The Townhouse is approximately 170 years old and built in the street of Ogleforth that joins Chapterhouse Street, once of the same name.  Chapterhouse Street takes its name from the Chapterhouse of the Minster to which it joins, and Ogleforth is said to derive from an old term for the word ‘Owl’ referencing ‘Ogle’ and ‘Forth’ from ford.

The site has been occupied for nearly 2,000 years and neighbouring properties in the road have discovered mediaeval and Roman fragments when excavating.  The site of the Townhouse was likely once the site of Roman barracks given the Townhouse’s close proximity to the Roman headquarters discovered in the late 1960’s underneath York Minister, which you can now visit.  Indeed, Chapterhouse Street which is some 20 metres from the Townhouse, was once a key road ‘the Via Decumana’ of the Roman military base and now where a statue outside York Minster commemorates where Constantine was proclaimed Emperor in 306 AD.   An original Roman column survives in the basement of Treasurer’s House in Chapterhouse Street at the original Roman level.

Entry roads into York changed from the Roman to medieval period, we haven’t discovered any Viking remains, but the proximity of major Viking settlements in nearby Hungate and Coppergate indicate that if they were not on the site of the Townhouse, they were probably not far away. 

Local folklore says that the row of six similar houses in the row that the Townhouse occupies were originally built for each of the daughters of a wealthy businessman.  When the last and oldest daughter was finally married, there was not much space left and so a single house narrow house was built at the end now called the Towerhouse.    We can’t confirm this story, but we know the Townhouse was partially built on late medieval/Tudor buildings on the site previously.

According to the 1901 census the house was occupied by a Bookbinding family: Frederick Potter  (55) of R & Sons Bookbinders, his wife Jane (56), their two sons, Alfred and Henry (in their early 30s) who were grocer’s assistants, and daughter Blanche (28).  Frederick was related to John Potter of number 16 who lived with his sister Elizabeth, where according to the 1895 White Directory is where the bookbinding business was based.  Our research shows that Ogleforth was occupied by a number of small businesses and professionals including a coach makers diagonally opposite the Townhouse, a veterinary surgeon, and Sanderson’s Paperhanging dealers at 14 Ogleforth.

Nowadays the street is a quiet residential street that still evokes a lot of history.  We hope you have a wonderful time at the Townhouse in the present.

Warren Quick