Review: We Stay at The Judge's Lodging a Remarkable Hotel in the Centre of York
If you judge a book by its cover, even if it's a real beauty, you can never appreciate the full story. While the exterior of The Judge's Lodging is remarkable, it offers just a taste of the treasures to be found within
One of these is The Judge's Lodging, which was not, as its name might suggest, specifically built for the upper echelon of our learned friends. Whilst it is mentioned in the first charter dating back to 1145, it wasn't until 1554 that Richard Goldthorpe bought the site for £2. The current building was designed as a private residence for a Dr Winteringham in the early 18th century, with additional wings being added in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1806 the property was bought for use as the official Judges’ residence in York when they were attending the quarterly session at the Assize Courts at York Castle. So there's your history lesson, but what about today's lodgings?
As a result of a significant six months of renovations in 2014 and a more recent refurbishment of the bedrooms, the current layout of the hotel is a clever combination of historic calm and charm. I'd been past the building many times over the years and it had always caught my eye, but I'd never actually been in. So I was especially keen to take a peek and (luckily) put this fascinating hotel to good use.
The twin staircase that leads up to the front door of the grand Grade I-listed Georgian townhouse sets the scene, as does the elegant forecourt giving the property a rather aloof appearance. And while the sense of history engulfs you, the welcome, far from aloof, could not be warmer. Within a few minutes I was in my bedroom, one of the feature rooms which had many years ago housed the foremost judges of the day.
While my modest law degree wouldn’t cut it with my superiors of yesteryear, I could definitely trump them with the mod cons I could enjoy today, not least a large TV, Jacuzzi bath and the hair dryer which would no doubt have blown my learned forebears away – the mod cons of today we so take for granted!
Despite the handsome refurbishment of the generously proportioned room it was good to see that some of the original features remained untouched: the handsome fireplace and the two buttons I could press for either my Valet or Clerk (sadly both had left the premises along with their judicial paymasters some time ago) – a nice touch and typical of many features to be found throughout the characterful building. The floral wallpapers and furnishings are bright and cheerful, the handsome desk invited a spell of work, but instead I decided to try out the Jacuzzi. I wonder what Judge Jeffreys would have made of that!
Invigorated and dressed I felt a call to the bar (sorry, I couldn’t resist) and wandering down the stairs I came across portraits of the many judges who had made this house their temporary home over the centuries.
The Cellar Bar has plenty of tables and an outdoor space should the weather oblige (which it didn’t). History oozes out of every brick here and sitting in a quiet corner I read up on the story of this ancient and revered part of York and the Judge’s Lodging's place within it. Apart from the Minster (which I could see from my bedroom) there are lots of famous attractions close by and I made a shortlist of must-sees all within a few minutes’ walk; the Shambles, the Castle Museum, Jorvik Viking Centre and the celebrated city walls all scored highly, with the unmissable Railway Museum a little further away.
Soon it was time to wander upstairs for dinner at Restaurant 1711. A real find, it’s open to non-residents too. Charismatic and colourful fabrics bring it to vibrant life. It’s daring and eclectic and for me it works brilliantly. I was joined by friends and we sat in front of the generous fireplace and looked over the menu, which featured an interesting Asian-Mediterranean fusion of flavours. Marlon Sanchez, formerly of The Black Swan, Oldstead, brings a fascinating take to the food here. The signature dish of Asian-style braised ox cheek served with pancetta, silver-skin onions, pomme purée and jus really hit the mark, as did the rack of lamb, and the lasagne with a Champagne béchamel sauce. The extensive wine list was also interesting. I’m not sure what the judges of the past might have thought, but I have a strong feeling that after a tempestuous day in court they would have loved it, with a couple of bottles of wine thrown in for good measure!
Heading back to my room, I stopped at the foot of the stairs and just imagined for a moment or two, and as I clambered into my huge and comfortable bed I wondered if who had been before was still about…spooky? No! Fascinating? Absolutely.
I slept well and with a planned early start I headed down for breakfast, and was quickly set up for the day having devoured the full Yorkshire breakfast.
The hotel does not offer car parking but nearby Marygate is a short walk away and the hotel are also planning to pick up bags from the station, so do enquire about this when booking if you're coming by train. The station itself is about a 10-minute walk away.
This is an extraordinary place with a unique history right in the heart of this must-visit city. If you want a place that packs an unrivalled historical punch but also offers the very best of today's world of convenience and charm, then look no further than The Judge's Lodging, the verdict is splendid!
The Judge's Lodging
9 Lendal, York YO1 8AQ