Robson & Cooper Building

Robson & Cooper Building: Recording 14 Lendal, York

Front elevation

Front elevation

Our built environment often provides windows on to the past connecting us to the detailed histories of a place and events both minor and major.

We were commissioned by York Conservation Trust to record the former premises of Robson & Cooper of 14 Lendal, York. Built in c.1714, the building has had a variety of important and well-known occupants, including Alderman Henry Baines (Lord Mayor of York in 1717 and 1732) and John Goodricke, a talented astronomer and Fellow of the Royal Society who died in 1786.

The building was originally built as one of a pair of townhouses, and now encompasses 10-14 Lendal. Originally it had long gardens leading down to the Ouse, which were gradually built over. In the 19th century the property was converted to retail and business premises. The famous York firm of Robson & Cooper occupied no.14 from 1911, evolving from a saddle and harness manufacturer to specialising in luggage retail and repair.

During the conversion of no. 12 from a shop to a bank in 1959, the remains of a 15th-century stone doorway, associated with the Augustinian Friary that previously occupied the site, were discovered in the basement.

Walker of York range in basement.

Walker of York range in basement.

Our survey added detail to the broad phasing of the building undertaken by the Conservation Trust. The earliest phases relate to the period of use as a house. From 1714 to c.1770 nos 10-12 and 14 were accessed separately, and although the original layout of the ground floor has gone, it is well-preserved in the first and second floor, where original staircases, fireplaces and chimney stacks survive, along with architectural mouldings and other decorative details. A pair of strongboxes attests to the later commercial life of the building, and in the basement there is a range manufactured by the renowned Walker Ironworks Foundry that was excavated by YAT in 2005.

Post-1910 the interior spaces were progressively modified as the need arose. A ground-floor room contains a collection of WWII era graffiti from its use as a lookout post, whilst in the second floor office spaces, newspaper cuttings of 1970’s popstars suggest the interests of staff who once worked there. These details add to our appreciation of the building as a living space as well as an architectural asset, and through buildings archaeology we are able to record this as it begins a new phase in its history.

World War II graffiti in store room.

World War II graffiti in store room.

FieldworkDavid Scott