York Civic Trust unveils new plaque dedicated to author Laurence Sterne

The York Civic Trust party in front of the new plaque on Stonegate. Photograph: Ethan Storey

Groundbreaking author Laurence Sterne now has a permanent memorial in the city where he made history.

A unusual stained glass blue plaque to the acclaimed author and clergyman (1713 – 1768) was created at the Stonegate premises of the bookshop which published his great novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen.

A large crowd gathered to hear the speakers and commemorate the 300th anniversary of the publishing of the book – considered by many the first modern novel – and the 250th anniversary of the author’s death.

The plaque was a joint endeavour of York Civic Trust and the Laurence Sterne Trust.

Chair of the latter, Rob Wyke, said at the unveiling ceremony:

  • Tristram Shandy was printed by Anne Ward in that direction, it was completed by Sterne at the Minster Yard in that direction, so we are standing in the middle of that great creative process.

History is important

Also speaking at the ceremony at what is now the Olivia Bonas store, CEO of the civic trust David Fraser said: “We put up plaques because history is important, history is relevant.”

Patrick Wildgust, curator at Shandy Hall, the Coxwold home of Sterne, was thanked by both speakers as being a driving force behind the unveiling of the plaque.

He talked about the importance of the style of writing within Tristram Shandy and how the plaque commemorates this and the life of the author well.

Following the unveiling itself, there was a gathering held in the nearby York Medical Rooms, with cake to celebrate the birthday of the novel Tristram Shandy.

Born at an army barracks in Tipperary, Ireland, after his father returned from fighting in the War of the Spanish Succession Sterne moved to Yorkshire when he was 10 and ended up working as a clergyman within the Anglican church, spending much time around York.