St Clements

History of the Parish


History of our Church




The Birth of St Clement's Church, York

The mediaeval parish of St. Clement, covering the area bounded by the city wall to the north, the river Ouse to the east, Knavesmire to the west and extending to that of Bishopthorpe to the south has experienced prosperity and depression in the religious life of its inhabitants through some 900 years and it may be of interest to parishioners to reflect on its past as we look to its future.

That the district adjacent to the city wall was known as Clementhorpe in 1070 indicates that it was probably so named after the dedication of its church. It is an historical fact that sixty years later a church existed as an integral part of the Benedictine Nunnery of St. Clement founded by Archbishop Thurstan in 1130 serving both as the Priory Church and as the Parish Church for the residents living outside its boundary. This, the first monastic institution to be established in the North of England after the Norman Conquest served successive generations of York citizens for over four hundred years and also became the first to succumb to the onslaught of the Suppression Act of 1536, surrendering on the 31st of August of that year. During the Nunnery's long service to the community, Clementhorpe developed from a hamlet outside the City to become a "considerable village". The Priory Church, reverting to an entirely parochial role, was spared destruction, and served the community for the next fifty years. However, it was later allowed to fall into ruin due to the depleted population when the parish was united in 1585 with that of St. Mary, Bishophill Senior within the Walls. Not until 1745 was the stone from all the buildings removed and used for repairing the Walls of the City. The parish remained derelict until its re-birth during the "Industrial Revolution".

Between 1823 and 1830, Dove Street, Swann Street and Dale Street had been built and the lower portion of Nunnery Lane was being built up with dwelling houses, as also was St. Clement’s Place. The residents of this new district agitated for an opening to be made through the City Wall to facilitate access to Bishophill and their parish church of St. Mary which resulted first in a subway being made through the mound under the Wall in 1838, to be replaced by the present Victoria Bar, opened in 1840.

Apart from the mansions of Nunthorpe and Middlethorpe the parish was truly local, with windmills on the highest ridge running through its centre - the Nunmill at one end and the Mount Mill at the other.

The introduction of railway transport in 1839 to be followed a year later by four daily through trains running to London, and a further extensive network developing during the next ten years, created a demand for houses in the area. This was increased when Terry's confectionery factory concentrating on chocolate was completed in 1864, the carriage and wagon works built in 1867 and further between 1870 and 1880 when the York Confectionery Co. established a considerable business from premises in Fenwick Street, specialising in candied peel and the mint rock supplied to many seaside resorts. By this time, high density housing had been completed in the two areas of Clementhorpe and that bounded by Nunnery Lane, the lower end of Bishopthorpe Road and Nunthorpe Road.

Within months of his appointment in 1871 as the last Rector of the united parishes, the Revd. George Marsham Argles (later Canon of York) saw the urgent need for a separate church to serve the already densely populated areas and the anticipated further developments southwards. The population of St. Mary, Bishophill Senior, in the Clementhorpe - Bishopthorpe Road area had grown from 1,227 in 1851 to 4017 in the early 1870's. This was now the parish with the fastest population growth in York. His enthusiasm and the loyal support of the parishioners resulted in the foundation stone being laid on 16th October 1872. St. Clement's Church, as we know it today, was born.

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