The Punch Bowl: then and now

19th century town plan

1852 plan (© City of York Council. Source:

Here’s an extract from the rather beautiful 1852 plan of York. The corner of Haxby Road and Lowther Street, where the Punch Bowl is. As you can see, in the 1850s it’s shown as part of a line of terraced houses called Clarence Place.

Rather difficult to find any further information initially, with the main library in town closed for refurbishment, and no answers forthcoming from my own small reference library at home. Then I remembered that this fantastic online resource has the relevant RCHME volume, which includes this information on the building(s) of the pub, and the houses next to it in this terrace:

(141) The Punch Bowl Hotel and Houses, Nos. 2–12 (even), were called Clarence Place in 1850 (OS) and some or all of them were built by 1838 (Directory).

The Punch Bowl Hotel is possibly a remodelling of two of the houses in Clarence Place on the 1852 OS map but has been altered out of recognition. Nos. 2 and 4 form a pair, but No. 2 is now incorporated into the hotel. The doorways together form a unified composition with three fluted pilasters with Ionic capitals and a frieze with paterae and incised fret ornament. No. 2 has a segmental bow window with similar frieze to the ground floor. Nos. 6, 8, 10 have bay windows with canted sides which are probably additions.


I have no idea what it’s like inside, as I haven’t been in it for years, and must have a nosy sometime. But as I said on the earlier page, I think it’s a very attractive building in its setting.

Those low walls running from the front of the building to the road, strange subdivisions in the beer garden area, make sense now, presumably reflecting the boundaries of the original plots of the houses of Clarence Place.


There’s a really nice photo in the city archives of the side view of the pub, from Lowther Street, looking towards the Clarence St/Haxby Rd/Wigginton Rd junction:

Lowther St and the Punch Bowl, 1950s © City of York Council

Lowther St and the Punch Bowl, 1950s © City of York Council

Slightly wonky — perhaps the photographer had just left the pub. But the most striking thing about this photo, apart from the wonky angle, is the close proximity of the pub and the chapel. This view reminds us that when these communities were established the chapel and the pub were both considered important meeting places. Groves Chapel has for a while now been redundant as a place of worship. But the pub is far from redundant, and is still valued by the community.

If you’re interested in present day comparisons: the Google Street View of the above view showing that the exterior on this side has been stripped of some of its original features since.

Into the present

‘Despite difficult market trading conditions, The Punch Bowl is not a moribund hostelry teetering on the brink of viability. If it were, it would be understandable that Enterprise Inns would look to close it. With the present licensee, trade is very much on an upward curve with takings very much increased from the previous incumbents. It is now a thriving irreplaceable local amenity offering valued facilities that are not available to the same extent in the immediate area to the local neighbourhood.’

— is an extract from this letter (PDF). It puts the case — and very persuasively too — for an ‘Article 4 direction’, which is the only thing that could give the pub and others like it any protection.

I’ve ended up spending more time at the Punch Bowl than I intended. Which is so often the way with pubs, isn’t it. Drink up folks, we’re off to the Corner House next, on Burton Stone Lane.

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  1. Philip Smith

    The licensee of the Punchbowl during the 1940s and 50s was Mel Rosser, ex Wales, England and GB rugby player. So well known by the locals that the pub was usually referred to as ‘Rosser’s’ rather than the Punchbowl.

  2. Michael Collier

    The licensee of the Punch Bowl Inn in the 1930’s was my grandfather, John “Jock” Collier. He was born in Dysart, Fife, Scotland on 01/02/1897 and was a professional footballer. He played for a number of teams including Victoria Hawthorn, Denbeath Star, Inverkeithing United, Raith Rovers, Hull City (where he met and married my grandmother, Hilda Collier neé Gall), Queens Park Rangers then York City. He joined York City as their first official player-manager between 1928 and 1930 before retiring following a broken ankle and becoming a full time publican at the Punch Bowl Inn. (I have photographs of him outside the premises but do not know how to upload them to this site). The club suffered many poor results after he left and he was recalled in a purely managerial role between 1933 and 1937, being credited with saving the club from certain liquidation. Sadly, he died from cancer in 1940 when his son, John Collier was only 15 years of age. Fearing the severity of his illness, he had left the pub prior to his death and purchased a small corner shop in Hull where his wife and two children, John and Mary, would be assured of a regular income. He had previously enlisted in the Fife & Forfar Yeomanry in WW1 and following an injury forced to accept an honourable medical discharge. It is a measure of the man that despite having seen the horrors of the trenches, after one year he re-enlisted and shortly afterwards volunteered to join the Machine Gun Corps. This was frequently referred to as the “Suicide Squad” as machine gums were specifically targeted by the German artillery and the death rate was terrifyingly high. His brother represented Scotland as a professional football player and he came from a sporting family. Jock was truly a founding father of the current York City football team and as previously stated, was credited with bringing the team back from the brink as it faced liquidation. Sadly, both my aunt Mary and my father John have now passed away. My father John died on 15/01/2021 after catching Coronavirus during a short stay in an NHS facility in Hull. He always believed that the pub had been demolished and it was only by chance that I recently found a record of the pub (as the Independent) now given its original name of Punch Bowl. I trust that this may be of some passing interest to those who have known the pub for many years and to those of you with an interest in the history of York City F C? Regards, Michael Collier

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