Building record MYO1206 - 42-48 Micklegate


A four storey, six window fronted, red brick building from around 1747, incorporating a wing from c1710 with later 19th and 20th century alterations and shop fronts, with a tiled roof. In 1998 a series of seven paintings with allegorical or symbolic images were discovered during routine building work in No. 42.


Grid reference SE 5996 5165 (point)
Map sheet SE55SE
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (8)

Full Description

Three shops and flats. 1747, incorporating rear wing of c1710; C19 and C20 alteration. Probably for Thruscross Topham.

MATERIALS: front of orange-red brick in Flemish bond, with modillion eaves cornice on bulbous grooved consoles; pantile roof with stone coped left gable and brick stacks. Rear wing of red brick in stretcher bond; tiled roof with brick coped gable. EXTERIOR: 4-storey 6-window front. Late C19-C20 shopfronts. All windows are sashes with painted stone sills, those on first floor of 15 panes, on second floor of 12 panes (two blocked), and of 6 panes on third floor. First and second floor windows have flat arches of gauged brick. Rear of front range of 3 storeys, partly obscured by later additions; 3-storey 2-window wing projects to left. Windows in front range altered to small-pane sashes, one with elliptical arch, others with flat arches. Ground and first floor windows in wing are 16-pane sashes with flat arches, and on second floor 2x6-pane horizontal sliding sashes. Two top floor windows in gable end are blocked.

INTERIOR: only interior of No.48 fully inspected, and contains close string staircase from ground to second floor with alternately turned and twisted balusters and flat moulded handrail ramped-up to square newels. First floor front room lined with full-height fielded panelling, with bolection moulded fireplace and overmantel panel, and sunk-panelled ceiling divided by moulded beams. Second floor front rooms have original plain fireplaces with flat shelves, one dentilled, 6-panel doors and moulded picture rails. Door to back room is of 3 panels; C19 fireplace and grate survive. In No.42, RCHM record door to rear wing of 8 raised and fielded panels in keyed round-arched architrave, and mid C18 close string staircase with turned balusters, square newels and moulded handrail. In No.44, a mid C19 staircase. Nos 46 and 48 were first listed 24/06/83. (City of York: RCHME: South-west of the Ouse: HMSO: 1972-: 75-76).
Listing NGR: SE5996751655

Derived from English Heritage LB download dated: 22/08/2005

In 1998 a series of wall-paintings was discovered in a first floor front room at 42 Micklegate in York when paneling was removed during routine building work. The seven paintings constitute a frieze, made up of oval cartouches separated by columns, positioned high on two adjacent walls. The paintings are in various states of disrepair, but it seems likely that the frieze would originally have reached around all four walls. Each cartouche contains an allegorical or symbolic image, accompanied by three lines of text (a biblical inscription followed by a verse epigram).

The York paintings must postdate the publication of Quarles’s Emblemes in 1635, while the medium and general style of the work suggests a date no later than the third quarter of the seventeenth century. This presents a conundrum since the building itself, 42 Micklegate, apparently dates from the mid eighteenth century. By this later date, fashions had shifted and patterned wallpaper was all the rage, so it seems highly unlikely that such an outmoded form of decoration would be created in a newly built Georgian mansion. How can this apparent paradox be explained? In fact, while the façade of the property and many of its interior features are clearly of the Georgian period, it is likely that this is the result of a renovation of an existing property, which nevertheless incorporated much of the structural fabric of an earlier domestic building on the same plot.

The most likely date for the York paintings is somewhere around the middle of the seventeenth century. Comparable examples have indicated that artisans relied on printed sources to inform decorative work, but we have shown evidence that painters also carefully chose to appropriate, adapt, and modify the content of source material in order to reflect and fashion the identity of the patron. The physical context of the decoration in a multifunctional domestic room and its position
high up in a frieze raises questions about the intended purpose of the imagery as a permanent
addition to this space. It indicates that viewers of these excerpted images approached them quite differently than readers of similar content in printed books. It is therefore reasonable to assume that this sort of subject matter functioned in multipleways when writ large over domestic surfaces. As part of the self-fashioning of a householder’s identity, it could operate to create an immediate impression of status or, on occasion, might be used to prompt and support an exposition of his interests. It is also
important to acknowledge the continuou0s presence of this imagery as backdrop and scenery to daily life. Such a large-scale expression of the householder’s identity could stand as a form of proxy for his presence, to create an environment conducive to appropriate behavior and thought within his family.

