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Bishopthorpe Place was originally built in 1241 by Archbishop Walter de Grey with the undercroft being constructed using stone from an old manor house which de Grey pulled down when he bought the village of Thorpe St Andrew. It is constructed from magnesian limestone, almost certainly from Thevesdale near Tadcaster. It has mason's marks common to York Minster south transept (also built for de Grey) and was finished around 1250. The house then consisted of a Great Hall with a chapel at right angles at the upper end and offices with the Archbishop's rooms above them at the lower end. Grey decided that when each Archbishop completed his term of office the house should revert to the Dean and Chapter of York rather than to the King - a financially beneficial arrangement that was observed until the Reformation. Archbishop Thoresby extended his private rooms in 1364-5 and in 1483 Archbishop Rotherham added a range to the north built of red brick which doubled the size of the residential quarters and improved the kitchens. In 1766-9 a Gothic block was built to the west of the main range of the house by Thomas Atkinson for Archbishop Drummond and provided a new entrance hall, drawing rooms and services. An addition to the north range was produced in 1835, probably by Sir Rober Smirke on behalf of Archbishop Harcourt and rooms were built above the chapel.

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