Rebecca Lack writes: Reduced motor traffic, longer and warmer evenings... In the absence of visitors during lockdown, we can be tourists in our own city. We can spot features and dwell on detail impossible in a tide of sightseers in the narrow streets.
Have you noticed how much beautiful glass there is in windows around York? Not simply in the churches, but in peoples’ homes and in pubs?
Here are some suggestions for windows beautiful to look at as well as through. You can see where they all are on our Google map.
You will need to get off your bikes and look hard – usually upwards. Sometimes a storey or three on older buildings. A set of binoculars might help. The designs are best seen lit from behind – the inside – but the darkness makes it more like a treasure hunt.
There are many more examples than listed here, typically on houses built in the 1930s – for example on Muncastergate, or Manor Drive South on the York Orbital Route.
The yellow flower above is on 44 Bootham Crescent. Perhaps our favourite piece of domestic stained glass though is nearby at 60 Ratcliffe Street (below). The owner commissioned it to celebrate his bell-ringing at the Minster (whose No 6 bell features in the centre of the work), St Lawrence in York and St Gregory in Bedale, which are depicted.
This route does not include church windows. But the longer warmer evenings are the perfect time to walk around the outside of the Minster. You can explore some of its glass masterpieces on the site of the York Glaziers Trust.
Much of York centre is closed to traffic in the day – including to people on bicycles. Check where you can ride here at www.york.gov.uk/york-city-centre/footstreets/1. Otherwise cycle to the centre and then push.
Sometimes window art is temporary. Our route was compiled during the lockdown in spring 2020, a time when people were creating such galleries in their front windows.
Usually these included rainbows to show support for the NHS, but one resident of Clifton used a window (pic) to commemorate their father on VE Day 2020 (pic).
YORK STAINED GLASS TRAILLength 9km / 6 miles
Time required 1–2 hours
Oliver Bonas: 35 Stonegate
The building is called ‘At the Sign of the Bible’ and there is still a bible there. For many years it was the home and workshop of a stained glass artist. Much of the glass is his work. There is a frieze with three figures above the shop windows, and circular designs above the first storey glazing. But can you spot the intricate detailing a floor higher? Historic England’s site has more information about the site and its windows.
Abraham Moon: 33 Stonegate
Admire the geometric designs in the first and second storeys next door to Oliver Bonas.
Thomas the Baker: 12 King’s SquareIn the popular local bakery in nearby King’s Square is this large, colourful window with a romantic view of the stages in making flour – not exactly stained glass but artistic enough.
Blue Bell: 53 Fossgate
The pub’s Facebook page says it is York’s only Grade II* Listed Edwardian decor pub, with an unaltered 1903 interior. It is also the city’s smallest public house, very popular with locals.
Marzano: 13 FossgateLearn some Italian from the elegant windows of the Marzano Grill. Can you spot the initials in the gold designs above the main windows?
Everest Gurkha Restaurant: 7 FossgateWhat is the shape in the windows of the Everest Gurkha Nepalese Restaurant? Is it simply a triangle? Or is it a representation of Everest? You decide.
Sainsbury: 1 Scarcroft Rd
Not stained glass, but a striking depiction of berry fruits. Google Street View shows that the window was unpainted until some time between 2012 and 2015.
House: 78 Bishopthorpe RdOne of several examples of door and window glass on 1930s houses on ‘Bishy Road’. You could easily miss these while negotiating the incline and traffic.
House: 31 Bewlay StThe nine squares in the side of this house serve a practical as well as artistic function, obscuring the shower room behind.
Winning Post: 127 Bishopthorpe Rd
You may have been to the Winning Post pub, but have you ever noticed the stained glass windows? They are well worth a visit. The pub has cycle parking and suggests a couple of bike routes on the Winning Post website.
Old Coach House: St Oswald’s Rd
The previous version of this glass had a reclining nude. You can still see it on Google Street View.
Geisha: 15 King’s Staithe
An intriguing depiction of a young Japanese woman in kimono. What is the story behind this? Fans of Madam Butterfly, perhaps?
TK Maxx: 48 Coney StLeaded panes and models of fierce faces on the first, second and third storeys. It’s the first floor that has the stained glass.
Appleton’s: 19 Lendal
This window was by local glass artist Ann Sotheran. Ann made it to function as a shop sign as well as a decorative feature. (NB Sadly, the shop closed in December 2020, after we created the route. We don't yet know the fate of the work.) Ann also did the one above the door at the branch of Appleton’s in Boroughbridge – that design includes a cow and a sheep. Ann takes commissions, and you can visit her workshop during York Open Studios in 2021.
Thomas’s: 3 Museum StCycle past this pub on Lendal bridge opposite the library and you’ll almost certainly notice the windows. The Queen looks out smiling; Katherine and William kiss at their wedding. But if you stand outside the front door you’ll see the ornate stained glass from when the building used to be the Thomas Hotel. There’s a wreath above the entrance, and two beautiful panels either side.
Rainbows Ceramics: 15 Bootham
Of course what’s inside a window can be attractive. Cyclists waiting in the bike box at the junction of Bootham and Gillygate can enjoy the regularly changing displays of the Rainbows Ceramics painting studio. Tara the owner says the windows reflect the season or other special occasions.
Old Red House: 1 Bootham TerrDetailed and attractive panels on what, we were told, used to be the Red Hotel. You have to look hard but there is a floral design in one of the round windows.
End of trailWe hope you enjoyed the ride.
MORE STUFF LIKE THIS
If you enjoy finding quirky things like this, you'll be interested in local author Catherine Sotheran's book York in Close Up, which has lots more.