Yes, we all know that York’s a romantic city. Lovers love it. Trysts by the fireside in a cosy inn in the winter, hand-holding strolls along the sunlit Shambles in the summer, kisses under the Heart Of Yorkshire window in the Minster all year round.
But these are well worn lovers’ lanes. What about the romantic corners of York which are usually overlooked by the guidebooks? Here’s our top six…
[arve url=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/SP8vSmLQPAs” title=”Damon & Debbie – The death of Damon Grant” /]
The heart of every engineer is set a-flutter at the sight of the Victorian ironwork on Lendal Bridge, but its appeal should extend to anyone with a soft spot for soapy melodrama. For it was here in 1987 that Brookside spin-off Damon And Debbie reached a tear-jerking finale. After Damon Grant and Debbie McGrath had eloped to York from Brookside Close in Liverpool, Damon was stabbed and died in Debbie’s arms on Lendal Bridge. “I was at Boarding School in Thirsk when this was filmed,” recalled elsmeghead on YouTube. “I remember going on a ‘bus outing’ to York shortly afterwards, and there was a piece of laminated A4 paper by the bridge on the River Ouse surrounded by flowers. It simply read … ‘Damon died here’.”
What is more romantic than a burial ground? Of course Goths and Twihards understand the rhapsodic beauty of a good graveyard, but it should be regarded as more than a morbid fascination. Read the inscriptions, of Dearly Beloveds and In Loving Memories, and it becomes clear that this is not a garden of death but a garden of love. This picture, by York photographer Samantha Simpson, was “taken at York Cemetery on a romantic Valentine’s day walk”. And on Saturday, February 16, a Valentine’s concert, Inspired By Love, will be held in the beautiful cemetery chapel, in aid of Save The Children.
Dress Circle, Theatre Royal
Ah, the romance of the theatre! No doubt many an illicit tryst has taken place in York Theatre Royal’s dress circle once the lights have gone down for the first act. But it is associated with a story every bit as romantic and dramatic as anything performed on stage. The theatre is built on the site of the medieval St Leonard’s Hospital, run by a small order of nuns. “One of them broke her holy orders by falling in love with a young man of noble descent,” writes David Kemp in his book The Pleasures and Treasures of Britain. “The lovers were discovered by the Mother Superior, and the youthful nun was made to pay for her indiscretion in a most horrible way. She was thrown into a windowless room which was then locked and sealed by a wall of bricks, leaving her to starve or suffocate.” A room behind the dress circle is thought to be the area where she lost her life. There have been many a sighting of the ghostly Grey Lady, an nun-like apparition, in the dress circle, a reminder of one of the most romantic and tragic stories of York.
Lady Hewley’s Hospital
The first of six almshouses to be built in 18th century York, Lady Hewley’s Hospital stood originally in Tanner Row, rebuilt in St Saviourgate in 1840 after the original building was demolished to make way for the old railway station. But before she became a benefactress of the poor Sarah Hewley began her marriage in a most romantic way. Legend has it, she eloped with the lawyer John Hawley but later rode in front of him on her horse – to protect him from criticism from the Lord Chancellor by suggesting that she ran away with him, and not he with her. You can see a plaque dedicated to Lady Hewley on St Saviourgate, behind Stonebow House just at the end of the taxi rank. Very romantic.
Bathurst House, Micklegate
Micklegate has much to commend itself to romantics: the cobbles, the church, Jacobs Well. And indeed it has had more than its share of couplings in recent years. But there is a detail, oft overlooked on this royal street, which stands as an enduring token of love. Go to Bathurst House, number 86 Micklegate, now home to Barron & Barron accountants. And look at the drainpipes. Yes, the drainpipes. Built in the early 18th century for Charles Bathurst, he had his initial and that of his wife intertwined on the heads of the drainpipes. A later occupant of the house went by the cracking name of the Honourable Abstrupus Danby.
Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate
Museum Gardens is lovely, as is Deans Park. But if you want a romantic garden, this is the one. Tucked off Goodramgate, Holy Trinity Church is an historical gem, and its garden a leafy haven. This is the perfect spot for a touch of trysting, or even a proposal. And for the next few days the church has a Tokens Of Love fund raiser where, for a small donation, you can pin up a heart declaring your love for whoever in this beautiful setting.