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History Book

Six hundred year old house book detailing York’s relationship with King Richard III to go on public display for the first time in living memory. On show October 17 – April 27 2014

A 600 year old manuscript which offers a fascinating glimpse into York’s relationship with Richard III will go on public display for the first time in living memory this week. The 15th Century ‘House Book’ reveals how York flamboyantly prepared for his state visits, wrestled with rumours of treason and ultimately what the city leaders felt about the King’s death in 1485. The book is one of a unique series documenting York’s civic jurisdiction for the last 600 years up to the present day, It is being loaned to the Yorkshire Museum from York’s civic Archive and it is believed to be the first time it has gone on public display. Natalie McCaul, curator of Archaeology, said; “We are delighted to be able to put this book on public display for what we think may be the first time. This first hand written account offers us a unique window into the much talked about relationship between York and Richard III like nothing else in existence. It talks of the pomp and circumstance of his visit to the city - where people where made to clean the paths in front of their doors and put up banners from their windows. It describes his murder being a “grete hevynesse of this citie” and how Henry VII’s messenger was afraid to visit after Richard’s death. But it also shows that even then the city wasn’t united in their support for Richard – rumour and reality were still deeply intertwined, with numerous tell tale accounts of suspected treason noted.” Councillor Sonja Crisp, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “This is a very rare opportunity to view the second in an unbroken series of 80 city ‘House’ books which we’re delighted to see on display from our Archive.

“Dating from 1476 through to the present day these volumes record the meetings of York’s council, with the earliest coinciding with King Richard’s rise to power in the north of England. The manuscript reveals an unusually intimate picture of a city courting the favour of royalty, while the expression of grief at Richard’s death was a risky gesture at a time when the new king was soon to impose his will on what he might have perceived as a rebel city. “This Housebook survived floods at the Guildhall in 1892 and remains as arguably one of the most important late medieval documents in the country.” The book has gone on show as part of York’s Richard III: Rumour and Reality programme of events. For more information go to: From October to December the book will be open at the pages detailing Richard’s visit to the city. It shows the preparations that were made and the money that was spent on hosting a Royal visit. It also looks at what the king did while here, such as watching York’s Corpus Christi Mystery Plays. Then from January until April 27 it will be open on the pages detailing Richard’s death. The book will be on display in the Medieaval Gallery alongside numerous other artefacts related to the reign of Richard III. For more information go to:

Quotes from the House Book

Slander of the duke of Gloucester, 24 June 1482 "'John Davyson emonges other shewed howe that he hard Master William Melrig say in a place where he and other was, that he hard Master Roger Brere say that as toching my lorde of Gloucestr', 'What myght he do for the cite? Nothing bot gryn of us'. The said William Melrig the same day was sent fore, cam personalie tofore the said maiour, and ther and then demanded by the same maiour what sedicious wordes he hard at eny tyme Roger Brere say of my lorde of Gloucestre; he answered and said noon.'" York House Books vol 2 p. 696 Slander of the duke of Gloucester, 14-15 February 1483 "'The last day of Januari last past sityng at the ale at Eden Berys in Gothryngate that one askyd and said emong the felliship sittyn at ale, 'Syrs, whom shall we have to owr mair thys yere?' Wher unto awnswerd and said Stevyn Hoghson, 'Syrs, me thyng and it plees the communs I wold we had Maister Wrangwysh, for he is the man that my lord of Gloucestre will doo for'; and the said [Robert] Rede… said that if my lord of Gloucestir wold have hym mair the communs woldnot have hym mare; and her apon the said Welles sent for afore the said leutenaunt.'" York House Books vol 2 p. 707

Death of Richard III, 23 August 1485 "'King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the duc of Northefolk and many othre that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lordes and nobilles of this north parties, was pitiously slane and murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie'" York House Books, vol 1 p. 368-69 Henry VII's messenger afraid to enter York, 24 August 1485 "'Forsomuch as the forsaid Sir Roger Cotam durst not for fere of deth come thrugh the citie to speake with the maire and his brethre, it was thought that they shuld goo unto him, wherupn the maire and his brethre went unto the sign of the boore and ther they speak with the said knight, which shewed unto them that the king named and proclaimed Henry the vii grete them well, and wold be unto them and this citie as good and gratiouse soveraign lord as any of his noble progenitors was before. With othyr words of comforth. Wherof the maire and his brethre thankes him moch and soo departed.'" York House Books vol 2 p. 734 Report of slander against Richard III, 14 May 1491 "John Payntour denied slandering the earl of Northumberland four days after Christmas, 1490, by saying he was a traitor who had betrayed king Richard. 'Bot he says that he herd the said maister Burton saye that Kyng Richard was an ypocryte, a crochebake and beried in a dike like a dogge, wherunto the said John Payntour answerd and said that he lied, for the Kynges good grace had beried hym like a noble gentilman. Apon all whiche wordes and saynges he reporteth hym' " R. Davies, York Records: Extracts from the Municipal Records of the City of York (1843) pp. 220-221



Time: 9am

Date: Thursday October 17

Venue: Yorkshire Museum, York Councillor Sonja Crisp, City of York Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, will be at the Yorkshire Museum with the House Book.

Richard III: Rumour and Reality

Richard III: Rumour and Reality is part of a city wide partnership to research and celebrate the Yorkist King. City of York Council, York Minster, the University of York, York Museums Trust, the Richard III Society, York Theatre Royal and the King's descendants have all been working together to develop a lively programme of special events which will help reveal what life was really like in Yorkshire during the time of King Richard III.

For further Information contact Lee Clark, communications manager, telephone 01904 687673 or email