West Bank Park

3 July 2006

West Bank Park, evening, 3 July 2006

I remember this place from childhood – mainly because of its surprising statue of Queen Victoria. I remember it from later visits for its tunnel of climbing roses. But I haven’t been through here for years, so on my wander through Acomb I called in, as I heard it had had a revamp, and that Queen Victoria had a new nose.

I called one summer evening. There were plenty of people of all ages wandering through, or playing sport. No one sitting on the numerous benches, though they looked like good places from which to contemplate the view – or indeed the many views, as this park has several different areas. Some fairly formal, and some more woodland-like.

I would have sat down myself, but I was so weary from my long wander through Acomb, I thought I might fall asleep if I stopped. So I carried on walking, and took a few photos.

View of West Bank Park – bench, paths and bedding plants
The wonderful green spaces of West Bank Park
West Bank Park, meadow grass and trees
Pergola, West Bank Park
Greenery-covered pergola
Red roses and pergola, West Bank Park
Shaded area, West Bank Park
Pergola and roses


Gates to West Bank Park

It was nice to visit here again, and interesting to see it as an adult, rather than as a child or teenager. I’m not sure how much it has really changed, and how much is to do with not really looking at it properly before.

West Bank Park occupies part of a larger site which was for many years occupied by the famous Backhouse Nurseries, founded in York in 1816 on Tanner Row.

The Friends of West Bank Park have recently created a fernery, inspired by the park’s history as the Backhouse Nursery.


A royal presence

Statue of Queen Victoria

Despite changes in the planting, Queen Victoria’s statue remains, though it looks different from my memories of it. I thought it was lower down, and rather darker in colour. I’m not sure how much has been changed since I was last here – whether she’s been cleaned up – but she does have a nose now – for some years it was missing, knocked off by vandals.

The local paper’s Diary section mentioned the statue in an entry in November 2005, while discussing the problems of commemorative statues in general: "her statue has long been neglected and forgotten in West Bank Park. She is little more than a glorified bird toilet and her nose keeps falling off."


This statue, originally a tribute to and commemoration of Queen Victoria’s reign, was sited in the Guildhall originally, but ended up here in the park. A strange place to put it, perhaps. But reflecting changing attitudes to this type of commemorative statue – we’re less deferential now and seem to prefer our sculpted figures to be rather more symbolic – like the Angel of the North (just thinking about it makes me feel proud to be a northerner). But I think we’d miss Queen Victoria if they moved her out of the park.


Page compiled 3 July 2006. Last updated: 18 Oct 2011.


  1. Tony Power

    I don’t know if this site is still being monitored. If so, I wonder if it would be possible to have a larger resolution of the Queen Victoria statue? It was carved by George Walker Milburn, the noted York Sculptor, in 1911. He was my great-great granduncle. I have been trying to compile a list of his works, and would appreciate any images of the Victoria statue that you have.

    • My mum told me he was my great great grand uncle too.i live in Canada but went to see his statues in York Minster in 2013.

      • Where in Canada?. Thanks.

      • Hello Katherine
        He was the older brother of my Great grandfather Joseph Walker Milburn. Which branch are you from?

        • Hello Diana, I’m Katherine’s sister. Our great great grandfather was Joseph Walker Milburn. His daughter Mary was my great grandmother. Are you through Mary as well? Small world!

          • Hello Barbara, I’m descended through Edwin Walker Milburn – one of Mary’s many younger siblings

    • Hi Tony. He was my great great uncle too (his younger brother Joseph Walker Milburn was my great grandfather)

  2. The photos weren’t great but I’ll send you a couple on the email address you provided.

  3. Hello,

    I’m doing some research into statues of Queen Victoria and this one intrigues me greatly. Does anyone know when or why it was moved out of the Guildhall?

    Many thanks :)

  4. Hi Tim

    I recall many years ago reading an article about this, but not sure where. It might have been a publication called ‘York Historian’ – collections of essays on aspects of local history published by Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society and available from York Libraries. I haven’t been able to find it though when searching the library catalogue online. Perhaps another reader may be able to help, or you could ask staff at York Explore via york@exploreyork.org.uk or the website http://www.exploreyork.org.uk.

    When searching I did find this article which may be of interest, from the Press archives, April 2000.

  5. Mike Chenery

    The history of York goes back much further than 1816, which seems to be the only history given for this park.
    I am interested in this area, including the park, in about two or three centuries before that date, but surprisingly have found nothing.
    Any more info, or pointer to that would be appreciated.

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