Reflections: Purey Cust development

Stone wall, arched gateway, city arms above, developer's advertising on gates, reflecting fuzzy images

Looking back to the ‘rich and poor’ social divisions of the 1930s reminded me that I hadn’t mentioned the impressive Purey Cust redevelopment. This building is near the west front of the Minster, behind a huge stone wall. It’s a handsome building which has been unoccupied in recent years, since the Nuffield Hospital which used to occupy it moved elsewhere.

It’s in the process of being converted to residential accommodation. Very exclusive, of course. Out of the reach of most of us.

Developer's advertising on gates, reflecting blurrily sunlit York Minster and a small person in silhouette

I went to have a nosey through the gaps in the gate, a gate covered by a shiny sign. So shiny that it reflects all about it, including me, at that moment, and the Minster in the background. Which seemed to demand a photo.

Reading the description of this fabulous development made me feel excluded for a moment, while simultaneously accepting my place in the social order, just as the residents of Fossway did when faced with the Fossway/Muncastergate wall.

This city has always had people who can afford to live right next to its Minster, and other people sleeping on its streets, and most of us somewhere in between.

At least these days we all have a better chance of being in the picture, our views reflected. Even if it’s only in the pictures we make ourselves.

Though there are still walls and gates, and the walls do not fall, there are some riches open to all of us. There’s a wall and a gate here, but the Minster, reflecting sunlight, is on our side.

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    I worked for awhile at a Pharmacy near the Purey Cust Nursing Home.
    I remember a Miss Colbert ringing up with patient orders which were delivered or collected for the home.
    When we went for a walk in the Garden behind the Minster the Home was nearby.
    a gracious building then.
    Doctors had private patients there and it was I believe quite an expensive place to go.
    My father was in the County Hospital fund and we could go in for treatment free.
    or to the hospital outpatients dept.
    I remember the advent of the new City General Hospital on Haxby Road, I was a patient in there on one or two occasions.
    I had also been in the County hospital and to its outpatients.
    it was a blessing in York that we could all walk around and reach most places on foot. So few people had cars in those days.
    I knew the streets and roamed them each Saturday when off school. Stonegate, Petergate, the big market place were my favourite places. The library where we walked to change our books. Plus the Art Gallery where I became a night student for awhile.
    We never boarded a bus, didnt occur to us.
    we walked everywhere. I loved going from Micklegate Bar onto the walls and walk down to Lendal Bridge and thence to the Library and back the same way.
    We spend many hours in Rowntrees Park too. plus sneaky swims in the river at Ouse Bridge. You had to pay to go to St. Georges or go with school which we did.
    it was warm compared to Rowntrees baths. I gather that the open air bath at Yearsley bridge near Rowntrees was freezing cold. I never went there.
    The varying parks with their free playgrounds, plus the swings on Knavesmire were well visited by children.
    Games of marbles with the coloured glass marbles were popular as was swipping.
    Danish Rounders was played at school andI loved that.
    Greek dancing at school was not very popular but we had to do it.
    I think that Scarcroft did a good job on giving children a good grounding in Reading, writing and arithmetic. Moving on at 11 to either a secondary, highgrade or grammar school depending on the results of “sitting for your scholarship”
    I got a Higher Grade and ended up at Priory Street in the Sept. of 1939 and the
    war began before I got there. we spent weeks just going to pick up lessons, and go home to do them, until shelters were built.

  2. I wonder if your chemist shop was John Sevilles , the corner of Aldwark/Goodramgate
    opposite the scout shop,from where our scout troop hired a bell tent,for our annual wartime camping holiday,trudging along Malton Road with ‘Trek Cart’,two front ,two back,to our Hermitage camping wood destination
    really good fun in those bleak years.
    Yearsley baths was freezing cold,but very welcome in heat wave weather,I used it all the time,being near my home,and often enjoyed a Friday night soak in a hot slipper bath,when hot water not available at home,cost 2 pence,got by returning an empty beer bottle back to Ellerby’s,on the corner of Kitchener St and Huntington Rd,wko also supplied our meagre rations.
    The baths were often used by Canadian airmen,bussed in via RAF trucks,getting some exercise and relief from their flying fears and tensions,and to me they seemed like athletic supermen,tearing around the place bombing from the high board.A pity it took so long to acknowledge their sacrifice.
    We also played marbles which we called Knooleys,on a corner where our mixed gang met,attracted by the Gas Warning pole,which stood 4 feet high surmounted by square plate painted yellow,which supposedly changed colour if gas was about ,fortunately not,but made a very handy perch.From this corner we indulged in many play activity’s,which I suppose are now non events among todays children,a pity.

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