Note: These buildings were demolished in 2011-12.
These buildings are hidden away behind York Art Gallery. Most people who have seen them think that they’re just a load of scruffy asbestos-ridden sheds. But they’re more interesting than that.
I went searching for accurate facts after noticing a lot of contradictory information on the web and elsewhere. The info below was compiled from dusty old volumes of council minutes, and various other sources (full list at foot of page).
“Your Committee have agreed to raise no objection to the requisitioning by the Ministry of Works of a site at the rear of the Art Gallery for use as a Leave Club for members of the Royal Canadian Air Force, subject to certain details which they have authorised the Town Clerk, City Engineer and Curator to settle.”
– Art Gallery Committee, February 1944 (York City Council minutes)
- These ‘hutments’ (as such military-related encampments are called) were constructed at some point between May 1942 (after the ‘Baedeker raid‘) and 1944 (when they’re referred to in council minutes – see above)
- They were constructed as a service hostel or leave club by the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force).
- Soon after the war the buildings were adapted for educational use by the local authority. From 1946 until the end of January 1949 they were used as an Emergency Teacher Training College (in connection with the raising of the school leaving age)
- In 1949 they became the Marygate Centre of Further Education, with an emphasis on providing courses for women and girls, and continued as the Marygate Centre until the 1970s
- During the same period (late 1940s to 1970s) one of the former dormitories was allocated for use by the York School of Art, based in the adjacent Art Gallery building
- From 1981 the nearby Yorkshire Museum used the buildings for storage and workroom space.
- The buildings are ‘of prefab concrete frame construction with clay brick infill panels and asbestos sheet roofing’. This is similar to buildings of the period in use at Eden Camp and the Yorkshire Air Museum. However the current planning application states that demolition is ‘required for health and safety reasons’.
- During 2011 they have been emptied in preparation for demolition. Despite the fact that so few people understand the significance of what’s about to be demolished – even the journalists from our local Press.
It’s probably not feasible to keep the entire ‘hutments’ complex, but part of the structure should be retained on site.
Photos & more info
Photos (interior and exterior) of the buildings in the 1940s, as the RCAF service hostel
More detail on the years of educational use
Plan and links: York School of Art
General background and opinion on the proposed demolition
For more info and interior photos of the buildings in recent months, search for hutments York on Google.
York City Council minutes; Annual Reports of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society; 17 Feb report prepared for CoYC meeting (PDF); documents submitted with the ‘big wheel’ planning application, eg this one and this one (PDF files); The history of the Yorkshire Museum and its geological collections, B J Pyrah (York, 1988); letter from Mr MacPherson of Ontario (held by the Yorkshire Air Museum) … and recent web-based photo galleries by urban explorers and ‘guerilla historians’ – thank you chaps, for showing us what we couldn’t get to see for ourselves.
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This page was last updated on 19 November 2013.