“ Address: Minster Yard / York / North Yorkshire / YO1 7JL / Tel: 01904 624247 „
Most visitors to York will probably head straight for the Minster or the City Walls. It's a shame that of the thousands of visitors who go to the Minster each year, only a tiny percentage are likely to walk around the corner to discover the hidden gem that is The Treasurer's House which, in its own way, it's just as impressive.
The Treasurer's House is located just a few minutes' walk around the side of the Minster and as such is very easy to find. As it is smack in the middle of the city centre, however, there is no car park at the property itself, so you will either need to use one of the council car parks (expensive), or the excellent park and ride scheme, before making your way to the house on foot. Essentially, though, if you can get to the Minster, you can get to the Treasurer's House.
Quick History Lesson
The property has a long and very interesting history. It's thought that there has been a building on the site for at least 600 years, although the site goes back even further. Its cellar is built on the site of an old Roman Road and is reputedly still haunted by a group of Roman centurions who can sometimes be seen marching through it along the route of the old road.
As far as the current property is concerned the most important period comes in the late 1800s, when it was bought by rich industrialist Frank Green. Green set about completely renovating the property, designing its rooms to reflect the full extent of the house's history, decorating different rooms after the style of different periods.
Green handed the property to the National Trust in 1930 and it was the first property to be given to the Trust complete with a full collection of furniture, paintings and other items. Much of the property remains exactly as it was when Green lived there and so is a real reflection of his own personality and passion.
Maybe Size is Everything
From the outside, Treasurer's House doesn't look that big and you think it won't take long to look around. Think again. Inside, it's like a Tardis. At the time of our visit, there were over 13 different period rooms available to view, the servant's quarters and the haunted cellar tour (the latter disappointingly costs extra, even for National Trust members, so we didn't do this). Almost everywhere you look, there is a doorway leading off to another room. It will easily take you well over an hour to look around the whole thing; more if you stop to examine everything. It's only going to get bigger too, as they still in the process of renovating some rooms with the intention of opening them to the public.
Each room reflects a different period of the house's history from a spectacular (if completely fake) medieval Great Hall to the bedrooms which housed a royal visit in the early 20th Century. This gives a really unique perspective over how fashion and attitudes have changed over time. It also provides some interesting insights into Edwardian fashion and society and how the past was viewed in a somewhat romantic light. Since the house comes complete with Green's own collection, you really can see what it would have been like when it was a real home and not a tourist attraction.
(Too Much) Information Please!
In a departure from most Trust properties, there are no information boards in the rooms (presumably this would intrude on the feeling that this is a "home", not a museum). Instead, each room has a series of laminated A4 guides, giving you a brief history of the room, noting some of the key features of the room and (interestingly) displaying photographs of how the rooms looked in the 1920s. These images really show how extensively Green changed some of the rooms. The leaflets were well written and interesting, although it was unfortunate that there was only one copy per room. This caused an issue as some visitors seemed to struggle with the concept of "sharing" and wandered around the room clutching (but not reading) them and refusing to put them down until they left. This meant that in some rooms we had a frustrating wait before we could read the leaflets; in others we just gave up and moved on.
This issue is partly addressed by the Room Guides present in each room. The ones we encountered were very knowledgeable, but they were also determined to share this information with you. In some rooms, they were very intrusive, following us around talking about particular items and completely failing to read our body language which was screaming we wanted to be left alone. In one room, we were only able to escape when a new victim entered the room and the guide went off to pursue them.
As with most National Trust properties, there is an excellent cafe selling a range of cakes and hot/cold snacks. Although a touch on the pricey side, the quality is excellent and can definitely be recommended. The property also provides toilets and a rather disappointing gift shop which had very little that directly related to the house and pretty much just stocked the standard NT shop stuff.
At 2013 prices, Treasurer's House is £5.90 for adults or £2.95 for children (free to National Trust members). This is very good value for money.
Most parts of Treasurer's House should be accessible to anyone reasonably mobile people. Whilst there are two staircases to climb, these are broad and not particularly steep. The only "off-limits" area is likely to be the downstairs (which unfortunately also houses the cafe and the toilets) and the haunted cellar, as these have steep steps and/or uneven surfaces.
If you're in York, I would definitely recommend a visit to Treasurer's House. It's something a little different from the normal stately home/castle and is a fascinating insight into both one man's obsession and Edwardian culture and society. It's a shame that the cellar tour is not included (and not free to National Trust members) and that the room guides are a little intrusive, but don't let that put you off visiting.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013