Clements Hall
Nunnery Lane book cover

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

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New book on Nunnery Lane and Clementhorpe out next week

9781999665524We'll be celebrating the launch of our new book next week. It's Nunnery Lane and Clementhorpe: exploring old shops and pubs in York. We’ve managed to fill the time restricted by the pandemic over the last two years to capture a wide range of fascinating photographs and memories.

Where there used to be many shops on Nunnery Lane, and trams running along to South Bank, these shops have now either been turned into houses, or service businesses. The old corner shops in the streets behind Nunnery Lane and the Clementhorpe area leading to the river have all disappeared, either demolished or converted into houses. But some of the old pubs are still there, reflecting a community history of conviviality.

Sarah and Phil 300We used the Trafalgar Bay pub and beer garden on Nunnery Lane as a local history hub, thanks to Sarah and Phil there. 

Nunnery LaneTrafalgar Bay & Britannia 300

Three pubs in a row on Nunnery Lane (Hugh Murray)

The new book take readers through the history of trading in this area, with some nostalgic memories and fascinating stories on the way. Cowkeepers kept their animals in backyard buildings to supply milk locally. The 1830 Beerhouse Act encouraged many new beer houses, which later became off-licences and pubs. There were once three pubs in a row on Nunnery Lane, and the area can lay claim to the original Golden Ball pub in Dale St back in 1837. The old Navigation Inn on the riverside hosted inquests before it was demolished, for the building of Skeldergate Bridge, and intriguingly the last licensee was a Mr Boddy.

There were famous local residents, such as sculptor Mark Hessey, much of whose work can be seen around York today. We remember Maria Richardson of Cherry Hill, a Black Lives Matter campaigner of her day in the late 19th century, joining an Anti-Lynching Committee in support of Afro-American women.

On the front cover is a charming photograph of young Godfrey Birrell outside his family grocery shop on Nunnery Lane in the 1920s, given to us by Geoff Shearsmith. This picture highlights the developing role of branding in the retailing of consumer goods.

We feature memories of traditional local barbers, with Brylcreem playing a major role, and the enticing comics and sweets which young children used to buy from local newsagents. Some of the traders on Nunnery Lane were renowned, such as fish merchant Jimmy Guildford with his battered brown trilby and grocer Eddie Myers in his overall, at a time when the shopkeeper would serve each person, with each item they requested, one at a time, each one retrieved from a different corner or shelf of the shop. There were many butchers, but the most memorable ones were Wright’s, whose black and white tiled entrance doorway still remains, and Harold Wilson, one of three generations of butchers here, esteemed by his customers, one of whom wrote a poem in his honour. We also had a public bakehouse in Clementhorpe, which lasted at least until the 1940s.

Neal Guppy croppedThe book includes an interview with the renowned Neal Guppy, who celebrates 60 years with his club this year, and is fondly remembered by many people from their youth. 

Nunnery Lane and Clementhorpe: exploring the old shops and pubs of York is on sale from 21 September 2021 at Pexton’s, Frankie & Johnny’s Cookshop and the Winning Post on Bishopthorpe Rd, the Trafalgar Bay on Nunnery Lane, and Fred's Bakery in Albemarle Rd, price £8. With 142 pages, 112 images and three maps, it’s an ideal Christmas present.

If you would like find out about mail order for this book, please contact us on for details and costs.