Clementhorpe, York: Over 200 years of work and industry
A report for our history group by members John Stevens and Mave Morris, September 2019
For our purposes here, Clementhorpe is the area lying between the River Ouse to the east and Bishopgate Street/Bishopthorpe Road to the west. It stretches from Skeldergate Bridge in the north, down to Bewlay Street and Rowntree Park in the south. We have not described the retailing element of the local economy in any detail. Retailing on Bishopthorpe Road has been well covered elsewhere.
This map is based on the Ordnance Survey plan of 1892 (OS Crown Copyright Reserved). It shows Clementhorpe, perhaps nearing the peak of its industrial development. Key features including the River Ouse and the City Walls, with Baile Hill, enable us to locate it in relation to the rest of York – lying to the south and west of the City Centre.
We have tried to avoid confusion by referring to Clementhorpe [the road] and Clementhorpe [the area] where this is not clear from the context.
As we walk the streets of Clementhorpe, with its densely-packed rows of terrace housing and blocks of modern apartments, we may wonder why it came into being. What economic and social factors lay behind its foundation and growth? How did the earlier residents of the area make a living? What commercial and industrial activities were based in Clementhorpe?
Today, the area is almost exclusively residential in character, but can we trace any of the earlier commercial and industrial activities? Perhaps there are some buildings that retain their original uses, or have been converted for other purposes. We may notice the names of the roads and houses. Do these provide any clues about earlier activities?
Finally, we may wonder how the present residents of Clementhorpe make a living. What kind of occupations do they pursue, and which sectors do they work in? How has the socio-economic make-up of the area changed over time?
Here we give a broad overview of Clementhorpe’s industrial and employment history. We describe a process where scattered early industrial and entrepreneurial activity gave rise to a thorough-going phase of industrialisation in the latter half of the nineteenth century. This continued into the first half of the twentieth century, and then entered a long slow period of decline.
Follow the links on the left to explore this topic. If you want to cut to the real nitty-gritty of industrial Clementhorpe, we suggest that you concentrate on the sections on major local industries and other local employment.
At the end we provide a fairly full industrial and trade listing, which underlines the sheer breadth and scale of the industrial and employment achievement. There are also here three maps locating the main industries at key stages in the industrialisation process.
A full list of sources is provided at the end of the report. We thank all those who have researched and written these documents. Individual photographs have been taken by the authors, except where credit is noted. We would particularly like to thank Susan Major of Clements Hall Local History Group, for her guidance and support.
The cover photographs of Clementhorpe Maltings were kindly donated by Northminster Limited, the developers responsible for their transformation. Special thanks to Alastair Gill, Development Surveyor. Thanks to Mike Mackintosh, Philip Crowder, John Shaw and David Smith for their valuable inputs, and to Dick Hunter and David Poole for their comments on the draft.
It is impossible to be sure that we have covered all available sources of information, and that we have done so correctly. If anyone reading the report notes an error, or can help to fill the gaps, just let us know. In the meantime, please accept our apologies.
We have not attempted to give a comprehensive description but, rather, to tell the broad story of industrial and employment change in Clementhorpe, and to illustrate this with specific examples. It is intended to be an enjoyable read rather than an academic study.
Newspapers add flavour to what might otherwise be a dull description of industrial development. Some articles tell us about the proposals for development, the public reaction to them, and chart the actual process of construction and opening. More often they are concerned with specific events – an accident at work, a fire, some criminal activity or a strike, for example. Other sources include public notices and private advertisements. There are thousands of items relating to events in Clementhorpe, and so we have selected just a few to ‘add flavour’ or to illustrate a particular point.
Directories also provide a useful source of information about industry and work in Clementhorpe. However, they can be misleading when incomplete or propagate errors. Directories tend to list prominent people and trades people, mainly men. The amount of unpaid work in the home, through volunteering or charity is generally overlooked. Often people had multiple occupations.
There are ‘Clementhorpes’ in many places across the UK, for example in North Shields, Dagenham and St. Albans. Researchers need to exercise care, given that they are often wrongly ascribed.
 Bishy Road: A York shopping street in time, Clements Hall Local History Group, September 2018.
In May 2020 Ian Tempest gave a fascinating online talk for our members in lockdown, drawing upon invaluable research carried out by members John Stevens and Mave Morris, about the substantial industrial activity in Clementhorpe during the 19th and 20th centuries. Ian set it in the context of industrial activity in York more generally in the Victorian period. Follow these links for his presentation slides and notes. (For rights reasons many of the older images have been omitted.)