St Stephen’s Orphanage 1870-1969

Location of plaque: Hotel du Vin, The Mount

FOR many York people of a certain age, a glimpse of Hotel du Vin on The Mount brings back memories of childhood. That's because, for decades, the building housed St Stephen's Orphanage.

Founded in 1870 in Precentor's Court by Harriet, Lady Duncombe, wife of the Dean of York, the orphanage was intended to provide shelter for up to 13 'female orphans' and train them as domestic servants. It quickly outgrew its space, and moved to Trinity Lane, off Micklegate, in 1872.

The orphanage was clearly a strict institution. 'Rules of the establishment' included:

- No girl afflicted with any such physical or mental infirmity as would be a decided obstacle to placing her out (as a servant) at the end of the term can be admitted

- No girl can be allowed to visit any friends, or be visited by any, except those of whom the superintendents approve

The orphanage ran into financial trouble - but in 1874, Major William Worsley of Hovingham formed a management committee which loaned it £125. The Worsleys remained associated with the orphanage for many years - in the 1950s Katherine Worsley helped out at the home, which now took both boys and girls, before she married the Duke of Kent.

In the 1880s, as well as providing a daily dinner for its own girls, the orphanage also provided a meal for other poor York children. One visitor wrote: "We discovered a passage lined with children of all sizes: about 300...all waiting their turn to go into the dining room. We were invited to go up and see the children, it really was a sight to gladden one’s heart... to see so many happy faces enjoying the basin of good Irish stew, followed by a slice of roley pudding.’

The orphanage moved to The Mount in 1919. When the Second World War broke out, the children were evacuated to Myton-on-Swale, while the potting shed at the orphanage was converted into an air raid shelter.

By 1957, 15 girls and 10 boys were living at the orphanage. But numbers declined, and in 1969 the orphanage amalgamated with the Blue and Grey Coat Schools to form York Children's Trust.

The building was sold and is now the Hotel du Vin.

Stephen Lewis

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