Clements Hall
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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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Public health, poverty, population and philanthropy in Bishophill

There were some very early institutions locally established to care for ill, aged and poor people

  • St Nicholas's Hospital Order of St Augustine, est. by 1132-61 for lepers and old men. He was the patron saint of lepers. Largest of four of these. Granted to Holy Trinity Priory after 1422  Closed 1537

  • Fountains Abbey Hospice, in North St, mentioned 1150-80

  • Ouse Bridge Hospital, prob by 13c. Was this the Maison Dieu? Two Maisons Dieu were situated in North Street, one opposite St. John's Church, and the other at the western end of All Saints' Church. Ouse Bridge Maison Dieu stood near St. William's Chapel at the western end of the Ouse bridge. These focused on looking after the aged and infirm. Another one on Fetter Lane. Closed mid 16c with dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII

Then around the 17th/18th century several more almshouses appeared:

  • Lady Anne Middleton’s Hospital, founded in 1659, for 20 widows.

  • Ann Wright's almshouse, in Bishophill, est. 1670.

  • Colton’s Hospital almshouses, Rougier St, est.1717 Demolished 1909

  • Lady Hewley's Hospital, around Tanner Row, est.1704. Demolished 1838 for new station.

Until the mid 19c water supply came from the river (an open sewer) or from pumps fed by underground springs, for example at Lady Anne Middleton’s. Only in 1850s did water supply come from new treatment works at Clifton. In 1832 cholera broke out in York, arising from overcrowded housing and poor water supply. The first victim was Thomas Hughes, of Beedham’s Court off Skeldergate. (Previous outbreaks of the plague had also occurred here, such as in 1604). There was a cholera burial ground near North St postern.

A memorial to John Snow has been sited in North St, where he was born to a labouring family. He was educated at the Dodsworth School. Snow has been regarded as the father of modern epidemiology, identifying the Broad Street Pump in Soho as the source of cholera cases. In 2003 he was voted by doctors as the greatest ever doctor.

The Laycock report in 1844 highlighted the effect of poverty and noted the mean age of death in Skeldergate and North St as 20, compared to the more prosperous Micklegate at 43. (See Laycock, Report on State of York (1844).)

Coroner’s Inquests were held within 48 hours of a suspicious death, many of these were held at the Golden Ball.

Later institutions were founded:

  • St Stephen’s Orphanage, founded in Trinity Lane in 1870, with two houses bought here in 1872 (YCT). By 1920? moved to site of Hotel du Vin

  • The Terry Memorial Homes almshouses were built in 1899 in Skeldergate, Grade II listed. Now part of Middleton’s Hotel.

There were many overcrowded church graveyards, which became highly raised because of the large number of bodies, for example All Saints in Micklegate. The Friends' Burial Ground was created in 1667, and finally closed 1855. A YCT plaque commemorating this is in Cromwell Road, with a number of notable names recorded,  such as John Woolman,and the Tuke family. Chris Maudsley has done some research on John Woolman, an American anti-slavery campaigner who died here in York, which he will share.

Work by our own Poverty Research Group has identified links with Poor Law recipients to streets in Bishophill. See

Seebohm Rowntree in his study of town life in York identified Skeldergate as having one of the highest population densities in Britain, at 349 per acre. There is potential in carrying out population studies of the area, for example a closer look at infant mortality. (See

See also Vision of Britain parish population data at