High Petergate, York
"...whenever I see the girl she always manages to... unhinge me"

Where was the Norcliffes' house in Petergate?

It seems to be generally accepted that the Norcliffes lived at what is today number 9 High Petergate during Anne's time and afterwards: today number 9 is the Eagle and Child pub. It was built in 17th-century and is a very attractive, large, double-gabled, timber-framed building with the modern shop front we see today.

However, the house next door, Petergate House (#11) has a long association with the Norcliffes. Now the rectory to St Wilfrid's Church, number 11 is a much larger "mansion" with seven bays and a stuccoed front, probably built mid-18th century.

I think that there may be evidence that points to Petergate House, not number 9, as being the Norcliffes' Petergate residence:
  • The Norcliffes owned a "mansion" in Petergate from the mid-1700s until at least 1881.
  • The 1911 census lists "Petergate House" and "Number 11, High Petergate" separately, but there is no record of a "Number 9".
  • Census data from 1851 through 1911 strongly suggests that #9 High Petergate and Petergate House are the same. If they are the same house, there must have been a renumbering in the 20th century.
  • The same data indicates that the house at #11 was a much smaller building: the present #13 was tiny when built - just one room on each floor (see www.british-history.ac.uk).
  • Various directories and the 1851, 1861 & 1881 census has Norcliffes at what was then #9.
  • The #11 of the census is a very much smaller building than Petergate House.
  • I can find nothing that links the Norcliffes to what is now #9.

Petergate House History

This is an extract from Antiquarian Walks Through York, published in 1880:
"Passing through Bootham bar we enter the street called Petergate, a name (Mr. Drake says) derived from its neighbourhood to the cathedral. This part of the street, which is distinguished by the name of High Petergate, a few timber houses remain, but none of them present any remarkable features. A spacious mansion on the south side of the street, of which Mrs. Norcliffe*, of Langton, is the owner, was formerly the residence of Sir Edward Stanhope, of Grimston, near Tadcaster, and afterwards of the eminent ecclesiastical lawyer Henry Swinburne, Esq. of whose representatives it was purchased, in 1665, by Sir Thomas Herbert, Baronet, the faithful attendant of King Charles 1. In this house he resided until his death, which occurred on the 1st of March, 1681-2. His great-grandson. Sir Thomas Herbert, the fourth baronet, sold the family mansion in Petergate, in 1723, to William Turner, Esq. of Stainsby in Yorkshire."

* This "Mrs Norcliffe" is Rosamond Best, Isabella Norcliffe's niece.

And this is from East Yorkshire Landed Estates in the Nineteenth Century (J. T. Ward, 1875):
"On the death of Thomas* (1694-1768) the estates passed to his niece, Mary Wray, who married Sir James Innes, adding the Norcliffe surname. In 1812 Sir James became 5th Duke of Roxburghe, but on Lady Innes-Norcliffe's death five years previously Langton had passed to her nephew, Thomas Dalton** (1756-1820), who assumed the family name. Colonel (Dalton) Norcliffe commanded the York Volunteers and married the heiress of a Leeds merchant, William Wilson of Gledhow Hall. His son, Major General Norcliffe Norcliffe (1791-1862), was predeceased by his only son and was succeeded by his niece, Rosamond Best (1808-1881), who married Henry Robinson of York but took the style of Mrs. Norcliffe. At Langton, Howsham, Scrayingham, Westow and Eddlethorpe Mrs. Norcliffe owned 3,528 acres rented at £4,550 in 1879. She was followed at Langton Hall and Petergate House by her sons Charles (1813-1896), of Durham University, Thomas (1845-1903) and Francis (1851-1912) and daughter, Mrs. Gwyn (1836-1916)."

* Thomas Norcliffe, who aquired the Petergate house (or site) in 1740 from John Turner of Stainsby.
** Thomas Dalton (later Norcliffe) was Isabella Norcliffe's father.

I think it's clear that the Norcliffes owned a house or mansion in Petergate from the mid-1700s right into the 20th century. But is it today's Petergate House, and, if so, was it at #9 or #11 during the nineteenth century?

Documentary Evidence

Looking at the Petergate census records from 1851 to 1911[1] around number 9 and number 11, I think it's clear that #9 is a much larger house than #11 (the current #13, i.e. next door to Petergate House, only had one room on each floor when built), and Norcliffes (including Best/Robinsons) are only ever recorded at #9.

"Petergate House" first appears in 1911, without a number, but there's no record of a #9, and #11 is listed.

All of this suggests to me that the 19th century number 9 Petergate refers to today's Petergate House, and that a renumbering must have happened after 1911. Which, if correct, means that the Petergate house that Anne knew was in fact Petergate House, and not today's number 9.

