Building record MYO1586 - The Red House and attached railings at front


Town house; railings attached to front. Built c.1714 with later 18th century extension; 19th and 20th century alterations. For Sir William Robinson MP. Plan: central entrance hall plan with rear right wing and rear left extension. Exterior: 2 storeys, basement and attic; 5-bay front, each bay breaking forward slightly.


Grid reference SE 6012 5210 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (5)

Full Description

Town house, now offices; railings attached to front. c1714 with later C18 extension; C19 and C20 alterations. For Sir William Robinson MP.

MATERIALS: front of red painted brick in Flemish bond, with painted stone doorcase, quoins and dressings, on painted stone basement; ashlar basement and ground floor to both returns, upper storeys of orange-brown brick, English garden-wall bond to left, random bond to right; timber modillion eaves cornice, returned at each end; brick stacks to slate hipped roof. Extension of red-brown brick in English garden-wall bond. Rear wing and extension have slate roofs with tumbled brick gable ends. Cast-iron railings on low stone plinth and stone steps.

PLAN: central entrance hall plan with rear right wing and rear left extension.

EXTERIOR: 2 storeys, basement and attic; 5-bay front, each bay breaking forward slightly. Basement openings blocked. Steps lead up to 6-panel front door and overlight recessed in moulded architrave with palmette bootscrapers on either side. Overdoor cartouche with segmental pediment has City arms set on panel between garlanded volutes. To right of door, conical torch extinguisher with moulded stone panel. Ground floor windows are 12-pane sashes over full-width sill band; first floor windows are tall 18-pane sashes with sills extended the width of each bay. Dormers have squat 6-pane windows and segmental pediments. Left return: 2-storey return with Dutch gable, to right of lower 2-storey 3-bay extension. In centre of gable end, two full-height chimney flues conjoin in keyed semicircular arch over first floor window.

Windows are 12-pane sashes, those on first floor with segmental brick arches over blind tympana. In extension, ground floor has two 12-pane sashes, one C20 9-pane light; first floor, 12-pane sash, 2x6-pane Yorkshire sash and 16-pane sash. Right return: 2-storey gable end to left of long 2-storey wing. Steps lead up to 4-panel door recessed beneath timber lintel in gable end. Second door of 6 sunk panels with divided overlight beneath stone arch to wing. Between doors is tall sash window to staircase, with radial-glazed secondary staircase window further right. Other windows include two unequal 15-pane sashes, one with original glazing, and one tripartite sash window with elliptical brick arch.

INTERIOR: cellars in front range separated by stud partition wall: two chamfered mullioned windows survive, both blocked. Kitchen in rear wing has segment-arched blocked fireplace of painted brick. Ground floor: left front room retains heavy moulded ceiling beams. Opening in fluted surround leads to rear left room which has moulded dado rail and plain fireplace with round-headed grate: two semi-domed niches in rear wall, one converted to doorway to extension. Round arch leads to stairhall. Main staircase to second floor has open string, slender turned balusters and shaped treadends, moulded ramped-up handrail, wreathed at foot around turned newel on shaped curtail step: stairwell retains parallel moulded dado rail.

Secondary staircase rises from ground floor to attic and has moulded close string, turned balusters with square newels, and splat balusters to top flight. Rear room in wing has fireplace with timber lintel and doors of 3 raised and fielded panels. Rear room in extension has plain fireplace with duck-nest grate. First floor: front left room lined in full height bolection moulded panelling: enriched overmantel panels to blocked fireplace: moulded cornice. Rear left room, entered through bolection-moulded doorcase, has heavy moulded cornice and fireplace with round-headed grate in egg-and-dart surround. Front right room retains moulded cornice and has altered fireplace with moulded jambs, angle roundels and square-headed moulded grate. Passage to rear wing lined with square wainscotting and bolection moulded panelling.

First room in wing: plain fireplace has central frieze panel with vestigial composition mouldings, dentilled cornice shelf and hob grate: flanking cupboards have 2-panel doors: fluted skirting and door and window architraves. Second room in wing: partly fitted with square panelling above moulded dado rail: bolection moulded fireplace with plain shelf: moulded cornice: two doors are 2-panelled. Rooms in extension have plain fireplaces with basket grates, one flanked by cupboards with panelled and plank doors.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: early C19 cast-iron railings. Between 1740-71, The Red House was the residence of Dr John Burton, model for Dr Slop in Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy.

