Specialist Services

Debtors’ Prison, York castle Museum

Client: York Museums Trust

Following a successful competitive tender, Holland Brown Architects were commissioned by the York Museums Trust to carry out a building condition survey and produce a costed report on the Debtors’ Prison. This vital work is part of the Castle Museum’s Changing Spaces project - the third element of the Castle Museum Vision Project to improve visitor facilities and interpretation.

The purpose of the survey was to identify defects in the structure and fabric of the building and to indicate the scope of the works necessary to remedy those defects to bring the building(s) back into good state of repair.

The building forms the central focus of the York Castle Museum at the Eye of York, and was erected in 1705, possibly to the designs of William Wakefield of York. It was originally called York County Gaol. The ground floor, or technically the lower ground floor, was used to hold both suspected felons awaiting trial and convicted felons awaiting the execution of their sentence. The two upper floors accommodated debtors usually on long-term confinements. There is a stark contrast between the ground floor cells and the comparative spaciousness and character of the upper floors.

The building has undergone many changes in its lifetime although the exterior of the building, apart from the removal of staircases at the north front and the insert of additional windows, still presents more or less its original appearance. The principal north front elevation is an accomplished exercise in stonework in the English baroque style and there are very few buildings like it in the North of England. Indeed, Drake, the first York historian, described the Debtors’ Prison as; ‘A building so noble and compleat (sic) as exceeds all others, of its kind, in Britain; perhaps in Europe.’ Francis Drake 1770)

Architecture | Creative Conservation | Heritage

Holland Brown Architects Ltd is a company registered in England & Wales with company no: 7223783
VAT registration no: 991742191 - Privacy Policy - Data Policy

© Copyright Holland Brown Architects 2019 Website by Maraid Design