Everyone over to mine, as York mayor throws open house at a mansion

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IT is the oldest official Lord Mayor’s residence in the country, so it seemed only fitting that a historic ritual should accompany its reopening – even if, as they freely admit, they made some of it up.

IT is the oldest official Lord Mayor’s residence in the country, so it seemed only fitting that a historic ritual should accompany its reopening – even if, as they freely admit, they made some of it up.

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

At just after 10.30 on Saturday morning, the current first citizen of York, Coun Barbara Boyce, will lead a procession from the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall to the Mansion House and then, channelling Black Rod, pound on the door knocker to demand entrance.

Once over the threshold, she will invite the local citizens in her wake to follow her inside.

“There is no historical precedent for this,” the Mansion House curator, Richard Pollitt, acknowledged.

“We don’t actually know how the house was first opened back in the 18th century but we thought it would be nice for the Lord Mayor to be let in and for her to then let in the residents of York.”

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

Given the pomp and ceremony, the 21st century admission charges are being waived for the occasion, which marks the end of a £2.6m restoration programme, made possible by lottery funding.

It includes an exterior newly restyled with a brick-coloured facade and polychrome crest thought to resemble the appearance of the Mansion House in the 1890s.

But its history goes back much further – to around 1725, when the Town Clerk, D’arcy Preston, concerned that York had no proper repository for its city archives, proposed the building as a place for the Lord Mayor to carry on his official business.

Its completion predated the Mansion House in London by around 20 years.

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

“It was never really a home for the Lord Mayor – it was put up as a civic building, somewhere to impress visitors and to keep the furniture, the clocks the silver,” Mr Pollitt said.

The house now holds the biggest collection of civic silver in the country and, following its restoration a working 18th century kitchen.

“We’ve made plum pudding, drop scones and an 18th century chicken curry in there,” Mr Pollitt said. “The curry was mostly salt, pepper, turmeric and cream, and it was delicious.”

Catering – carried out in an adjoining 21st century kitchen – is something the Mansion House will be doing much more of, as it earns its keep, post-restoration, as a venue for social and corporate occasions. But it has always been at the centre of entertaining in York, with Lord Mayors of old moving their entire domestic staff into the premises for the duration of their term.

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

York Mansion House officially re-opens at the weekend after its �2.6m refurbishment.

“The only permanent staff here would be the porters who looked after the building,” Mr Pollitt said.

York is one of the few Northern cities to have an official Lord Mayor’s residence – the one in Doncaster having closed in the 1920s, though the town still has its own Mansion House.

York’s current incumbent, who has her own apartment within the building, was keen to be inclusive. “I hope that residents will take the opportunity to join with us in celebrating this historic moment, as well as taking a tour of the house,” Coun Boyce said.

The house has been closed for more than two years while the restoration – the biggest in its history – has been carried out. It has involved the underpinning of sagging walls and the installation of a modern security system.

Former Sheriff, Coun Keith Orrell said: “Residents and visitors will have seen many other historic buildings but I think the Mansion House is unique.”

• Residents of York who want to join Saturday’s procession to the House should meet outside the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall before 10.30am. Following the opening, it will open to the public for five days a week.