You may think that Acomb is one of the lesser interesting parts of York, but delve beneath the surface and you may come across some interesting facts. Here are ten things that you may or may not know about York’s largest suburb.
- The name Acomb most likely comes from the Old English Acum meaning ‘At the oaks’. This suggests that Acomb was once wooded. The original village has since grown to have a population of over 20,000 people. From little acorns do mighty oaks grow, as they say.
- History tells us that Septimus Severus’s body was burned on a pyre on Severus Hill in Acomb. Septimus Severus was a Roman Emperor, who died in York in AD211. Today his influence can be seen in the street names Severus Street and Severus Avenue. Nobody seems to know for sure where Severus Hill is actually located but my hunch is that there is a water tower built on top of it these days.
- Acomb House is situated opposite the entrance to Morrisons supermarket. In the nineteenth century Canon Raine exposed a Roman mosaic in his back garden. He quickly covered it up again and would not let anyone know its precise location for fear that it would be removed. One wonders if it will ever see the light of day again.
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, the royal poet laureate for most of the nineteenth century, had a brother called Edward. The unfortunate Edward was institutionalised in Acomb Asylum the whole of his adult life until his death in 1890. His grave can be found in St Stephen’s graveyard.
- Acomb Green was once a giant sand pit, that’s why it’s cut into the hillside. ‘Acomb Sandhole’ provided fine sand for sale to the local builders. It may well be present in the mortar holding your house together.
- Acomb did not become part of the City of York until 1937. Before then it was part of West Yorkshire.
- The 1930s Regent Building on York Road, now home to the present-day Co-op and other businesses, was a cinema until the 1950s. It could seat almost 900 people. It opened on 12 February 1934 with Maurice Chevalier in A Bedtime Story and closed on 4 April 1959 with Sierra Baron. Anecdotal evidence suggests it was shut down due to rowdy teenagers, both inside and outside the cinema.
- The Acomb Stakes is a horse race that takes place in August every year at York Racecourse, presently on the first day of the Ebor Festival. The seven-furlong flat race takes its name after the York suburb.
- Acomb has a namesake in Northumberland, located to the north of Hexham. This other Acomb is a former mining village with a population of just 1,270.
- Acomb is home to York’s finest (fictional) feline sleuth: Theodore…
Rear Garden: The Cat Who Knew Too Much, the sequel to The First of Nine: The Case of the Clementhorpe Killer, is set in Acomb. While writing it I came across the above facts and many more.
By setting the novel in Acomb, I could explore what might lie beneath the surface of a seemingly ordinary suburb.
By having a cat as the central character, Theodore can access places denied to humans. He can pass through hedges into other people’s gardens without anybody batting an eye. He can peer through windows, carrying out undercover surveillance without the householder realizing. He can trail a suspect without arousing suspicion. Having a cat as a detective may not be as crazy as it might at first sound…
Rear Garden, like its predecessor The First of Nine, is a cat’s take on murder mystery. It’s cozy crime with claws!