King's Manor Tudor and Stuart
The present-day King’s Manor backs on to the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey, now in the Museum Gardens behind. It was originally built in c. 1270 as the Abbot’s house.
When Henry VIII was appointed Supreme Head of the Church in England in 1534, he began disbanding monastic communities across England, Wales and Ireland. This process, known as the dissolution of the monasteries, resulted in the closure of St Mary’s Abbey in 1539. No longer required as the Abbot’s house, the Manor was retained by the Crown and became the headquarters of the Council of the North. The former Council Chamber is now the refectory café which can be accessed from the first courtyard.
As the headquarters of the Council of the North, King’s Manor was the official residence of the President of the Council and played host to visiting royalty. Henry VIII, Charles I and James I all stayed here. At this time, the former medieval Abbot’s house was enlarged and extended, including the completion of the first courtyard and the addition of a residential wing and service building. Some of the building work from the 1560s onwards reused stone from St Mary’s Abbey. The coat of arms above the main entrance is that of Charles I – observant visitors may notice that the ‘N’ in the motto ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’ (‘God and my right’) is backwards – a careless stonemason?
King’s Manor continued as the seat of northern power until the Council of the North was abolished in 1641.
Subsequently, during the English Civil War (1642-1651), King’s Manor became the Royalist headquarters in York and was the scene of fighting between Parliamentarian forces and Royalist defenders of the city.
When Charles I was defeated in 1644 by Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarian forces at the Battle of Marston Moor, just outside York, the king lost control of the north of England and King’s Manor surrendered. This marked the beginning of 200 years of decline for the building and in 1688 King’s Manor was leased out and divided up into apartments; its former glory as the seat of northern power confined to upmarket residences.