Year    House number - Residents - Rooms occupied*
1851 #7 - 4 people in total
#9 - Henry & Rosamond Robinson & family - 21 people in total
#11 - "Greengrocer" - 2 people in total
1861 #7 - 3 people in total
#9 - Rosamond Robinson & family - 14 people in total
#11 - Smith Jackson "Tobacconist" - 2 people in total
#12 - Martin Richardson - 3 people in total
#13 - John R Bollans "Landscape Painter" - 5 people in total
1871 #7 - David Marchand - 8 people in total
#9 - Thomas Holmes "tinner & brazier", Hannah Best "housekeeper" - 3 people in total
#11 - Joseph Ellison "upholsterer" - 2 people in total
#12 - uninhabited
#13 - Henry Bewlay "cabinet maker" - 8 people in total
1881 #7 - Matthew Yorker, "plumber, etc" - 3 people in total
#9 - Charles B Norcliffe, Thomas Holmes "tinner & brazier" (see 1871), Elizabeth Best "housemaid" ( see 1871) - 4 people in total
#11 - not mentioned
#12 - 1 person
#13 - Charles S Catoni "Professor of Languages, French subject", 5 people in total
1891 #7 - George JF Newrey - 4 people in total
#9 - James Raine, Angelo Raine, Emma Shuttleworth (servant) - 12 people in total
#11 - Arthur Parker - 5 people in total - 3 rooms
#13 (no number written) - Richard Price "piano tuner" - 1 person - 2 rooms
1901 #7 - George JF Newrey - 6 people in total
#9 - unoccupied
#11 - Arthur Parker - 8 people in total
#13 - uninhabited
1911 #7 - 6 people in total - 5 rooms
Petergate House - Rev. Canon Albert Darell Tupper-Carey - 12 people in total - 22 rooms
#11 - Lucy Barker - 6 people in total - 7 rooms
#13 - Joseph MacNeil - 4 people in total - 4 rooms
* Before 1911 only the number of rooms occupied if less than 5 was recorded. In 1911 the total number of rooms is listed.

Other contemporary records

Date    Source    Description
1840 History, gazetteer, and directory,
of the east and north ridings of Yorkshire
Norcliffe Misses, 9 Petergate
1840 White's York Directory Norcliffe Misses, 9 Petergate
1855 Nichols family papers   Various letters from Charles Best Robinson*, sent from 9 Petergate
* Later Norcliffe
1871 Leeds University Library     Conveyance 11 and 12 High Petergate. The devisee in trust under the will of Martin Richardson to Rosamund Norcliffe
1873 Nichols family papers   Various letters from CB Norcliffe*, sent from Petergate House
* Charles Best Norcliffe
1881 "The Visitation of Yorkshire" Edited by Charles Best Norcliffe. Preface signed "C. B. N. Petergate House, York, 21st July 1881"
1881 Yorkshire Gazette, 27 August Report of Mrs (Rosamond) Norcliffe's funeral, mentioning Petergate House

Isabella Norcliffe's Petergate House

Isabella & Charlotte appear to have bought a house in Petergate in 1837, and Isabella - who outlived Charlotte - mentions a Petergate property in her will. However, none of the documents mentions a house number.

Date    Source    Description
1837 Leeds University Library     Copy of contract between Isabella and Charlotte Norcliffe and York Corporation - purchase of house in Petergate, occupied by Mr. Hibblewhite.
1837 Leeds University Library     Abstract of Title of Mayor, Aldermen etc. of York to a freehold messuage in Petergate contracted to be sold to the Misses Norcliffe.
1840 White's York Directory Postill Edward, 7 Petergate - Suggests that what I suggest is now #9 was not owned by Isabella Norcliffe.
1844 Isabella's will     "I give and devise all that my capital messuage situate in Petergate in the said city the gardens and outbuildings there etc[?] belonging also all my other messuages or dwelling houses situate in Petergate aforesaid with the appurtenances to the same and all other my real estate whatsoever and weresoever to the uses following that is to say to the use of my niece Rosamond Robinson the wife of Henry Robinson Esquire and her assigns during the term of her natural life..." (Proved 1846)

Contradictory (?) information

This directory has Francis Best Norcliffe at number 11. In 1901 the census has #9 as being unoccupied, and the record from 1871 (see above) indicates that #11 was also owned by the Norcliffes.

Date    Source    Description
1901 Kelly's York directory High Petergate 11, Norcliffe FB*
* Francis Best Norcliffe

[1] The 1841 census doesn't have house numbers and the 1921 census records won't be available online until 2022.
Page updated 3-Sep-2021