The red rose rent at Jacob’s Well, with Dr Emma Wells

in York

Tucked away along a quiet side street in York stands a 15th-century timber-framed building. Now dubbed ‘Jacob’s Well’, it was once sited on the eastern boundary of the nearby Benedictine monastery of Holy Trinity, just inside Micklegate Bar, the western gateway to the city. Originating as an open hall house dated to c.1474, an attached jettied cross-wing fronting onto Trinity Lane now contains the entrance. An endowment given by alderman Thomas Nelson allowed for this extension which converted the property into a residence for the local chantry priest, who prayed for the souls of Nelson and his family three times a week in the neighbouring priory church.

Following the dissolution of the priory in 1535, though the church was kept in use as the parish church, the chantry was suppressed, and the priests moved out. The property was then bought in 1549 by Isabel Warde, the last Prioress of Clementhorpe Nunnery, but, by 1566, three years before her death, Isabel gave the house to Holy Trinity Church on condition that she be allowed to live there for the rest of her natural life upon payment of a rent of one red rose, payable on Midsummer Day. After her death, the house would revert to the Trustees.

The next mention comes in 1633, when Henry Rogers, Rector of Holy Trinity, inhabited the house and likely commenced many of the alterations dating from this period. By 1749, the name ‘Jacob’s Well’ had come into use, at the same time that it was leased to a pair of ‘coach masters’, with a stable, granary, and coach house on the opposite side of Trinity Lane. Several coach masters lived here and also paid for fire insurance, as evidenced by a Sun Insurance firemark on the exterior—a mark to ensure a private company would attend conflagrations here with their own firewagon.

The next century saw another storey added in red brick and, in the early 20th century, the property reverted to an inn. However, the heavy traffic barrelling past and waiting to turn onto Micklegate put the structure at risk which led to a partial demolition and subsequent restoration by architectural firm, Peter Marshall. Today, the property acts as the parish room for the Priory Church of the Holy Trinity, Micklegate.

Books by Dr Emma Wells

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