As well as having more pubs per square mile than might be considered sensible, York is also apparently groaning with ghosts. Almost every old building has a story to tell, but it’s the tale from Treasurer’s House – the imposing National Trust property adjacent to York Minster – that’s best known. There’s little chance of a York primary school child graduating to secondary school without hearing about what occurred in the cellar there during the 1950s.
As a York primary school child myself once upon a time, I was also familiar with the story but the facts were pretty hazy. So I thought Halloween would be the ideal time to join a tour of the Treasurer’s House cellar and remind myself of what actually happened. Not wanting to face the ghosts and ghouls alone, I thought it was only right to take our seven and five-year-olds along with me.
I’d wondered if the kids – who aren’t always the bravest souls – would be freaked out by the tour, but they took it in their stride. They donned their yellow hard hats without a fuss, enjoying the Bob the Builder turn in proceedings. Our guide, Alicia, then gave our small group a whistle-stop introduction to the Roman history of Treasurer’s House and the area around York Minster.
Without further ado, we then headed retraced the steps of Harry Martindale. Minding our heads, we shuffled along the narrow corridors and into the little space where the heating engineer apparently saw Roman soldiers walking through the walls of the house. Alicia turned off the light – cue a brief panic from the kids – and then retold the story to us by torchlight. The details of the story, and the subsequent findings of expert archaeologists, are intriguing and gave the doubters among us (me!) plenty of food for thought as we made our way back into the daylight. It’s a fascinating story and, because it’s told in a way that’s atmospheric rather than terrifying, the kids loved it.
For a slice of spooky York history this Halloween, the cellar tour is a great option. While you’re there, take a look around the house (the Lego trail is a brilliant way to keep children occupied) and have a game of croquet on the lawn. We can recommend the cakes in the cafe too – they’re spooktacular.
Treasurer’s House, Minster Yard, York YO1 7JL – The cellar tour runs on selected days; call ahead to make sure it’s running – Visit the Treasurer’s House website for details