Building record MYO4070 - Lych Gate and Dovecote, Rowntree Park


The Dovecote contains two memorial plaques. One commemorates the gift of the Park to the citizens of York by the Rowntree Cocoa Works “as a tribute to the memory of those of the Company’s staff who servrd their country in her hour of need” during the First World War. The second one records the gift of the gates on Terry Avenue as a memorial to “those from the Cocoa Works who lost their lives in the Second World War”. It is occupied by a flock of white doves descended from the first doves introduced in 1921. Listed Grade II.


Grid reference Centred SE 6033 5066 (6m by 7m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

The building takes the form of a gatehouse and dovecote containing memorial plaques. It was built in 1921 as part of Rowntree Park, which was presented to the City of York by Rowntree and Co Ltd as a memorial park to their staff who had fought and died or been injured in the First World War. While it is a built structure, rather than an individual war memorial, in this case the building is resonant with symbolism primarily as a memorial rather than as a practical, utilitarian structure. This is underlined by its name of ‘lych gate’ used in contemporary accounts, and more accurately used for the covered gate found at the entrance of a churchyard where coffins and biers temporarily stopped during funerals. In this case the building shelters the memorials to the Rowntree staff who fought in the two World Wars and whose graves were abroad where they fell, making this the focus of remembrance. A further social interest is also portrayed. The Rowntrees were a Quaker family and as such were pacifists. This philosophy is clearly alluded to in the First World War plaque which acknowledges the cost of life or limb or health of their staff at the Cocoa Works who stepped up to serve their Country in her hour of need ‘in the face of indescribable suffering and hardship’. Victory is seen as a chance for enduring peace and greater happiness for the whole world, crowned by the creation of a League of Nations to achieve this outcome. The integral dovecote houses white doves, the universally recognised symbol of peace.

The lych gate is an integral component of the park, which was registered Grade II in 1999, being both York’s first municipal park and a memorial park. Although it is not definitively known who designed the building, it is likely to have been designed by the architect Frederick Rowntree, or W J Swain, architect to York Cocoa Works, who assisted Rowntree in designing the park. The park was divided into formal and informal areas to reflect the Rowntrees’ belief in making facilities that were available to all; the lych gate stands at the boundary of the two and so is equally accessible to all park users. The pleasing design is in an Arts and Crafts style, using a pegged oak frame with orange brick and small brown roof tiles. It is a style previously favoured by the Rowntrees for their New Earswick garden village, designed by Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin from 1902 for the Cocoa Works’ employees. The traditional look of the lych gate is particularly appropriate for the pastoral tranquillity of the park so far removed from the upheaval and horrors of war. Its design and use of materials ties in with other components, such as the adjacent, small hump-backed bridge, and nearby tea room, also built in 1921. The lych gate remains as built, with the addition of a second plaque commemorating the Second World War, even retaining white doves in the roof-space dovecote. The Second World War plaque also links the lych gate to the presentation of a second gateway and gates by the Rowntree Company as a memorial. These riverside entrance gates are much earlier having been designed by Jean Tijou around 1715 and reputedly came from Ritchings Park in Buckinghamshire. They are already listed Grade II*.

It is considered that the lych gate and dovecote does demonstrate architectural interest, which is enhanced by the registration of the park in which it stands. In addition the building has historic interest as it is primarily designed as a war memorial. As such it is the lynchpin of the memorial park, whilst also advocating the pacifist philosophy of the Quaker Rowntree family.

Historic England, 2017, Historic England Advice Report (Unpublished document). SYO2104.

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Unpublished document: Historic England. 2017. Historic England Advice Report.

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Record last edited

Jun 20 2018 12:09PM


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