Updated: Dec 18, 2022
Prior to moving to Ryedale, I had lived in York for around 28 years. Now, York is a beautiful city, with plenty to see and do, but there are some places in York that you just don’t know about. Everyone knows about York's famous Gothic cathedral, Cliffords Tower and the Castle walls, but nestled in the shadows of York Minster stands one of York’s most interesting and allegedly most haunted historic houses. I’m talking of course, about the wonderfully quirky Treasurers House.
Treasurer’s House in York and the award winning garden.
I actually visited the Treasurers House a few years back with my parents, when I first joined the national trust. Having changed my smartphone several times since, I lost all my photos, and knew I needed to go back and re-experience the place. Having had surgery on a hernia a few weeks back, and having been off work for a few weeks, I took the opportunity to go back and discover one of Yorks most interesting historic sites.
Read on to find out more about the history of the Treasurer’s House in York, its infamous ghosts, and why you absolutely mustn’t move the furniture!
A house full of ghosts, and Why you mustn’t touch the furniture!
Although the house we see today was largely constructed in the seventeenth century, Treasurer’s house in York actually has a history dating back to the Roman Occupation of England. Originally built as a lavish residence, for the treasurer of York Minster in 1091, very little of the original house actually exists. Following the office of Treasurer being disbanded following the English Reformation, Treasurer’s House eventually made its way into the hands of the Tudor Archbishop of York, Thomas Young.
Bar a small section of wall at Deans Court Hotel, and a few spans of wood, the house which stands today, largely took shape in the seventeenth century, under the ownership of Young’s descendants. The House they built was simply beautiful, and was even visited by King James I when he came to York in 1617.
Sadly, the Treasurer’s was not remain a single residence, and under the direction of successive owners, it was eventually divided up into separate dwellings. The house became neglected and began to fall into disrepair.
We have the wealthy Victorian industrialist, and collector, Frank Green to thank for the the current state of the house. Having purchased the individual tenements between 1897 and 1898, he began restoring the house to its former glory – his intentions being to use it to use it to showcase his extensive collection. He created themed rooms, based on different periods of history, and furnished them with his collection of antique furniture.
Frank Green loved Treasurers House, and very much wanted people to be able to experience it as a house. He was very particular in fact. When he eventually handed it to the National Trust in 1930, it was made absolutely clear that nothing was to be moved. There are actually markers on the floor stipulating how the furniture must go, and Frank Green threatened to come back and haunt the house if his wishes were not respected!
Speaking of ghosts, the house actually stands on a Roman Road and is allegedly haunted by Roman Soldiers. The famous story goes, that it in 1953 a local plumber was busy in the cellar repairing pipe work, when he heard the sound of drums. This was shortly followed by an apparition of armed legionaries, that emerged from the wall, visible only from the knees up! For guests who are brave enough, the National Trust actually runs ghostly tours of the cellar throughout the year.
Exploring Treasurer’s House: Thirteen period themed rooms and a Great Hall fit for a medieval Lord!
The front of Treasurers House faces out onto the rear of the Minster, and access can be gained from the front gate, or the main visitors entrance to the right of the building. If you approach from the front then you come in via the modest sized garden, which is absolutely beautiful. It was a lovely sunny day when I visited, and the garden looked incredible. Its not huge, but there are few small gardens in York that have won quite so many awards.
The garden was fairly busy on my visit, with tourists and locals sat lounging around in the sun, taking in the ambience and capturing the scene on their smartphone cameras. I took the time to get a few shots myself!
Whether you come in via the front or side entrance, you end up being brought in via the reception hall. From the back of the reception hall is situated the kitchen, and from here there are some steps which take you down to the cafe, shop, and spooky cellar! If you pass by the reception hall and into the house you have the dining room to your right and the sitting room to your left (looking out to the front of the building).
I hadn’t expected not being given free rein of the house when I arrived. Last time I visited you could just explore at your own leisure, but I was a little disappointed to find on this occasion you had to have a guided tour. I was recovering from an operation so would have preferred to have done my own thing. That said after booking a time for the tour (which was only 15 minutes in the future) I returned from the garden and took my place in the sitting room.
From here, we were introduced to our enthusiastic volunteer tour guide, who gave a quick introduction to the history, before taking us through the house. There are actually 13 period themed rooms in total, all of which are accessible on the tour, except for the kings rooms. The tour starts in the Dining room, with its lovely plaster roof and eighteenth century wood panelled walls, and then takes you through to the grandest room in the house – the Great Hall.
