EARLIER this month we revealed that Monkgate House had been put up for sale by owners Garbutt & Elliott. Like all older York properties it comes with history attached.

But this building is particularly special. It was once home to a king.

That the 17th century building is now home to a firm of chartered accountants is ironic. Because it was the mathematically-challenged Railway King, George Hudson, who used to call it home.

Now Garbutt & Elliott are selling up, and anyone hoping to own Hudson's real house will have to pay millions of pounds for the privilege.

Before his dramatic downfall because of dubious financial practices, Hudson famously made all railways come to York. That journey began at number 44 Monkgate.

It has always been a prestigious address. One of the richest men in York, Hudson's great uncle, Matthew Bottrill, lived there in the 1800s.

He also had properties in Osbaldwick, Huntington, Whitby and in two East Yorkshire villages. But Hudson would visit his Uncle Matthew at his Monkgate town house. After all, it was just around the corner from the College Street drapery shop George ran with his wife Elizabeth.

When Matthew Bottrill died in 1827, he left his £30,000 estate to Hudson. Controversy still surrounds the inheritance. Matthew Bottrill changed his will only weeks before his death, and his great nephew had been particularly attentive during those last days.

Did he manipulate Bottrill into abandoning his closer relatives in favour of Hudson? Historians are divided.

What we can be sure of is that Hudson was a highly ambitious man, and that the grand Monkgate address suited him far better than living above the draper's shop.

He was 27 when he moved in. In the years that followed he became a defining force in shaping the railways, three-times Lord Mayor of York and a colourful character on both the local and national political scene. Monkgate provided much-needed stability for someone who was also a family man.

"The Hudsons lived in domestic bliss at 44 Monkgate, their most elegant Restoration town house, which proved a reassuring refuge from the vicious politics of the York council and the rigours of running the York and North Midland Railway," writes Robert Beaumont in his biography, The Railway King.

"The garden was spacious by town house standards and overlooked the River Foss, providing an element of much-needed tranquillity."

As Hudson's fame, riches and girth grew, so Monkgate seemed to diminish in his eyes - even though he had bought number 42 and knocked the two houses into one. "It did not accord with his new status as a king," writes Beaumont. "A king needs a palace, and Hudson set about finding one."

He went out on a spending spree, landing the Octon estate near Bridlington in August 1844, and land at Baldersby, near Thirsk and Newby Park soon afterwards.

By 1847, there were signs the railway bubble might burst, but nothing deterred York's own fat controller. He sold numbers 42 and 44 Monkgate and moved permanently into Newby Park. He would still be there when his empire began to collapse around him.

"Newby Park, unlike 44 Monkgate, was a constant reminder of what he had achieved," writes Beaumont.

"Monkgate had been the base from which the embryonic Railway King had plotted and planned his many triumphs; Newby Park, alas, would have different memories."

Hudson's life was to end in ignominy and ruin, with his estates wrenched from his grasp.

The Monkgate house had many residents after Hudson left. It was divided up into two properties again, and the 1893 York Directory places William Slinger at number 44 and James O'Donoghue at 42. In 1909, the directory recorded Arthur Brown, furniture maker and the Rev George Armstrong in the respective houses.

After reading about the forthcoming sale of Monkgate House, Julia Spink came forward with "another piece of York history attached to 42 Monkgate which a lot of your older readers would appreciate".

In 1920 her grandfather George Buckle Binns and his father Robert Buckle Binns founded York's first tyre and battery depot there.

It was quite a departure for them both. Binns senior was a smallholder at Kelfield, near Selby; Binns junior a worker at the T Cooke & Son brass foundry in Bishophill.

Then the First World War intervened, George enlisting in the 5th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. When he returned to York after the war he had a business plan which literally revolved around the motor car.

George and his father founded Robert R Binns and Son tyre factors in 1920. His brass moulding skills proved adaptable for the world of tyres.

Equipment was imported from France for retreading tyres and the area's first remould business was founded.

The showroom was on the ground floor, the workshop out the back, and the family quarters above, also home to Meg the Monkgate dog.

Julia never lived there, but visited often. "My memories are playing in there as a child, among the tyres and in the office with grandfather.

"There was a huge space behind the shop."

She described George as "a very kind man. He was a very good businessman, dedicated to the job.

"He loved travelling and did so later. But for years they would only take one week's holiday a year."

That commitment to the customer can be seen from their business card which read: "Phone 3821. Any hour - day, night, Sundays".

"It was before the days of Kwik Fit fitters," said Julia. "My mother used to tell stories about how they used to go and deliver tyres and batteries all to the surrounding villages in their vans."

After her grandfather died in 1971, aged 76, the Monkgate property passed to Julia's uncle Robert, who converted the upstairs living area into flats.

After a while spent in London, Julia returned to York and lived in one of the flats for a time in the 1980s. "It was very nice. Beautiful high ceilings and a lovely view over what is now Monkgate health centre."

A place fit for a king, in fact. According to Robert Beaumont's 2002 book The Railway King, at number 44 Monkgate "Hudson's elegant living room remains pretty much intact and a statuette of him stands in the hall".

Will it remain so after the sale?

We shall watch with interest.

Updated: 12:22 Monday, June 14, 2004