The discovery of wall-paintings in the house at 42 Micklegate in York provides important new evidence relevant to a number of related disciplines. As rare and well preserved surviving examples of a once-ubiquitous decorative medium, these paintings reinforce the arguments of an emerging body of scholarship that acknowledges the variety and vitality of early modern visual culture and the significance of vernacular craft. More particularly, the existence of the paintings suggests that Quarles’s Emblemes were used for decorative purposes more often than has previously been thought. The position of the paintings high on the walls indicates that their intended purpose was primarily to aid the general cultivation of piety, rather than to spur personal, disciplined meditation.

Derived from article - 2015, Beyond the Page: Quarles’s Emblemes, Wall-Paintings, and Godly Interiors in Seventeenth-Century York

Houses, Nos. 42, 44, 46, 48, standing opposite St. Martin's Church, include a back wing of c. 1710 but the main part of the building was erected as two messuages in 1747, when a Mithraic altar stone was discovered whilst digging a cellar (Stukeley, iii, 358; Wellbeloved's Eboracum, 79–85; Gentleman's Magazine, May 1751). The site had been acquired from Thomas Mell, merchant, by Thruscross Topham (d. 1757), who married Ann Sanderson on 16 May 1747 (YCA, E.94, ff. 1, 2v.); R. H. Skaife, The Register of Marriages in York Minster (1874), 115), and the rebuilding was probably in connection with the marriage settlement. In 1774 the property was sold to Thomas England, butter factor, who, until his bankruptcy in 1781, lived in one house; the other had been occupied to his death in 1770 by George Eskrick, haberdasher, Lord Mayor in 1739 and 1747 (YCA, E.94, f. 153). In 1791 the whole property belonged to George Beal, butter factor, including a third house in the yard behind (E.95, ff. 111v., 113v.). For about 10 years from 1823 a girls' boarding school, kept by Miss Patience Nicholson, occupied No. 48.

Above modern shop fronts the street elevation is in 18th-century brick with a 19th-century cornice at the eaves. Only one of the windows retains original sashes with heavy glazing bars.

The back wing of c. 1710 retains some original fittings and contains a mid 18th-century staircase. In the main range No. 44, in the middle, has a staircase of the middle of the 19th century. In the W. House, of which the upper part forms No. 48, a room on the first floor is lined with panelling of 1747 (Plate 69; Fig. 16d), and other original fittings remain including a staircase with alternate turned and twisted balusters; the top part of the staircase was altered at the end of the 18th century. Stop-chamfered ceiling beams are of the 17th century reused.

Derived from RCHME - 'Secular Buildings: Micklegate', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 3, South west (London, 1972), pp. 75-6. Monument 64

Information derived from NMR
613515 Architectural Survey Investigation by RCHME/EH Architectural Survey
BF060806 42-48 MICKLEGATE, YORK File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued

NMR, NMR data (Unassigned). SYO2214.

RCHME, 1972, RCHME City of York Volume III South-west of the Ouse (Monograph). SYO64.

2015, Beyond the Page: Quarles’s Emblemes, Wall-Paintings, and Godly Interiors in Seventeenth-Century York (Article in Journal). SYO1848.

Sources/Archives (3)

  • --- Article in Journal: 2015. Beyond the Page: Quarles’s Emblemes, Wall-Paintings, and Godly Interiors in Seventeenth-Century York. Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 78, no. 3.
  • --- Unassigned: NMR. NMR data.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1972. RCHME City of York Volume III South-west of the Ouse.

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Record last edited

Feb 7 2020 11:26AM


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