Wakefield Family History Sharing

York House

Grade II * Listed Building

Drury Lane

York House, no definite date is know for its building, but it was certainly around in 1777 and possibly built by James Bank, a member of a family which was associated with the wool trade in Wakefield. The house, though has long been associated with the Theatre. Bank's having built his theatre on the site of the now Wakefied Theatre Royal survived until the mid 1890's. Bank's built his Theatre around the mid 1770's even though the theatre season was short but the first leasee was well known and of considerable reputation - Tom Wilkinson, actor/manager. Lady Pilkington of Chevet Hall gave her patronage to the theatre

Clarkson in his 'Memories of Wakefield' describes the area and James' second wife thus, "Drury Lane did not then exist; there was a carriage road from Westgate as far back as the Theatre and further progress was stopped by a large pair of gates, which opened directly on to Mrs Banks' Garden. This was extremely pretty and of great size, bounded by Back Lane and extending nearly down to Westgate Chapel, and very prettily laid out with broad lawns and great beds of flowers. Mrs Banks was a kind-hearted , hospitable woman, though one of a gossipping, card playing race"

By 1836 the gounds seem to be divided and sold by the family only a short time after the death of Mrs Banks. It was now that William Stewart, licensed appraiser and auctioneer, became linked with the history of this building. It was Stewart that acted a the auctioneer for the Banks estate. It was Stewart that was responsible for the giving the house its name - York House and he lived there until his death in 1886.

The Drawing Room of Mr Banks

After the death of Stewart York House seems to have become a Gentlemen's Club and eventually modelled itself on the private Gentlemen's Clubs in the nations Capital, London, with many of Wakefield's well-to-do paying the annual membership fee. Members included the residents of such find buildings as : Nostell Priory, Hatfeild House, Sandal Grange, Heath Hall and Thornes House to name a few.

Drawing Room ceiling

As with all Club's of this type a reading room, dining room, billiard room and smoking room would all have been included in this fine building.

The Gentlemen's Club in York House survived until the middle of the 20th Century when it was purchased by the Council for the road widening of both Drury Lane and the exit from Back Lane. Later connections with the building have included W Harker, former director of Hagebach's, Hardenbrook Caterers

Eventhough the building has had to undergo certain changes to comply with health and safety issues and the alterations to the first floor during its time as a club, the building retains much of its character and should be proud to belong to a collections of buildings that tell the story of Wakefield.

With permission from Kevin and Yvonne James.

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