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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 Centuries.

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 nuns.

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 1999

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.

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