Treasurer’s House

Wednesday, December 12th 2018

Enlightenment & Amusement with Regard to York, its Surrounding Areas & the British Isles
Europe’s Most Haunted City Regular Feature

y way of prelude, ‘though I fear it seems scarcely necessary to give state, York has a protracted and rich history. An oft recited quote from King George VI holds that ‘the history of York is the history of England’, and who are we to contend with such an eminent voice? As such, when the visiting traveller is presented with the opportunity to be immersed in the remnants of such an opulent and diverse past it may seem problematic to decide upon where to begin. One could do far worse than to choose a building as important for its history as it is notorious for its ghosts.
    Constructed in the shadow of York Minster itself, the Treasurer’s House was originally built to function as the home of the Minster’s treasurer, it’s non de plume suggesting that however resplendent the city’s history it appeared to have little impact on the imaginative inclination of its inhabitants.
The foremost such favoured gentleman was Radulphus, appointed in 1091 and followed in 1109 by William Fitz Herbert who, it would appear, was in residency when the building succumbed to the onslaught that was      the great fire of York in 1137. All but destroyed (an external wall remains) the house was re-built during the reign of Edward l and substantially altered by Thomas Young during the 1600’s, the first of what proved to be a number of revisions and additions throughout its life.
Following Henry VIII’s Reformation of the English Church in the 1540s the post of treasurer was abolished, resulting in the highly indignant exiting treasurer William Cliff remarking that as the Minster had been plundered of all its treasures it had no further need of a Treasurer. As such, the house passed into the hands of the Archbishops of York.
    By the seventeenth century it had become a far more secular dwelling and was purchased by the prospering George Aislaby from Lord Fairfax in 1663. However, if the otherwise fortunate Aislaby had been a superstitious man it is possible that he lived to regret this decision, although not for long. At the arrival of what became the fateful night of January 10th 1674 George Aislaby and his wife were suitably established within the upper circles of York’s affluent class to be invited to the Duke of Buckingham’s ball in Skeldergate. Also invited was Mrs. Aislaby’s sister Mary Mallorie who, once at the function, joined her fiancé, Jonathon Jennings. This otherwise harmless and respectable situation would have been no cause for alarm if Mary’s pleasure during the evening had not resulted in her failure to return with the servant who had been entrusted to bring her back to the Treasurer’s House. Realising her error the gallant Jennings, suitably in possession of his own carriage, took her himself. Unfortunately, no amount of banging or further noise creation attempts were sufficient to raise any member of the household and poor Mary was forced into the scandalous position of having to spend the night at her fiancee’s.
    The family’s honour clearly impeached, George Aislaby challenged Jonathon Jennings to a duel. Alas, with the fortuitous benefit of hindsight, I fear he may have arrived at an alternative approach, such as agitated finger wagging, possibly even accompanied by a raised voice, as the outcome of this duel was the mortal wounding of George Aislaby. Buried nearby, his supernatural presence is particularly strong around the Chapterhouse Street entrance and he has been witnessed walking through the Treasurer’s House corridors.
    To add to the building’s eerie atmosphere, a previous owner’s threat to move his mistress into the house resulted in an understandable objection from his wife. A violent altercation ensued with resulted in the death of the husband. The disturbing nature of the incident has clearly left it’s influence in the form of a cold and foreboding atmosphere in the Tapestry room on the first floor, a room that also became the location of a manifestation within recent times. A volunteer worker at the house was assessing the aesthetic condition of her hair in the room’s somewhat dilapidated mirror when a woman dressed in black appeared in the mirror, staring at her. Suitably unnerved she turned around to find the room quite unoccupied with the exception of herself. Upon returning her gaze to the mirror the woman was still there.
    In addition to a spectral hound and a black cat, the most intriguing and indisputably the widest known sighting from the house must surely be the materialisation of the Roman soldiers in the Treasurer’s House cellar. A young apprentice plumber by the name of Harry Martindale created intense interest when he made some notable observations about the ghostly legionnaires that were at odds with the general population’s perception of the way Romans looked and behaved. Working in the cellar in the early fifties Martindale’s encounter commenced with the sound of a trumpet blast, followed by the appearance of a Roman on horseback and a procession of foot soldiers. Unlike the shining and disciplined soldiers of the silver screen, these men were dirty and unkempt with a weary look that suggested they had returned from a lengthy journey. Although frightened and unsure of the nature of his experience Martindale was able to take in a number of details that imbued his testimony with a great deal of verity. The poor quality of their clothing, the cross-gartering of their sandals, round shields and the green kilted skirts they were wearing were all features that, although known to be historically correct, were not familiar to people outside academic circles. In addition, Martindale noticed that the soldiers were not visible below their knees. That is, until they reached a section of the cellar where the original Roman road, lying eighteen inches below the cellar floor, had been recently excavated. With no apparent awareness of the presence of the young man watching in astonishment at their passing, the Romans vanished into the wall at the opposite side of the cellar.
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