Burton Croft


(See bottom of page for update on the new development built on this site.)

Burton Croft, former home of J B Morrell, was visited in York Walks /3, in the summer of 2004, when its future was being debated. A planning application by Barratt Homes would involve demolishing the Victorian house and building flats in its place. The plans were controversial, and many local people tried to save the building. The developers won.

Burton Croft, before demolition, 21 July 2004

In the summer of 2004 the house was looking a little run-down, with some of its windows boarded up, and holes in the roof. A security guard could often be seen sitting in the conservatory looking a little bored. The house was a nursing home for the elderly in recent years, and I remember, from passing sometimes, residents sitting in this conservatory, with its view of the garden.

The nursing home closed some years ago, as so many have.

Burton Croft – with irritating Barratt sign, November 2004

By November, when this photo was taken, Barratt had got its way. I wasn’t feeling particularly anti-property-developer at the time, until I saw this Barratt sign. I realise that it’s a standard sign, but it might be more appropriate next to an empty field. You can’t help but notice that the ‘LAND ACQUIRED’ referred to has a large house in the middle of it. But it’s just land to them.

Burton Croft demolition site – 1

5 February 2005 – and the house is no longer inconveniently getting in the way of the glorious future of this piece of land as a site for ‘Premier collection homes’.

This view is taken from the same corner as the image above, with Burton Croft now a pile of bricks in the background.

Burton Croft demolition – slates and bricks

I didn’t campaign about Burton Croft, and I didn’t feel as strongly about its fate as many people did. But when I heard it was being demolished, I couldn’t bring myself to go and look, and take photos of the actual demolition, though perhaps the photos would have been more interesting than this one, of a pile of slates and bricks.

There’s something sad always about buildings being demolished. Many people had fond memories of this building, and admiration and respect for the work of J B Morrell, whose home it originally was.

To the side of the demolition site, this old garden hedge and its white gate remained, rather incongruous and a little sad somehow.

Side gate to Burton Croft

But sentiment aside, we may want to question the sheer waste involved in destroying a solidly-built house. And we can’t help but think about the environmental impact of destroying it – removing tons of bricks and broken slates and smashed window frames – and then bringing onto the site all the materials needed to build a lot of new houses in its place.

Still, they’re property developers, and that’s what property developers do. Now, in the summer of 2005, the site is surrounded by hoardings and there’s a marketing place at the front.

Update, 2007

The new development on the site of Burton Croft is pictured below. On the wall forming the boundary to the street is a plaque, also pictured.

Burton Croft – new development Burton Croft – J B Morrell plaque

The above photos were taken on 5 June 2007. The plaque reads:

This site of Burton Croft was the home to Dr John Bowes Morrell from 1907 until his death on 26 April 1963. Described as ‘York’s greatest benefactor’, and he was twice Lord Mayor of York, an Honorary Freeman of the City of York, Rowntree & Co Ltd’s youngest ever director, instrumental in the foundation of the University of York and its Pro-Chancellor. He instigated the opening of the Castle Museum, was co-founder of York Civic Trust and founder of York Conservation Trust.”

I wonder if anyone else reading this plaque would find it sadly ironic that the house of the founder of York Conservation Trust wasn’t conserved. It also seems a shame that the phrasing of this sign is rather clumsy. But maybe now I’m just being picky and pedantic (and I’m sure there’s some clumsy sentences on here).

Have to say that the flats look quite handsome, as modern flats go, and fit in okay, in my humble opinion.

Update, 2012

Since I wrote the above update, the metal plaque has disappeared. Perhaps another case of metal theft – an increasing problem.


  1. Susan Yates

    My grandmother Maud Mary Dodsworth Brain worked as head housemaid at Burton Croft for Mr. Morrell.

    • john david scoones

      Hello Susan
      seen your posting re Maud Mary Dodsworth,my relatives also worked there -see posting,
      do you have any further info,
      regards john

    • Karen Dupley

      Hi Susan
      I’m not sure if anyone still reads about this topic. My grandparents also worked at Burton Croft.

