History of Acomb Grange
York has played a pivotal part in the world's history. It was
here that Constantine the Great, was proclaimed Emperor of Rome
by his troops. Constantius Chlorus Caesar, the father of Constantine
was known to have a villa to the west of York, and there have
been tantalising Roman finds at Acomb Grange. Is Acomb Grange
the site of the villa of the father of the first Christian Emperor?
Interesting Articles and essays (PDF format)
Essay by the current owner Peter
Brown as part of a University of York Local History Certificate
Acomb Grange - The winner of the
1991 Sheldon Memorial Trust Essay Competition by J Kaner
In the 1120s, Acomb Grange was founded by the Master of St Leonard's
Hospital to collect the tithes of Rufforth. Later , it became
the residence of the Master. As at least one of the Masters, Walter
De Langton, was also the Treasurer of England, events of major
importance in the history of England occurred at Acomb Grange.
There are very substantial stone remains from the 12th and 13th
The Pilgrimage of Grace, the rebellion to restore Catholicism
after the reformation, gathered at Acomb Grange before its march
on London. Its Catholic links continued, as the house was occupied
by recusants related to the Catholic families of the Thwings and
Mary Ward, the founder of the IBVM, a teaching order of Catholic
In 1644, it is thought that the last stand of the Royalist army
at the battle of Marston Moor took place in the barn on the site.
In 1694 , the Master's House was demolished and replaced with
a house designed by the famous architect John Etty. It was extensively
remodelled in the Georgian period, in the period 1810 to 1820,
when a whole series of new rooms were added. Attached to the house
is a cottage still much in the style of the period of the 1690s.
Both house and cottage are timber beamed and have a number of
interesting period features. The cottage is under separate ownership
from Acomb Grange itself.
In the vicinity of the house are a number of outbuildings of
a variety of dates, including an ancient barn thought to be the
site of the last stand of the royalist army referred to above.
Some of the adjacent buildings are under separate ownership. The
community of buildings is surrounded by the remains of a double
moat, and set in a landscape of mature trees and gardens, including
a magnificent copper beech of great age, and a walnut tree considered
by experts to be one of the finest in the North of England.
In the 19th century, George Hudson, the Railway King, planned
to build a railway line from Leeds to York. Being George Hudson,
he regarded the question of parliamentary permission as being
merely a formality. So in anticipation, at Tadcaster he built
an impressive viaduct, and at Acomb Grange he built some railway
buildings just west of the proposed line. In the event, Parliament
withheld their permission, and the line was built a couple of
miles to the south. To this day, the beams in the outbuildings
at Acomb Grange bear the initials NRCO, the Northern and Central
Railway Company. Perhaps the only railway station that has never
been visited by a train !
The site is close to a site of special scientific interest and
there is unusual flora and fauna.
A watching brief by York Archaeological Trust in August
In August 1999, the North Eastern Electricity Board installed
an underground cable from an existing overhead pole, immediately
to the north of the house. The route of the cable ran westwards
and then southwards around the back of the boundary of the Old
Dairy, to feed an electricity supply to a mobile phone mast.
The trench was dug to a depth of about 70 centimetres, and a
watching brief was undertaken by the York Archaeological Trust.
In the length of the trench from the point where it turned southwards
towards the mobile mast nothing of great interest was discovered,
except for a very small number of pottery fragments from the late
middle ages. In the part of the trench that ran westwards, about
3 metres to the west of the roadway, remains of buildings were
uncovered, that were tentatively dated to the early nineteenth
century. At the time of the digging of the trench there was nothing
previously known of any such buildings. A copy of the full report
is available from the York Archaeological Trust.
A geophysical survey of Acomb Grange commissioned by
York Archaological Trust in 2001
In 2001, the York Archaeological Trust commissioned a series
of geophysical surveys of the whole six acres of the site under
the ownership of Peter and Carol Brown. The survey was carried
out by specialists attached to Durham University,and the full
report is available from the Trust.
The survey was a little disappointing in that no new major features
were discovered, with the exception that a series of disturbances
to the earth were noted in a pattern that suggested a roadway
or droveway to the east of the house. The earthworks that are
most prominent to the south of the present house were clearly
detected. Originally thought to be defensive moats, some commentators
now believe these may a complex series of medieval fish dykes.
In the depression to the north of the site there is a scatter
of deposits that may be modern rubbish deposits or may be scatters
from the demolition of a building previously on the site. This
is interesting in that there was thought to have been a gate house
in the area at one time. The archaeologists believe that only
excavation can uncover the full story of the site. A copy of the
full report is available from the York Archaeological Trust.