TV Historian, Dr Emma Wells, on the queenly connections at Bishopthorpe Palace in York

in York

The official seat of the Archbishop of York, Bishopthorpe Palace is situated three miles south of the city, alongside the meandering River Ouse. It has housed all northern primates from 1241 to present date, except during a decade of the Interregnum period of 1650 to 1660. First constructed between 1241 and 1250 by Archbishop Walter de Grey, who demolished the old manor house of the village of Thorpe St Andrew (St Andrewthorpe) in 1226, reusing its stone to construct a grand new palace on the same site. It was then that the old village’s name was lost and Bishopthorpe Palace became officially owned by the Dean & Chapter of York.

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(c) Robert Andrews

The palace was left virtually without change until the 15th century, when Archbishop Rotherham added a North Wing thereby doubling the size of the residential quarters, before further development by Archbishop Drummond between 1761 and 1769 transformed the structure into a palatial Gothic Revival masterpiece at the hands of Thomas Atkinson of York, resulting in a new front with Entrance Hall and Drawing Room. It is also said that the famous local architectural firm of John Carr (twice Lord Mayor of York and best known for his work at Buxton Crescent in Derbyshire and Harewood House in West Yorkshire) was involved at this time—perhaps on the gatehouse.

Largely complete by the turn of the 20th century, various Archbishops have put their stamp on the palace’s fabric, many in preparation of their illustrious guests. After the previous longest reigning monarch, Queen Victoria, stayed with the archbishop whilst a mere princess (alongside her mother the Duchess of Kent), in September 1835, Princess Elizabeth followed in her stead, visiting the city on 28 July, 1949. She nipped into the Archbishop’s Palace on what would be her final visit to York before becoming Queen in 1952.


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