The Mansion House
York’s notion of having a residence where the Lord Mayor could entertain guests put it ahead of London. While Yorkshire’s capital built its Mansion House in the mid-1720s, England’s capital only followed suit in 1752.
The council had decided that the Guildhall was too old fashioned a civic centre for such a fashionable city. And successive Lord Mayors had proved reluctant to open their own houses once a week ‘for the entertainment of the citizens’ as was the custom.
A new venue was needed. The council sought to gain possession of Sir William Robinson’s house, on the corner of Duncombe Place and St. Leonard’s Place, but failed. Shortly afterwards the order to build a new dwelling on Coney Street was approved. The budget – soon exceeded – was £1,000.
The Mansion House symbolised York’s role as a stylish and lavish host to society. It was built in the most fashionable new Palladian style.
Remarkably for such a prominent building, no one knows who its architect was. Suggestions include the artist William Etty and the designer of the Assembly Rooms Lord Burlington.
Whoever it was did a wonderful job. It is a striking building with an elegant interior which has made a favourable impression on guests from its opening day to this. Rich decoration shows off the city’s wealth and pride. The state room and banqueting hall spans the front of the first floor.
Civic portraits hang on the walls to emphasise York’s long history, and the impeccably panelled downstairs room is a suitably grand place in which to display the priceless civic plate.
As the first civic residence to be built in England, the Mansion House has a place in national as well as city history.