22 evocative photographs reveal the history behind one of York’s most enduring shops

An old range in the basement
An old range in the basement of Fitzwilliam House
These evocative photographs were taken by Allan Harris in the building on Lendal which once housed Robson And Cooper.

Until it closed last year, it was one of York’s most enduring shops.

Matthew Cooper opened the “master saddle makers” in York in 1840. Eleven years later he exhibited his leather goods at the Great Exhibition. “As I had never seen anything from London any better than my own,” he wrote, “I thought I would let them see what York could do.”

All photographs © Allan Harris. To see the full set, go to Allan’s Flickr album

After scooping awards at the exhibition he soon numbered among his clients the King of Belgium, the Tsar of Russia, Prince Arthur of Connaught and Strathearn (Queen Victoria’s Grandson), Maharajah of Baroda, and Indian princes.

By the end of the century he was working out of Railway Street.

Mr Robson joined the business in 1911 and Robson and Cooper was relocated to Lendal.

Their new home, Fitzwilliam House, was a grand town house built by Alderman Henry Baynes in the early 18th century.

Previous occupants included the pioneering astronomer John Goodricke (1764-86), who now has a university college named after him, and Michael Barstow (1730-1822), an aristocrat who travelled to France during the French Revolution.

The famous shop closed for the final time in August 2014 following the death of co-owner and manager George Myerscough.

Allan, a former president of York Photographic Society, took the pictures as the building became temporary home to the volunteer army of costume makers for the York Theatre Royal community production In Fog And Falling Snow.

The play opens this summer at the National Railway Museum.

Doorway into the past
Doorway into the past
An impressive staircase
An impressive staircase
One of the old rooms with original fireplace
One of the old rooms with original fireplace
Another corner of the basement
Another corner of the basement
A close up of the range ironwork, by Walker York
A close up of the range ironwork, by Walker York
Old newspaper cuttings stuck to the walls
Old newspaper cuttings stuck to the walls
Another old fireplace complete with shelving unit
Another old fireplace complete with shelving unit
A room with a view
A room with a view
An old leather bag on the windowsill is a reminder of the building's former use
An old leather bag on the windowsill is a reminder of the building’s former use
A top hat and hat box
A top hat and hat box
A leather bag on the workbench
A leather bag on the workbench
Another impressive stairway
Another impressive stairway
An old case with a tin of Godfrey Phillips Grand Cut inside
An old case with a tin of Godfrey Phillips Grand Cut inside
The old first aid cabinet
The old first aid cabinet
The smallest room…
The smallest room…
Right at the top
Right at the top
Wood panelling and wooden floors
Wood panelling and wooden floors
Colourful costumes in the former showroom
Colourful costumes in the former showroom
Some of the Fog costumes
Some of the Fog costumes
A team of volunteers work on the hundreds of costumes for In Fog And Falling Snow
A team of volunteers work on the hundreds of costumes for In Fog And Falling Snow
More details are added to the costumes
More details are added to the costumes