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York St John Alumni

Updates and stories from the Alumni team at York St John University

Grays Court Memories

Grays Court has a very long and exciting history. It stands on the site of a Roman legionary fortress and has welcomed historic and VIP guests over the years, including King James I! But what we’re most interested in is, of course, your experiences as alumni.

These memories were kindly shared by alumni who bought tickets for our postponed Cream Tea event at Grays Court Hotel.

St John’s College became linked with Grays Court in 1949 when
part of it housed the Department of History. In 1963, the whole
of the house was leased to the College and the departments of
English and Theology moved in.

Stephen Driver

Hello fellow alumni! I graduated in 1980 with a B.Ed (Hons). I chose St John’s as it was THE only place to train to teach and York is a lovely place to live, of course. Gray’s Court was the icing on a very majestic cake.

Keeping this short – Gray’s Court was always a heavenly destination on a cold winter’s morning or warm day in spring. The cobbled courtyard led to those heavy doors and then up the carpeted stairway via History to English and my extended family – Brian Sourbut, Neville Brown, Edna Mallett and, of course Roy. Roy Stevens. It started with a nice cup of tea and ended with me being the proud godfather of his two children. Looking forward to so many memories from my fellow alumni – especially those who attended Doc Addy’s leaving drinks party in History – a regular Wednesday afternoon occurrence!

Grays Court Hotel and gardens and York Minster on a cloudy day

Malcolm Winterburn 

Among my fondest memories of my time at John’s are the Saturday morning lectures at Gray’s Court with ‘Percy’ Wenham,  His infectious enthusiasm for all things Roman, his expertise on the siege of York and his love of his subject inspired me – and I am sure, many others.  In fact, these experiences were so enjoyable that the end of the lecture saw us repairing to the Stonegate Coffee House where he would resume his theme with little prompting from his students!

Grays Court was a wonderful place to learn History and ‘Percy’ was a wonderful tutor.  One of my prized possessions is his book ‘The Great and Close Siege of York’.  Every time I read it, the years fall away and I hear his voice once more.

Happy days indeed.

Pam Allen (nee Parkinson)

I vividly remember the beautiful airy rooms with stunning views of the gardens and sweeping staircase which were features of my English Literature Lectures with my dear tutor Mr Stephenson. Looking over the green swathes at rear of the Minster, the golden stonework and the flowering cherries.

 Mr Stephenson was very kind to me through a great deal of my time at St Johns. The quiet peace of his room was wonderful post lecture. Tea and sympathy.

I loved the great entrance door too with the crack of the huge black latch… stepping back into the past into the hallway.
The cobbled street leading up to Grays Court also features  significantly in my memory… as the place the bolt on my folding bicycle rattled itself loose, leading to an experience in which I found myself both arriving and leaving at the same moment.

I’m very much looking forward to revisiting some of these again, hopefully in the not too distant future.

Your memories

Has this blog brought back memories for you? Leave a comment below or send us an email at alumni@yorksj.ac.uk

A black and white photograph of Grays Court and York Minster

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2 Comments

  1. Elaine Fetherston June 1, 2020

    Such happy memories of history lectures in Gray’s Court (1984-88). We were so privileged to spend our college days in such amazing surroundings! Still miss York so much after all these years x

  2. Stephen Driver May 20, 2020

    Today should have been the inaugural Gray’s Court afternoon cream tea. I was fortunate enough to study English at St. John’s College in York from 1976-80 and Gray’s Court was the magnificent annexe for the English and History Departments.

    Today would also have been the 97th birthday of one of the most compassionate and intelligent human beings who graced this earth (I won’t say God’s earth in case I cause posthumous offence).

    Roy Stevens is the single most person who shaped my life as a teacher and a person. He was a senior lecturer and my dear friend with whom I shared many cups of tea and cheese sandwiches, discussing the great works in literature – amongst many others, King Lear, the Romantic poets, Thomas Hardy, Mary Shelley, the Brontes.

    In life, he would be devastated by every single Covid-19 death and its impact on individuals, families and communities and would be writing letters to every single body with any perceived impact and influence from the Yorkshire Evening Post to the WHO.

    That said, Roy’s ultimate desire was for a united world government which discounted prejudice, the ridiculousness of squabbling party politics, where the environment was clean and clear and, above all, education was real and not tested for testing’s sake.

    And in these curious times, for Roy, I would like to think that nations are sharing emerging scientific knowledge, at last we have a leader of the opposition who speaks from the mind not from the soapbox, a much cleaner environment (for now) and children being educated by some brilliant parents without a SAT or HMI in sight and soon to return to school when everyone is confident.

    Happy birthday dear Roy, wherever you are.

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