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Left: Nos. 1 and 3 Nessgate, York, seen from Low Ousegate. Right: Closer view of lefthand doorway.
Nos. 1 and 3 Nessgate, York, were built as a branch of the Yorkshire Agricultural and Commercial Bank and its attached manager’s house; architects, J. B. and W. Atkinson, 1839. This is a corner site and the bank has a similar façade on High Ousegate and Nessgate. In recent times, the business became a Midland Bank, Westminster Bank, Waterstones bookshop, and in 2020 both properties were occupied by Drift-In, a vegan food outlet and café.
Typical Atkinson Brothers' detailing: Left: a a swag. Right: a cornice.
Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave call the former bank “a three by three-bay Italianate palazzo” (220). The Inventory describes No. 1 as “a stone-faced building of three storeys and a basement, in a heavy Italianate style, with equal elevations to Nessgate and High Ousegate” (167). The basement is not obvious. The Inventory further describes the façade of the bank in detail: “The ground floor is rusticated with arched openings, and the position of the entrance has been altered. The first-floor windows are crowned by cornices; the central windows are emphasised by pediments, and formerly had balustrades to the small balcony projections below them. At the top, the elevations are finished with a heavy modillioned cornice. The interiors have been much altered.”
The manager’s house, with a simple brick front, adjoins the bank on the Nessgate side, and is included in the Grade II listing. The Inventory says that the bank had been founded in 1836 but had to close in 1842 owing to the expenditure on “injudiciously . . . building elaborate and expensive premises at York and Whitby" ("History of Banks," 412). The 1885 Directory lists the Yorkshire Banking Company Ltd operating at the end of High Ousegate, and manager Eugene Bean in Bank House on Nessgate. These seem to be occupying the same premises, though the street numbering has changed (161, 198).
Left to right: (a) The approach from Ouse Bridge. (b) From the Inventory, showing it from the same angle when it was the Midland Bank (Plate 156). (c) Looking along Nessgate to Castlegate.
The position chosen for the bank, on the corner of High Ousegate and Nessgate, was strategic: this was an important junction, as High Ousegate leads down, via Low Ousegate, to York’s then only bridge over the Ouse, and so might be thought of as "London Road," while Nessgate is part of the ancient route parallel with the river, between Coney Street and Castlegate. The "ness" would have been the point of land at the confluence of the Ouse and the Foss, and the name predates the Norman castle. In the 1885 Directory, Nessgate was a hub for the services of the York Tramways Company Ltd, with tramcars pulled by horses (69).
1 and 3, Nessgate, York. Historic England. Web. 14 May 2021.
Directory of York, 1885. University of Leicester, Special Collections Online. Web. 14 May 2021.
An Inventory of the Historical Monuments of the City of York, Vol. V, Central (1981). British History Online. Web. 14 May 2021.
Pevsner, Nikolaus, and David Neave. Yorkshire: York and the East Riding. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002.
Created 14 May 2021