When you visit the Great Hall you are taken aback by the sheer size and scale of it. You could easily expect a hall of this size to be a key feature of the home of some medieval Lord, but within a modest inner city house it comes as a bit of a shock. The first floor above the hall was actually removed to open up the space and reveal the rafters. This effectively split the house in two, with the kings rooms being isolated from the rest of the domestic rooms.
From here we exited through a door in the other end of the hall and out into the staircase hall. We then entered the impressive Drawing Room (possibly my favourite room of the house). Called the ‘Blue Drawing Room’ because of its bold paint scheme, the room is furnished with beautiful. precisely placed, pieces of furniture, including a stunning boule writing desk which takes centre stage.
Next door to the Blue Drawing Room, is the Court Room. This small room is largely dominated by a model ship contained within a glass cabinet. This takes centre stage in the middle of the room and was was made by French prisoners during the Napoleonic wars. Its actually made out of animal bones!
We then got taken back through to the staircase hall, and up to the first floor via the stunning eighteenth century William and Mary styled staircase. The walls are adorned by paintings purchased by Frank Green and a beautiful chandelier hangs from the ceiling.
In 1900 Frank Green was lucky enough to secure a visit from King Edward VII and his wife Queen Alexander. Consequently the upper rooms are designed to commemorate this royal visit. There are basically three rooms on this side of the building, situated above the Blue Drawing Room.
The tapestry room, so called because of the Seventeenth Century Flemish tapestries hung on the walls, was the first room we entered. We were told that the most valuable item in the house was situated in this room. I guessed at the large wooden wardrobe situated at the end of the room. I was wrong of course, the oldest and most valuable item in the house was in fact an ancient looking unexceptional chair. It was very fortunate I didn’t decide to rest my aching legs!
Next the went through to Princess Victoria’s Room, followed by the Queen’s Room. Both bedrooms are exquisitely decorated with extravagant beds dominating both rooms.
Having completed the upstairs part of the tour we were taken back down the staircase and into the Great Hall. From the other side of the great hall is a staircase which takes you up to the Gallery. Beyond this sits the Kings room. I was a bit disappointed the tour did not take us up to the Kings Room, but fortunately I did get the opportunity to see this on my last visit to he house.
I found the tour to be very interesting and I learned a lot about the house I didn’t already know. Our tour guide (who’s name escapes me) was clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about the house, and fascinated us with stories of ghosts, royal visitors and extravagant parties. He told us things you wouldn’t find on the internet, so it was definitely worth while.
With the tour complete, I spent a little time exploring the basement of the house. This is where the shop, cafe and toilets are situated, along with the access point to the spooky cellar. For a historic site as small as Treasurers House, it does seem to have a rather exceptional cafe and dining room. I did not get the opportunity to purchase any food or drink, however the cafe was full of visitors, which was clearly an indication of it popularity, especially when you consider it was a fairly quiet day.
Image from English Heritage. Link at bottom of page.
I absolutely need to visit again when the house is open for self guided tours, and I absolutely need to experience the haunted cellar. This is accessible to the public on selected days throughout the year. There is also an exhibition room, open all year round where you can learn more about York’s most ‘famous ghost story’.
Treasurers House in York is a really exceptional historic house, with bags of character, and plenty of charm. This is very much as show house, as opposed to a ‘lived in’ house, and this makes Treasurer’s a very unique and wonderful experience. The garden is absolutely stunning, and the various tours offered around the house make it well worth revisiting. If you’re in York, and have a few hours to spare, I would certainly recommend visiting this little gem.
Further information: Prices, parking and where else to visit
Treasurer’s House is open most days between the hours of 11am and 4.30pm. Usually you can explore the house at your own leisure, but on certain days access is limited to guided tours only. It’s certainly worth ringing ahead or checking out the website prior to making a visit.
It’s not the cheapest National Trust property, and entry will cost adults £8.70 and £4.35 for children. If you visit such places often then I would certainly recommend joining the National Trust as this is a good way to save money and well worth the expense.
Tours of the cellar run on various dates throughout the year and on certain published dates in October. The tour will cost you £4 for adults and £3.50 for children. You don’t need to pay to get into the house however.
Treasurers House in situated just behind the Minster, and just on the edge of the Minster Gardens. There is no on site parking but there are plenty of council and private run car parks around the city, and a number of park and ride services situated around York.
There are an enormous amount of things to do in York, but whilst in the vicinity of the Treasurer’s House, why not visit the incredible Minster. York Minster is the largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe and has some of the largest medieval stained glass windows in the world. The Minster Gardens are also just next door and are absolutely free to enter. Why not have a picnic or just sit and absorb the surroundings.
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