Weaving ones way through the hustle and bustle of the street, dodging coaches and navigating across the graveyard – that was once St Helens Square. Passing medieval timbered buildings which huddled the streets, York Mansion House would be an imposing edifice and one of the earliest civic buildings built in the classical style. Let’s use the words of Darcy Preston, Town clerk in 1724, to shed light on the need to build the house....
‘Proper repository for the records, books, and papers (and also a place for) every Lord Mayor to make his entertainment and his public business’
1725 the ‘common hall gates’ were demolished to make way for the ‘city house’. However things did not go as planned, the budgeted sum of £1500 was quickly spent and the construction limped on until the house was finally finished in 1732.
There is no recorded architect for the house, rather a building committee of Aldermen were in charge of the works supported by clerk of works. The aldermen included a toy maker and merchant.
The corporation bought themselves ‘Gibbs book of architecture’ in 1727 to assist them in the design of the building and its details. The use of such ‘pattern books’ was common in the eighteenth century, details of designs from the book can be seen in the interior decoration.
Once the house was completed the first description comes from Francis Drake's (not the Elizabethan sailor!) 1736 historical study of York entitled ‘Eboracum’ which summed up the Mansion House as ‘A neat and convenient building and grand enough