Wednesday, June 8, 2011

York, Part I

From May 17th - 20th, a handful of classmates and myself visited York.

On Tuesday we had a guided tour of Fairfax House, Castlegate. Fairfax House is a Georgian town house displaying one of the finest collections of English eighteenth-century furniture to be found anywhere. Fairfax House was built in 1762 to provide a residence for the Fairfax family during York's winter social season of events, balls and assemblies. It was St. George's Cinema and Dancehall in 1919, and was used until the late 70s, whereupon it soon fell into disrepair. In 1982 the York Civic Trust stepped in to save this important building and mount a major restoration project. It was opened to the public in 1984.

Afterward we made a sojourn to the York Assembly Rooms, stopping on the way for some alcoholic refreshment in a pub, where most of the clientele were under the influence, at 5pm! Guess we must have wandered off the tourist trail!

The Assembly Rooms are in wonderfully preserved condition (restored in 1952), now serving as a home to an Italian chain of restaurants. As you've seen in many an Austen adaption, assembly rooms were where the whose who of the town gathered during the social season. In the eighteenth-century, dances and card playing were held here, the ideal place to hob knob. Which is exactly what we did. I had a delish dish of butternut squash and mascarpone ravioli whilst we admired the columns and chandeliers over glasses of vino.

Wednesday came and there was our day trip to Castle Howard. I've never met anybody so helpful as people from Yorkshire, if it wasn't for a Marks & Spencer security guard we would have missed our bus to Castle Howard.

That night we crowded into one of our massive hotel rooms and watched The Apprentice, resting up for the long day ahead.

Thursday was the busiest day, we crowded so much in. First stop in the morning was York Minster cathedral. One of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Northern Europe, there has been a church on its present site from the seventh century onward. It was a Catholic cathedral until the Reformation of the fifteenth-century. A gloriously imposing building, it really is the jewel in York's crown. Seeing buildings like this fills me with awe, that once we were a people who built massive structures like this to reach toward heaven and our idea of God.

West window. Some of the stained glass windows (not this window) contain glass that dates from the medieval period and each window is on a cleaning rotation of 80 years, where the window is taken apart and cleaned.

Part of the choir screen.

I always find it difficult taking pictures within large churches and monumental buildings because you are taking a small fragment of the whole, and its more about the unifying experience of each element that makes up the wonder, rather than singular aesthetic elements.

Second visit of the day was to the Treasurer's House.

The purpose of visiting this house was to think about collections and collectors. Now owned by the National Trust, this historic house served as the home of treasurers of York Minster in the sixteenth-century. A wealthy York industrialist, Philip Green restored the house from 1897-1930. He redesigned each room in the style of a certain period. The picture above is the Medieval Great Hall. Of course, interior decoration of the nineteenth-century was preoccupied with revivalism of all sorts, the medieval and Gothic styles being the most favoured.

This was probably my least favourite of the attractions we visited while in York. Some of the restored furnishings and particular the wallpaper seemed a bit sloppily done. I really didn't get a feel for why Frank Green decorated a room in a certain way, theres also an apparently haunted cellar, that we were too rushed to visit, I wonder how this fitted into the scope of the house. There was an invigilator in each room and I couldn't help but feel they must be bored to tears. There was nothing stimulating about this visit, to me. The view of York Minster from the lovely sunken garden was the only redeeming factor for me. Location, location, location.


  1. oooh great post! I'm off to york soon and am deffo going to go to the cathedral! :) x

  2. Wow, I didn't even know they had architecture like that in New York! The buildings are so beautiful!


  3. @ Jo - this is York, as in the original, in Yorkshire, England ;)