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The Red House, Duncombe Place
The Trust bought the house in 1999 from The City of York Council who had previously used it as their Leisure Services Department.
A stone and brick house of two storeys with attics and cellars, built in the early 18th century for Sir William Robinson, Baronet, Lord Mayor in 1700 and MP for York from 1697 to 1722. The site belonged to York Corporation, which had bought the Mint Yard from George Savile, Viscount Halifax, in 1675 for £800, and a house on it was leased to Robinson for the first time in 1701. He rebuilt this house, probably incorporating the lower portions of the earlier stone building. The designer may have been William Etty, who was later in charge of building Robinson’s country house at Newby, now called Baldesby Park. In 1740 the house was let to Dr John Burton, the Dr Slop of Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.
The ground floor was raised eight steps above ground level, enabling the extensive cellars to be well lit by mullioned windows, now blocked. The front block contained three reception rooms on the ground floor, and the northern corner was occupied by part of the kitchen, which led into the long service wing at the back. In the second half of the 18th century a two-storey block was added in the re-entrant angle. Apart from providing extra rooms, this gave corridor access from the main staircase to the northernmost room of the original wing. The main staircase was completely rebuilt, and extended upwards to the attics, which had previously only been reached by the secondary staircase in the wing. The flanking lights of the Venetian window lighting the staircase were closed, and the window was extended upwards to light the higher flights. At the same time, the fenestration of the north east elevation was drastically modified at first-floor level. In the 19th century the house was re-roofed in slate. The name of The Red House may, by analogy with the Red Tower on the city walls, derive from the use of brick rather than stone in an important building, and not from the fact that the brickwork on the main elevation has been painted dark red.
The south east front elevation to Duncombe Place, five bays wide, has two storeys of brick, with stone dressings, above a stone basement. A late 18th century modillioned cornice replaces the original deeper and bolder one. Continuous stone bands at both ground-floor window-sill and first-floor levels relate awkwardly to the stone quoins at the corners. The taller first-floor windows have sills which extend the full width of each bay. The sash windows have flush frames and flat-arched heads of rubbed brickwork. Approached by a flight of steps, the recessed entrance has a moulded architrave surmounted by a cartouche with the City arms set on a panel with curved pediment above and voluted drapery to the sides, and a door of six fielded panels beneath a rectangular fanlight. There are early 19th century area railings.
The south west elevation to St Leonard’s Place is of coursed ashlar to first-floor level and of brick above. Each floor has two flush-framed sash windows; those at first floor are set beneath segmental arches with brick tympana. Above a central first-floor window, a large semicircular arch with a key-stone links two flues into a single stack which diminishes upwards into a reverse-curved Dutch Gable. To the right of the gable is a late 18th century modillioned cornice, and to the left an early 19th century cornice supported on widely spaced brackets. The north west elevation, much altered and of rough ashlar below and brick above, has a tumbled gable, as has the north west elevation of the extension. The original fenestration, which included a Venetian window, has been altered.
Original early 18th century cornices survive in both rooms on both floors of the main block backing on St Leonard’s Place. Fittings include original fireplaces and panelling. The main staircase has late 18th century turned balusters with square knops, an open string with shaped cheek-pieces, a moulded mahogany handrail and a spiral terminal. The early 18th century secondary staircase has turned balusters and a close string, with a balustrade of splat balusters in the attics.
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