Slumber Party at High Petergate

Now that we know the sad news, we can begin to process it. We will never be able to hang out in the Belcombe's house, have a drink, eat a meal, have a slumber party... nothing.

Check out these references to orient yourself in the beautiful world of the Belcombes. If you want to know the backstory before diving into the resources check out my podcast episode about all these shenanigans.

The Maps

In today's bird's eye view, you can see the York Minster, immense and in charge in the top right corner of the map. In the center of the map converges the 5 points, High Petergate (north & south sections), Presentor's Court, Dean Gate (Minster Yard), and Duncombe Place (previously known as Little Blake Street). St. Michael le Belfrey sits comfortably in the southern shadow of the Minster, in the corner of Minster Yard and High Petergate.

The War Memorial for the Boer War (Mariana's great-nephew served in that war) sits in the Garden of Remembrance (red circle), where Duncombe Place and High Petergate meet. That is where the Belcombe's home existed—nestled into one of the great centers of the magnificent city of York. The oblong circle connected to St. Michael highlights the area where houses were torn down. These houses were connected to the front facade of the building.

Map of York, Today

Now that we are oriented, it's important to point out how much the Minster area has changed over the years. Before the changes I mentioned, there were houses, mansions, and buildings surrounding the entire perimeter of the Minster. There were even houses and shops connected to the front and sides of the Minster.

Regarding building codes or planning, York was like the wild wild west back then. You could put up houses just about anywhere. I don't know the details or when building codes were put in place, but it was like the redneck Home Depot of the Missouri Ozarks before Mariana's time. If you could nail a bunch of sofas together and put a tarp over it, you could call it a house. So it has been fascinating seeing maps and sketches of York during and before Mariana's time.

Next, we get to look at the beautiful map of 1852. You can see the houses on the corner of High Petergate and Litte Blake Street. Based on what I've found, these houses are where I'm suggesting the Belcombe's home sat. The only place on High Petergate that had houses torn down to open up the front of the Minster in the 1820s were those row houses connected to St. Michael le Belfrey.

Map of York, 1852


Note: I couldn't help but circle the house on the far right of the image, facing the East window of the Minster. That was Percy's house which has also been torn down for 'progress.'


The Newspaper Articles

Every time I visit the newspapers, I find something new. And right now, that gets the dopamine to hit just hard enough to make it feel exciting. So I'm still riding out that drug, and it's delightful!

POW! The description of their house, the explanation of the house removal, jackpot!

York Gazette, 11 August 1821

Here we have the article again in 1823. I don't know how auctions and property sales were handled back then, but these houses were on the market for two years. That seems odd, but the same thing occurs in 1826 when Papa and Mama Belcombe move back to Scarborough. Their house remains for rent for over a year. I have not read all of 1826 and 1827, but you'd think that Anne Lister would mention that the Belcombes were moving away from York during that time. If someone finds a mention, please let me know!

York Gazette, 05 July 1823

Now, what do we have here? The parentals are moving out of York at Michaelmas. The house is for sale or let by the 29th of September. The second part of that clipping is the best part; a listing of what they are selling when they move. However, the math doesn't make sense. They are moving out by Michaelmas, but the auction isn't until October 2nd. So did they move everything to an auction house, or were they assuming no one would be moved in by the 2nd? So many questions. But can we talk about the fact that someone was able to buy Mariana's mattress, books that she would have read as a child, and a piano she might have played?!?! So now we have a description of the house and what's inside the house. If I were an artist, I would recreate it. Although if I was building a house right now, to say that I'd be willing to design it to match the Belcombe's home would not be a lie. Fyi, Moreen Windows Curtains are a worsted cloth with a wood finish. Also, I need to find those bills and catalogs for the complete list of what they sold.

York Gazette, 16 September 1826

The Images & Websites

I want to start by saying that one article has provided me with the most extensive history and descriptions of the Belcombe footprint in York. It is THE CATHEDRAL LANDSCAPE OF YORK, The Minster Close c. 1500-1642 by Stefania Merlo Perring (2010). This two-part thesis is full of images, maps, sketches, and descriptions of the area of York Minster through the years. Below is an image that used in the article. You can see houses attached to the front corner of the church. If you look at images of St. Michael today, you can see that corner looks completely different.

St Michael-Le-Belfrey Church by Henry Cave, York Art Gallery

This sketch is on pg. 96 of the PDF shows the line of houses attached to St. Michael le Belfrey following along High Petergate and connecting to Peter's Prison, which is Bennett's Cafe & Bistro.

One of the most important things to note about the area around the Minster is that it used to be entirely surrounded by buildings. The gates to get into the 'Minster Yard' and area were actually gates; West Minster Gate accessed via High Petergate, South Minster Gate accessed where Stonegate meets High Petergate (a fantastic antique bookstore can be found in that space now), and East Gate. Fyi, Percy's house was what was the Mansion of Wistow, and Mrs. Belcombe eventually lived in what was the Mansion of Ullerskelf (now Minster Court). Although these maps are from the 16th and 17th centuries, many of those buildings were still in place when the Belcombes came to town. So it just helps put things into perspective and context when thinking about how Anne Lister was moving around the city and describing her jaunts.

York Minster Close, 1642

“In the early 19th century, houses which had been built up against the W. end of the S. aisle were removed and drawings of that time show the W. end of the nave with a horizontal parapet above a four-centred arch with traceried spandrels framing a recess containing the W. window; above the parapet was a small rectangular bell-cote of timber with a tiled roof. Extensive renovation was completed in 1823 (YG, 29 Nov. 1823) and in 1848 a new bell-cote was erected to the designs of Mr. Coates of York, architect (YML, Hornby MSS., Churches II; The Builder, xxvi, 1 Feb. 1868, 75). A faculty was granted for repairing and reseating in 1853. Further restorations were carried out in 1867 when the N. and S. doorways were remodelled and elaborated and a new W. front was built to the design of George Fowler Jones, architect.” - Parish Church of St. Michael le Belfrey

Look very closely at this picture. There are houses connected to St. Michael le Belfrey. Imagine standing on the corner of Little Blake Street in 1837. You're facing St. Michael, and the Minster is to your left. You look to your right and see down Little Blake Street toward Blake Street with the Assembly Rooms on the corner. Directly in front of you are the houses connected to St. Michael and the street High Petergate. On the right side of your peripheral vision, you see some houses on the south side of High Petergate. OMG, YOU ARE LOOKING AT THE CORNER OF A HOUSE THAT COULD HAVE BEEN THE BELCOMBE'S HOUSE!

Petergate & St. Michael le Belfrey, 1837 George Nicholson. York Museums Trust.


And again with this painting. I see the edge of a house(s) that could have been the Belcombes. What a time to be alive!

Petergate and St Michael le Belfrey, 1830. Watercolour by Henry Barlow Carter. From The Streets of York.

Before you leave, do not forget to download this amazing work of textual art below if you are interested in York. Or want to dig deeper into the Belcombe footprint.

Merlo Perring PhD Vol 1
Download PDF • 2.38MB

Merlo Perring PhD Vol. 2
Download PDF • 23.10MB



#York #Belcombes #Minster #StMichael #HighPetergate