J a c o b ‘ s W e l l | Trinity Lane, York

A 15th Century building in historic York

In Trinity Lane, just off Micklegate in York stands a beautiful 15th century timber framed building known as Jacob’s Well, serving as the parish room for the Holy Trinity Church in Micklegate. Jacob’s Well was enlarged in the early Tudor period, originally an open hall house facing onto Trinity Lane. Around 1100AD, a Benedictine priory was established just outside Micklegate Bar and in the mid 1400’s Jacob’s Well was erected on the edge of the priory precinct. It was built as a lodging chamber for chantry priests to pray three times a week on the edge of the priory grounds.

After the dissolution of the monasteries, Holy Trinity Priory was dissolved in 1535 though the church was kept in use as the parish church. In 1547, the chantry was suppressed and the priests moved out of the house. Not yet known as Jacob’s Well, it was bought in the mid 1500’s by Isabel Warde, the last Prioress of Clementhorpe Nunnery, for herself and her sister. Their brother was a Brother in the Priory. Upon Isabel Warde’s death in 1569, the house reverted to the church trustees.

It became an inn during the 1600s and by 1749, licensed premises had come into being and the property was leased by the Trustees to Elisabeth Knapton. In the lease, the house was described as “lately … two messuages”, suggesting that the two separate parts had been reunited for form a single house. It was now known as Jacob’s Well.

Elizabeth Knapton retained the lease until 1790, and was followed by Roger Glover and John Furnish, described as a ‘coach masters’. Their joint business in 1792 is represented by the Sun Insurance firemark, fixed to the wall on the ground floor, to the left of the kitchen door. The building is described as “their dwelling house”, of ”timber, plaster and tiled”, and they had a coach-house, stable and granary on the other side of the street.

The coach-masters’ business lasted until 1815. In that year, £130 was spent on additions and repairs to the building and another storey was built on top of the wing, and the extension which forms the present kitchen was added, both constructed in brick. With the front door now inaccessible within the extension, the entrance to the building would have been moved to its present position. Once again Jacob’s Well Inn was licensed to sell ale.

In 1902, according to licensing records, the inn consisted of a bar and a smoke room, and a taproom used as dining-room and kitchen. Accommodation for the resident licensee was upstairs. In the following year, perhaps because the inn was no longer a viable business, the licence was surrendered and transferred to a new public house in Nunnery Lane. Jacob’s Well was taken back into use by the Trustees as the Parish Room for Holy Trinity Church.

A major restoration and remodelling was begun in 1905 when a new staircase was installed, and the large bay window in the hall overlooking the Rectory garden was built. The front door was reconstructed incorporating 15th century canopy brackets rescued from the demolished Wheatsheaf pub in Davygate.

By the end of the twentieth century, motor traffic waiting outside Jacob’s Well to turn into Micklegate was putting the medieval timber-framed building at risk of damage. Thus it was to become one of what must be very few Grade I listed buildings to be partially demolished with the approval of English Heritage. The heavy top floor was removed and a new roof built. What had been an early nineteenth century kitchen fireplace to the left of the front door was converted to the men’s toilet and the adjacent enclosed space, which once accommodated the spiral staircase, became the ladies’ toilet.

For 500 years, Jacob’s Well has maintained the tradition of hospitality and service to the parishioners of Holy Trinity Micklegate and It is now home to the Gild of Butchers after the decision to move from their Hall in the Shambles and make Jacobs Well their ‘home’.

Paranormal Research York has held many ghost hunts here. Why not join us on an investigation to find out more about the building’s written and unwritten history? Visit our website for dates throughout 2022 and soon 2023 www.paranormalresearchyork.co.uk