New cocktail bar and refurbished ballroom planned for historic York building

An aerial view of the De Grey Rooms from the York Conservation Trust planning documents
15 Mar 2018 @ 6.47 pm
| Environment, History

It was built to house grand concerts and balls for Victorian army officers.

But it’s safe to say the De Grey Rooms have seen better days.

Now plans are afoot to restore this handsome Victorian back to its glorious best, adding a new bar, revamping the ballroom and giving the rest of the place a makeover.

The idea is to make it a more attractive venue for outside events, including weddings.

Too institutional

The De Grey Rooms are owned by the York Conservation Trust, and leased to York Citizens’ Theatre Trust, who run the Theatre Royal next door.

They use it for costume hire and repair, show rehearsals – and hire it out for private events and weddings.

Because York Theatre Royal has had its government funding cut, it needs to generate more income from hiring out the De Grey Rooms.

The institutional look of the entrance

But the wedding business could be better.

“The events team have hosted many visits by interested parties. Disappointingly, this has not resulted in a good conversion rate of confirmed bookings,” say the planning documents submitted to City of York Council.

Feedback from those who rejected the venue revealed they were put off by the “institutional feel” of the entrance on the ground floor.

So the conservation trust wants to replace or upgrade doorways, lighting and toilets – “to rectify the aesthetic harm caused by the inappropriate 20th century fittings and fixtures”.

Cocktails, anyone?

Grand… the ballroom. Photograph: York Conservation Trust

The Cocktail Room “greatly enhances the appeal of De Grey Rooms as a venue” says the trust. But it could still do with improvements.

These include a brand new ‘bespoke freestanding bar’ to replace the circular one currently there.

And the centrepiece of the building?

“The ballroom is the most significant space within De Grey Rooms and provides a very pleasant well lit and flexible space for a great deal of events.”

It will be redecorated, and ceiling plaster damaged by a leak replaced. Repairs to the roof are included in the refurbishment.

A brief history

Splendid… the De Grey Rooms. Photograph: Richard McDougall

The De Grey Rooms was built under subscription for Earl De Grey and the officers of the Yorkshire Hussars Regiment for their mess.

The building was designed by George Townsend Andrews and constructed 1841‐2 at around the same time Andrews was working on York Railway Station.

GT Andrews is most famous for having designed some of the region’s most distinctive 19th century railway stations, including Scarborough Central and Richmond Station.

He was also responsible for designing some of the original buildings at York St John University.

Alongside being used as a mess for the Yorkshire Hussars, De Grey Rooms was also used for social events such as concerts and balls alongside public meetings.

And the building was the focus of the VE celebrations held in York at the end of the Second World War, when it was requisitioned by the War Office.