25 Bootham (The Roxy)

July 2006

Front door, 25 Bootham, 2006

It’s a very smart black door, the front door to a building at the top of Bootham, a stone’s throw from Bootham Bar. Many old Yorkies will have fond memories of going through this door late at night, probably quite drunk and dressed in unusual garb. It’s the door to the old Roxy nightclub, once housed on the upper floors of this building, but closed long ago.

The building was offices for a while, then empty for a year or so, and just this year has been redeveloped. After the planning permission for residential use was given I was surprised that the building didn’t sell immediately. I wondered if the market was saturated with flats, and that we didn’t need any more. But we now have seven more behind this elegant door.

Front door, 25 Bootham, 2004

This photo, from an earlier wander (York Walks /3: Bootham) shows the door in May 2004, with its planning application notices. Compare this rather scruffy door with the remodelled door above. One thing you can say about these converted buildings, the paintwork is always impressive.

I’ve looked up this building on the English Heritage/RCHM records, which tell me that it was built in 1766.

The hopper on the rainwater drainpipe has the initials "T G", for Thomas Gilbank, who bought the house in 1768. As we can see the building has been messed around with a lot since. The cast iron decoration above the shopfronts is unusual (see photo below), and mentioned in my trusty Pevsner guide.

I remember, inside, a handsome staircase, and I wish I’d known then what I know now, as it would have been mighty impressive to go into the Roxy with one’s friends and casually mention that we should all be aware of the "original staircase with turned balusters with square knops and ramped and moulded handrail."

Frontage to 25 Bootham, with estate agents' sign

The sign says "A development of seven select apartments". I’m wondering how they’ve fitted seven in there, as I don’t remember it being a large nightclub, but perhaps the Roxy was bigger than it seemed, and it was just the fact that it was all painted black inside that made it seem smaller. And maybe the fact that it was always packed full of people with big hair, which took up a lot of space.

Even though I’m dubious about the number of flats we’re producing, I guess we’d all prefer them to be created in buildings that are already there, rather than taking up more greenbelt land. And actually this is a top spot for a flat – so near town, on one of York’s best streets, and right next to Jackson’s, our popular (must be, they have such long queues) local supermarket. And imagine living in a room where York’s finest goths used to dance to The Cult. I wonder if it mentions that in the estate agents’ particulars. I’d consider it a definite plus point myself.

As I recall, the dancefloor and the bar were on the first floor, and there was some kind of chill-out room (though I don’t think the phrase had been invented in the 80s) on the second floor. Apparently there’s another floor too – I don’t think I ever went up there. Perhaps those were the storerooms (housing the emergency hairspray supplies and other necessities). Happy days.

A reader writes . . .

Thanks to Sean from Newcastle, who emailed me, and remembered the Roxy:

"You are right, the bar and dance floor (metal) where on the first floor. The second floor was where you went to get away from the music, but they also showed films up there (after all, it was Derek Brown from Brown’s Video on Gillygate who ran it). I also seem to remember that on the second floor, apart from the loos, there was a snack bar that never opened. Thursday was Gay night, Friday Goth / Alternative and Saturday ‘Trendy’ night. Towards the end Casanova’s took it over and I remember not being allowed in because I was wearing DMs and ripped jeans. Happy days!"

14 comments

  1. I went to The Roxy with my then g/f in 1988. Honestly, my ears are still ringing to the sound of This Corrosion by the Sisters of Mercy! Great place, great times and considerably younger!!

  2. We were all young and lovely back then weren’t we – and had big hair. I’m going to find some Sisters of Mercy and have a listen. Might even have a dance :)

    • First and last and always is one of my favourite ‘records’ still love dusting it down and looking at the gatefold sleeve as I listen to it :)

  3. I remember going when it was jack & jills nightclub ;) first nightclub I ever went to back in early 1978 .. Unlike trying to remember where revs door was I can deffo point this one out and the old worlds due to passing them both still quite a lot! Will go down lady peckitts yard and take a pic myself of the location where the club was ( can remember that still)

  4. Ade Brigham

    Used to be the best nightclub around, the only one where we could get in in ripped jeans and mohawks

  5. Loved the alternative nights at The Roxy “Ballroom Blitz” at the end of the night was always ‘lively’

  6. “…and there was some kind of chill-out room (though I don’t think the phrase had been invented in the 80s) on the second floor” – yeah they had one of the best of the early stand-up arcade games – missile command – always had a spin on that at some point on a Friday or Sat night…they sold chips in trays as well on one of the upper floors, mingin like but a right result when the munchies kicked in. Was always up on the floor when Craig threw down The Fall, Totally Wired – some of the mentalist dancin went on to that tune lol…Doors L.A. Woman that was another floor filler, top nights.

  7. Tara Evans

    We live in one of the flats! Just been informed by our Sainsbury’s delivery man that this building used to be a club- we really can’t imagine it!

    • It really was! I even have photographic evidence of some of the club-goers of the 1980s in a dark corner near the dancefloor, possibly now part of your flat. Might email you a copy if I can find it in the dusty old photos collection :)

      Glad this page was helpful in finding out some info on the building’s former life. Was a happy place I think, hope it has retained that feeling to it,

      Lisa

  8. Malcolm hardy

    I lived in a flat next door in 1985ish.there were 5 of us . And one guy got the bedroom that backed onto the DJ in the Roxy so he could hear all the music and the intros. The Clash did an impromptu outdoor gig in a car park next to St John’s College end of Lord Mayors Walk and that night Joe Strummer went to the Roxy. He was outside our flat window on Bootham serenading a group of club goers after leaving the club…

    • Thanks for adding this memory, brilliant. I’m sure I was in York when this famous Clash visit occurred, but I appear to have missed it entirely. Was maybe staring out of a window experiencing deep teenage angst at the time, stuck in the outer reaches of Clifton Without
      :)

      • Hey Lisa,
        The Roxy was my formative introduction to nightclubs. As a west York resident it was my closest club. The door staff seemed to be more relaxed with my underage appearance than, lets say Toffs.
        Friday nights were alternative and Saturday more main stream, both nights were great and full of like minded people. After school on Friday was what I looked forward to.
        Jump forward 25 years and in the mean time going to The Mix in Harrogate (Jez Uthah Saints DJing), Warehouse in Leeds and lots of London locations, there’s nowhere that could effortlessly go from S’Express, Motörhead, to The Damned. Intimate, friendly djs and bar staff.
        So glad the Roxy was my first club.

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