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Bowes Morrell House, 111 Walmgate
Bowes Morrell House was purchased from a private Leeds company on 26 February 2004 with a sitting tenant, The Council for British Archaeology. This was a particularly nostalgic purchase for the Trust as the building had been named after one of its co-founders, Dr John Bowes Morrell, by York Civic Trust who purchased the building in the 1960’s, as he had been a co-founder of that Trust also.
The house is situated on the south side of Walmgate, some 90 yards west of the site of St Peter-in-the-Willow, demolished c1547. In 1396 a licence was granted for the building of four houses in the churchyard of St Peter’s. One of these was to be ‘by the King’s highway in Walmegate 90 feet long by 30 feet broad’. The dimensions of Bowes Morrell House match those stipulated in the licence, and it has been suggested that it is the only survivor of the four houses, perhaps functioning as a vicarage for St Peter’s.
Although there are some remains of stone-built houses in York, timber-framing was the normal method of construction in the City until 1645, when the use of entirely timber-frame in a building was forbidden by the City Council.
Bowes Morrell House was built c1400 as a timber-framed house on an L-shaped plan. It had an open hall some 20 ft. wide but only 10.5ft long. This plan has no known parallel in York. The lower part of the hall was open to the ground floor of a two-storey range built at right angles, the width of the hall being equal to the length of two of the three bays which formed the two-storey range. There is some evidence that there was a structure continuing the line of the hall to the west but with no internal communication with the hall. In the 16th century a timber-framed addition was built in the re-entrant angle and projecting south. In the late 17th century the original two-storey range was extended south in brick. The building was restored in 1932 and, more drastically, in 1966.
In the original building the main framing is exposed. The east wing is jettied at the north end. From most of the main posts curved braces support middle rails and wall-plates, but the corner-posts over the jetty are stiffened by braces from the adjacent horizontal beams, and there are downward braces also to the post between hall and east wing, which starts at first-floor level to leave the opening between the hall and ground floor of the wing completely clear. Each of the cross-beams carrying the upper floor in the wing is enlarged at one end but not at the other, and the joists are tenoned to one beam, halved to another and run over the top of a third. The roofs are of crown-post construction; over the hall there are, in addition, side-purlins carried by struts which cross the braces to the crown-posts and also supported by curved braces from the struts. Similar struts appear in the north end truss of the east wing but without side-purlins. In the hall the upper floor is carried on 18th century joists but there is evidence for an earlier inserted floor in mortices in the east wall. Many of the timbers in the east wing show good carpenters’ assembly marks.
The south-west addition, of the 16th century, is of two bays; most of the timber framing has been renewed. The brick extension has a plat-band at first-floor level and tumbled gable to the south. The roof is carried on simple tie-beam trusses with purlins tenoned to the principal rafters.
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