A SECRET staircase hidden away for decades was among a host of historical features unearthed when a former York shop was restored back to its former glory.
The Grade II* listed, early Georgian building at 70, Walmgate, was previously known to locals as Age UK’s shop, but most people won’t have seen past the first room.
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Helmsley-based heritage consultant Beth Davies has spent more than a year converting the building back to a house.
The end result is stunning home, complete with five bedrooms and five bathrooms and, known as The Georgian Townhouse, York, it is now being used as a boutique Air BnB for family reunions and groups.
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For Beth, who used to work for the North York Moors National Park as a building conservation officer, and now runs her own consultancy guiding people through the planning process, the project has been a real adventure.
“It’s been a true labour of love,” said Beth.
“I wouldn’t have spent the money I have on it if I were just a developer.”
The project has given Beth the chance to uncover the building’s past.
“In Georgian times it would have been a very high status house and the owner could possibly have been linked to activities on the Foss,” she said.
“While we were doing the work we found medieval timbers so there has clearly been a building here since then, and during the restoration we also discovered some fascinating features such as the servants back stairs which had been blocked off and lead from what was the shop.
“I had a copy of the Royal Survey which dates back to the 1970s and shows that the stairs existed, but they had been long forgotten and I never expected to find them. When the builder discovered them it was just an amazing moment – it’s like you can touch history, because they are warn away, it’s a tangible link to the people who lived here in the past, but they were shut away for most of the twentieth century when the place was a shop.”
Beth said: “We also found historic fireplaces which had been covered over in the offices and a section of medieval timber framing, as well as a huge Georgian fireplace which would have been used for cooking on a spit before ranges were introduced and a hidden, walk in cupboard next to this which had been wallpapered over and which contains deep shelves with hooks on for tea cups.
“The first floor drawing room floor, which slopes, had also had a false floor fitted over it to level it which was concealing the bottom of the panelling and the skirting board so we have removed this to expose the panelling.”
“While we were carrying out the work people knocked on the door and asked to look around and we have had some lovely feedback on the York Past and Present Facebook page.”
The building is currently listed with Stays York and has its own website.
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