  2. john david scoones

    In the late fifties when i was eight years old,i had the good fortune to stay at the house during the summer holidays on three or four ocasions,My uncle clifford was the chef chauffer and my aunt was the housekeeper. what happy memories i have of the house and lord morell,he was a very kind man who always took an interest in what i had been doing that particular day and as a treat he used to take me in the car to view the different city gates to compare his painting of them and ask me my opinion, i think he was very proud of these.
    this i found very interesting even at that age.
    Coming from a working class background,living in a three bedroom semi in Wakefield, you can imagine how overwelmed i was with the grandure of the house and gardens.even a putting lawn and swimming pool,orchard lovely flowers and clasical statues,
    i try now in my later years to visualise the inside of the house and its contents,i remember the entrance hall and grand staircase leading up to Lord Morells study and on his desk a bust of him.i remember all the fine paintings, clocks and porcelain, one day i was playing pitch and put and i accidently broke one of the hichory putters,i was very distraught and worried so i went to tell my uncle what i had done,he took me to tell Lord morell in his study, i was shaking when i went in ,and said i was sorry,he replied,dont worry master johnathan (that was the only time in life i had been called that) i have plenty more and i never use them anyway but thankyou for telling me.
    sometimes i would go out to the fishshop and if it was starting to get dark i used to run back to the house because just outside the house there were two huge bronze buddas that were pretty scary to me at that age.(i often wonder what became of them)
    when i was fourteen years of i age i saved up to buy an antique vienna cup and saucer and have had a passion for collecting ever since and when i look back i realise where the influence came from,
    whilst the house is sadly gone i would love to see pictures of the house inside with its contents.
    When Lord Morell passed away my uncle was left by him a waterside apartment,to live in as long as he wished.
    I will always treasure the happy memories of a kind ,warm sincere gentleman and the wonderful summer holidays spent there in that grand house, Whilst the house is gone the memories live on
    Thank you sir and thank you to Miss Betty who was also a kind Lady to me
    John David Scoones.

    • These are wonderful memories John, thank you for adding them to this old page of mine – can’t believe it’s 12 years since I wrote it.

      York Conservation Trust might be able to help you find photos of the house and its interior, as there’s a family connection, as explained in this York Press article, also from 2005: http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/7870506.Battle_to_save_Burton_Croft/

      – there’s an email address for them on the ‘Contact’ page.

      I’ve also sent you an email John in response to yours to me. I hope you get some more information/photos of the house and if you do please add a comment to let us know how you got on,

      • j d scoones

        Hello Lisa thank you for your information and prompt reply.
        I will keep you posted if i recieve any further information
        john scoones

  3. I’m just reading “Three Generations” by Ann Vernon. It contains a lot about Burton Croft.

    • john scoones

      hello john
      have seen your posting re burton croft
      as a child i stayed at lord morrells in the summer holidays,see previous posting, he was a kind proper gentleman who always had time for me, i have memories of the house but no actual written or photographic memories of the house and as time goes by (now 69} they tend to fade a little,but it would be wonderful to refresh, any info would be appreciated
      regards john

  4. Lisa. Would you like to tell my meeting on March 12th about your project? I could give you a five minute slot if you are interested. I like the bit in Ann Vernon’s book where it says that loads of people can speak for half an hour but it takes a real expert like J B Morrell (or you) to speak for five minutes.
    All your readers are invited too! Details at http://www.York1844.eventbrite.com

    • Thanks John, I’ll have a look for the book you mention – local library might have it? I can’t make the event you mention, but thanks for your kind words.
      Hope others will see the link above and follow it to find out more, best wishes,

  5. john scoones

    Hello Lisa
    thankyou for your email
    i am still interested to aquire any new information about jb morell, in particular his life and any photos of the interior of the house and staff who worked there,it was of interest a couple of weeks ago there was a program on tv where he was mentiond in relation to chocolate rountrees i presume,i mentioned in a previous posting that i remember the marble bust of him on his desk and i am not sure if i again saw it in the castle museum, is this correct, also what happened to the huge bronze buddas that adorned the entrance to the house
    once again thankyou for the work you do and have a good year
    john scoones

  6. I didn’t know about this and again I am so so dismayed about what has been lost in York, they (the council?) really don’t treasure what they should.

  7. Karen Dupley

    Hi John
    I think we are related.
    Please get in touch.

  8. john scoones

    hello Karen
    is your fathers name brian and your mothers name wendy
    regards john

  9. Hello John, I’ve been in touch with you about Karen’s email address for making contact, hope you got it, have just emailed again asking for yours to pass on to Karen. Hope you can both make contact via email,

  10. john scoones

    hello lisa
    thank you for connecting me to my extended family, what a councidence all down to you and york stories especially after all this time we met up with my relatives who i had not seen for over fifty years and had a lovely day
    many memories revisited,we are still intouch,
    regards john

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Thank you for adding a comment. Please note that comments are moderated, but should appear within 24 hours.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.