Years ago I drafted a page called ‘Any old iron’, mainly inspired by a pair of rusty old gates. It didn’t get finished as I thought no one would be interested. A recent letter to The Press has reassured me that at least one other person is interested. There may be others.
Like many insignificant overlooked things, this small local detail has a connection to more significant aspects of our local history.
Behind Bootham Park, a stone’s throw from the nurses’ accommodation, are a pair of rusting double gates set between ornate gateposts. They haven’t been opened for years. To one side of the gates is the original railing, to the other side more modern railing, and they lead nowhere much. Behind them, a bit of grass and the car parks around the city’s main hospital, built in the 1970s. They’re forgotten, under trees, rusting away, bits of detail dropping off.
Years ago I read an article in the York Historian on the history of the Walker foundry. It ended with a list of the foundry’s work, and included a brief mention of gates/railings on ‘Asylum Lane’ – as the pathway now called Bridge Lane used to be known. These must be those Walker foundry gates, dating from the mid-19th century.
Examples of the foundry’s work can be found all over York, including by the old railway station (West Offices), on St Leonard’s Place, and at the front of the Unitarian Chapel on St Saviourgate (pictured).
The railings and gates at the front and sides of the Bootham Park hospital grounds were also made by the Walker foundry. They’re Listed, but they’re rusting away just the same.
Does it matter? Perhaps not. The NHS Trust has more important things to spend its money on than painting old railings and gates.
These gates are just another small thing I’ve been passing for years and wanted to place on the big worldwide web.
I hope they stay here, their ironwork crumbling gracefully. A reminder of local industry, when local businesses made big useful things.
Old maps show nothing was built on the land behind these gates before the district hospital was built in the 1970s. Part of it was a sports ground, though the part directly behind the gates isn’t marked as such on the maps I’ve seen.
The Walker gates apparently date from the mid-1850s. I’m not expecting anyone to remember the 1850s, but I know some of my website visitors were walking along Asylum Lane in the 1950s. Any memories/thoughts/local history info welcome, via the comments below.
‘The Walker Ironfoundry, York, c.1825-1923′, J Malden, York Historian (1976). York libraries have a copy of this book.
19th century description and engraving of the Walker foundry (Google books)
Also on this site:
Asylum Lane and the ‘Cathedral Boys’