(City of York: RCHME: The Central Area: HMSO: 1981-: 130-1). Listing NGR: SE6012552107

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

156) The Red House, a stone and brick house of two storeys with attics and cellars, was built in the early 18th century for Sir William Robinson, Baronet (Drake, 337), Lord Mayor in 1700 and M.P. for York from 1697 to 1722. The site belonged to York Corporation, which had bought the Mint Yard from George Savile, Viscount Halifax, in 1675 for £800, and a house on it was leased to Robinson for the first time in 1701 (YCA, M31/152). He rebuilt this house, probably incorporating the lower portions of the earlier stone building. The designer may have been William Etty, who was later in charge of building Robinson's country house at Newby, now called Baldersby Park, begun in 1718 to a design by Colen Campbell. The lease of the York house was renewed for 21 years in 1723 (YCA, E101) and in 1725 York Corporation asked Robinson whether he would surrender the house for the use of the city (YCA, B42, f. 58). The request was presumably refused, because the present Mansion House (44) was subsequently built. On Robinson's death at Baldersby on 22 December 1736 the house passed to a relative, Richard Elcock. A 20-year lease 'of Sir William Robinson's house', granted to Dr. John Burton in 1740, was renewed for a further 21 years in 1761 (YCA, E101). Burton, the Dr. Slop of Sterne's Tristram Shandy, was proposed as a freeman in 1754 but was not admitted; he was buried in Holy Trinity, Micklegate, in January 1771. Later occupants include Dr. Baldwin Wake, physician to Bootham Park Hospital, York, from 1815–39, who took the lease in 1835 (YCA, E79).

The house built by Robinson had an L-shaped plan. The ground floor was raised eight steps above ground level, enabling the extensive cellars to be well lit by mullioned windows, now blocked. The front block contained three reception rooms on the ground floor, and the N. corner was occupied by part of the kitchen, which led into the long service wing at the back. In the second half of the 18th century, a two-storey block was added in the re-entrant angle. Apart from providing extra rooms, this gave corridor access from the main staircase to the northernmost room of the original wing. The main staircase was completely rebuilt, and extended upwards to the attics, which had previously only been reached by the secondary staircase in the wing. The flanking lights of the Venetian window lighting the staircase were closed, and the window was extended upwards to light the higher flights. At the same time, the fenestration of the N.E. elevation was drastically modified at first-floor level. In the 19th century, the house was re-roofed in slate. The name of The Red House may, by analogy with the Red Tower on the city walls, derive from the use of brick rather than stone in an important building, and not from the fact that the brickwork on the main elevation has been painted dark red.

The S.E. front elevation to Duncombe Place, five bays wide, has two storeys of brick, with stone dressings, above a stone basement. A late 18th-century modillioned cornice replaces the original deeper and bolder one. Continuous stone bands at both ground-floor window-sill and first-floor levels relate awkwardly to the stone quoins at the corners. The taller first-floor windows have sills which extend the full width of each bay. The sash windows have flush frames and flat-arched heads of rubbed brickwork. Approached by a flight of steps, the recessed entrance has a moulded architrave surmounted by a cartouche with the City arms set on a panel with curved pediment above and voluted drapery to the sides, and a door of six fielded panels beneath a rectangular fanlight. There are early 19th-century area railings.

The S.W. elevation to St. Leonard's Place is of coursed ashlar to first-floor level and of brick above. Each floor has two flush-framed sash windows; those at first floor are set beneath segmental arches with brick tympana. Above a central first-floor window a large semicircular arch with a key-stone links two flues into a single stack which diminishes upwards into a reverse-curved Dutch gable. To right of the gable is a late 18th-century modillioned cornice, and to left an early 19th-century cornice supported on widely-spaced brackets. The N.W. elevation, much altered and of rough ashlar below and brick above, has a tumbled gable, as has the N.W. elevation of the extension. The original fenestration, which included a Venetian window, has been altered.

Original early 18th-century cornices survive in both rooms on both floors of the main block backing on St. Leonard's Place. Fittings include original fireplaces and panelling. The main staircase has late 18th-century turned balusters with square knops, an open string with shaped cheek-pieces, a moulded mahogany handrail and a spiral terminal. The early 18th-century secondary staircase has turned balusters and a close string, with a balustrade of splat balusters in the attics.

Monument 156; City of York: RCHME: The Central Area: HMSO: 1981-: 130-1

NMR Information

Full description

(SE 60135211) The Red House (NAT)


Early C18 with later C18 alterations. Brick on a stone plinth which is the lower part of an ealier structure. Two storeys plus basement and attic; stone quoins and stone string-courses between storeys and at lower sill level. Both left and right faces of the building incorporate medieval masonry above which the brickwork to left rises to a curvilinear gable; 5 renewed sash windows, each vertical pair breaking forward; moulded stone doorcase surmounted by pedimented panel bearing the Arms of the City of York; steps up. A bronze plate by the doorway records that the house is built on the site of the gatehouse of St Leonard's Hospital and that Dr John Burton, who lived here was the prototype of Dr Slop in Sterne's "Tristam Shandy". Modillion eaves cornice; hipped slate roof. Interior retains good late C18 staircase, fireplaces and panelling. Good wrought iron railings to forecourt and steps.


1 Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date). 1:2500 1962.
2 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest. p86 City of York, June 1983

613515 Architectural Survey Investigation by RCHME/EH Architectural Survey

BF060542 THE RED HOUSE File of material relating to a site or building. This material has not yet been fully catalogued.

NMR, NMR data (Unassigned). SYO2214.

RCHME, 1981, City of York Volume V: The Central Area (Monograph). SYO65.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unassigned: NMR. NMR data.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1981. City of York Volume V: The Central Area.

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Record last edited

May 29 2020 7:52PM


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