York Walks /3

Clifford Street

Photographed in August 2004

Law courts, Clifford Street – main entrance   Law courts, Clifford Street. By the front entrance, looking up

Any law-breakers will presumably be suitably over-awed and possibly terrified by the grandeur of the entrance to the law courts on Clifford Street, particularly if looking up just before entering.

Twiddly bits on the top of the Law Court   Law courts tower peeking over the roof of the Friends' Meeting House

Though from a different perspective, slightly to one side, and a bit further away from that imposing door, all those fancy bits at the top (above left) give a rather more whimsical and non-threatening impression. And when the tower on the law courts is seen peeking over the top of the Friends Meeting House on Friargate (above right), it looks really cute.

Doorway oif the York Institute, now the Gallery nightclub   Facade of the former York Institute building

As the sign above another ornate door says, this was the York Institute, founded in 1827, though this building apparently dates from 1883-85. I've been unable to discover any information about the York Institute, apart from the fact that it probably taught art, science and literature, as these words are emblazoned proudly across its facade. It may have taught other things too, but I was too lazy to go round the side to have a look.

York Institute building detail: inscription reads 'ART'   York Institute building detail: inscription reads 'SCIENCE'

The building then housed the city's new public library, from August 1892, until the library moved to its present location on Museum Street. The building is now home to the Gallery nightclub, and also the York Dungeon (see below).

So rather a change of use then.

Building detail: inscription reads 'LITERATURE' and sign beneath advertises the York Dungeon  

On the corner of this building is the inscription for "Literature". As it's above the doorway of what is now the York Dungeon, another sign is fixed below: "Vampires – Fact or Fiction? New for 2004". As I took this photo, a white-faced, fully-costumed "ghoul" appeared on the steps below. I wasn't scared though. He looked a bit bored, and seemed to having trouble getting himself psyched up for opening time.

Clifford Street is home to many ornate Victorian buildings, decorated with important-looking inscriptions. I don't, as yet, know their history, but took the opportunity to photograph some of these details on Clifford Street on a sunny Sunday morning, before too many buses and people appeared.

  Ornate door to 'Clifford Chambers'
Unidentified building – detail – memorial stone   Unidentified building – detail – memorial stone 2

These memorial stones are set into the wall of a low red-brick building on Clifford Street which seems to be unoccupied at present, and whose history I know nothing about. It had a faded planning application notice in its window, suggesting that some building was to take place here (which, it suggested, would preserve the facade), but there's no sign yet of any development. (Unless it's already taken place behind the facade, and has so successfully merged in that it isn't visible.)

Clifford Street is one of York's newer streets, in that it wasn't created until the late 19th century. Previously there was only the very narrow street of Castlegate, to which Clifford Street runs more or less parallel, to get you through to York Castle (Clifford's Tower).

  View of Clifford Street – 15 August 2004

The fire station is also on this street, next to the law courts and opposite the building with the memorial stones (above). The part of the fire station fronting onto Clifford Street is rather dull (but then if it was covered in unnecessary ornamentation, people like me would stand there gawping at it, and get in the way of the fire engines). The side entrance, on Peckitt Street, is however very ornate and interesting, and is featured in York Walks /2: Converted chapels.

Related pages:

Nearby – Coppergate and Castlegate.