by ancient prescription, assumes the title of Lord, which peculiar honour, as we have already seen, was conferred on this Chief Magistrate, by Richard II. in 1389. The same sovereign, in 1393, presented Robert Scroope, the then Lord Mayor, with a large gilt mace, to be borne before him, and a cup of maintenance to the sword-bearer. The Lord Mayor is the King's Lieutenant in his absence: he takes the chair in the presence of the Judge of Assize, who sits on his right hand; at the Sessions he is supreme; and no act or law for the government of the city can be valid without his presence. This officer is annually chosen on the 15th of January, and on the 3d of February, the Lord Mayor elect, as he is called during the interval, enters upon his office. If the Lord Mayor be married, his wife is dignified with the title of Lady Mayoress, and in addressing her, the term " My Lady," is applied. In Drake's time, though the husband parted with both honour and title at the time he was divested of office, yet by the courtesy of York, in favour of the fair sex, her ladyship still enjoyed her title, by no other right perhaps, but that of an old rhyming proverb, which says. " He is a Lord for a year and a day, But she is a Lady for ever and for ay." This courtesy towards the Lady Mayoress has, however, now ceased, and at the expiration of her husband's year of office, the term 'My Lady' is dropped, unless she was previously entitled to it by marriage, or in her own right. The residence of the Lord Mayor is the Mansion house, a stately edifice, built in the year 1726. and which stands at the north end of Coney Street, near Lendal, and occupies the site of the ancient chapel of the Guild of St. Christopher. The revenue of the Lord Mayor was formerly derived chiefly from the toll of corn coming to the market, but that toll in 1784, was liberally relinquished by the corporation, and this mansion is the scene of his hospitalities. The stateroom, where the chief magistrate gives his entertainments, is 49 feet 6 inches in length, and 27 feet 9 inches in breadth, and is lighted in front by a double tier of windows. There are here eight valuable portraits in excellent preservation: of his present Majesty, presented by him to the Corporation; King William III.; George II.; the late Marquis of Rockingham; Sir John Lister Kaye, M.P. and Lord Mayor, in 1737; Lord Bingley, M.P. and Lord Mayor in 1757, (when George Lane Fox, Esq.); Sir Wm. M. Milner, M.P. and Lord Mayor in 1797 and 1798; Lord Dundas, Lord Mayor in 1811, (when the Hon. Lawrence Dundas, M.P.) and in 1821, when Lord Dundas, and the only English Peer ever Lord Mayor of York. It is worthy of remark, that York had the honour to set the Corporation of London the example of erecting a Mansion-House for their Lord Mayor. The Guild Hall is situated behind the Mansion-House, and was built in the year 1446. In this fine Gothic hall, which is ninety-six feet long, by forty-three feet wide, the Assizes for the city are held, and it is then formed into two courts, the Crown Court at the end of the Hall, and the Nisi Prius Court near the entrance. The elections for members of parliament are also held here, and it may be proper in this place to mention, that the city of York is at present represented in parliament by Marmaduke Wyvill and Robert Chaloner, Esqrs. who, like the corporation of the city they represent, are both of the whig party. Three times a week, namely, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, the Lord Mayor and at least one alderman sit at the Guild Hall, for the administration of justice; and the business of the Quarter Sessions for the city is also transacted in this place. At the end of this hall are several rooms for the grand and petit juries, one of which is called the Inner Room, in which the County Court, for the recovery of debts in the County, not exceeding Five Pounds, consolidated with the Sheriffs Turn Court, and the Court of Common Pleas, is held weekly, usually on the Tuesday. The Council Chambers is a building of modern erection adjoining the Guild Hall. When the old Council Chambers of the city upon Ouse-Bridge, were taken down in, 1810, these chambers were built adjoining the Inner Room, and the Lower House, namely, the Common Council, hold their deliberations in one of them, while the Upper house, consisting of the Lord Mayor, Recorder, City Council, Aldermen, Sheriffs, and the Gentlemen of the Twenty-Four assemble, in the Upper Chamber. Libraries

Amongst its other public institutions York enjoys the advantage of an excellent Subscription Library, containing about ten thousand volumes in the various branches of science and literature. This institution was commenced in the year 1794, but it was not till the year 1811, that the present Library Room, which is very eligibly situated in St. Helen's Square, was built. The number of members at present amounts to four hundred and seventy-seven; the mode of admission is by ballot, and the terms are ten guineas entrance, and an annual subscription of twenty-six shillings, paid in advance. Mr. Joseph Shepherd is the Librarian. There are in York some other Libraries, Subscription and Circulating, the principal of which is, the Select Subscription Library, in Lady Peckett's yard, Pavement.

On the ground floor, under the York Subscription Library, in St. Helen's Square, there is a Subscription News Room, handsomely fitted up, and furnished with the London and country newspapers. Subscribers are admitted by ballot, and the members of the room have each the privilege of introducing a friend, not resident in York, for one month, on registering his name in a book kept for that purpose. The annual subscription is one guinea, and the admission fee ten shillings and sixpence. There are also two other Subscription News Rooms, one at the York Tavern, and the other, called the York Club Room, at Etridge's Hotel.

Cavalry Barracks

The Cavalry Barracks, erected in 1796, are situated at a distance of about a mile S.W. of the city, on the Fulford road. The cost of these erections, with the twelve acres of ground appropriated to the purpose, has been little short of £30,000 and the accommodation they afford is for three field officers, five captains, nine sub-alterns, four quarter-masters, two hundred and forty non-commissioned officers and privates, and 266 horses. The parade ground is very extensive, and in front of the range appropriated to the officers is a large grass plot, for the accommodation of the numerous and fashionable company who frequently attend to hear the fine martial Band which plays upon the parade. Mr. Anthony Lefroy is the barrack master.

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Data transcribed from:
Baines Gazetteer 1823
Scan, OCR and html software by Colin Hinson.
Checking and correction by Richard Tetley.