Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Acomb

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Acomb did not become part of the City of York until 1937. Before then it was part of West Yorkshire.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!

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Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Acomb

Rear Garden: The Cat Who Knew Too Much

The first chapter of the new Theodore book is below.

Welcome to God’s Own County

She takes a last drag on the cigarette and drops it from her bedroom window, down the gap between the house and the shed, like she has done a thousand times or more, but this time, rather than smouldering out with the rest of the butts, the shed explodes with a bang.
Her dad staggers out. He’s on fire. He stands in the middle of the lawn. He flaps his hands against his clothes, trying to put out the flames. He turns and faces the back of his house. He looks up at her bedroom window. ‘Hell,’ he shouts. ‘Hell fire!’
She is 14 years old. She has unicorns and princesses on her curtains, pink and blue. She has grown out of them but her dad has promised her new curtains, yellow ones. She wonders if she’ll get the yellow curtains now.
From the bedroom next to hers, she hears her sister scream. She is three years older, about to go off to university.
Then she sees her mum run outside, wet tea towels in her hands. ‘Get down on the lawn,’ her mum shouts at her dad.
Her dad lies down on the lawn and her mum pushes the wet tea towels against the flames and smouldering clothing. Her dad has stopped screaming and she knows he is dead. His mouth is open; his gums peeled back to show off his yellow teeth.
There is a corpse, with blackened, blistered skin, clothes burnt onto flesh, lying in the middle of the neatly trimmed lawn.
Her mum shakes out one of the tea towels. It is streaked with soot. She lays it over her dad’s face.
The tea towel has rolling green hills and winding blue streams on it, and bares the slogan: ‘Welcome to God’s Own County’.

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Rear Garden: The Cat Who Knew Too Much

Street Cats & Beer Mats

 

 

 

 

Severus House
Severus House – logo – after JL Carr & The Quince Tree Press

 

Executed in black biro and cigarette ash on the reverse of a Yorkshire Blonde (Ossett Brewery) beermat – Benalmedana Pueblo, Spain, March 2017.

 

DSC_0247
Beermat from The Fox, Holgate, York

 

Rear Garden - Rough Sketch on Beer Mat
Rough Sketch for front cover of Rear Garden, or The Cat Who knew Too Much

Black biro and cigarette ash, again on the back of a Yorkshire Blonde.

Rear Garden on the back of a Timothy Taylor Boltmaker beermat, executed in black and green biro, felt tip, and blue and green highlighter pen (Easter 2017, York). I think I might have overdone the colour, hence the B&W version.

Theodore Cat Detective
Rough Sketch for cover of The First of Nine – later developed as the cover of the CreateSpace edition of The First of Nine

Black biro on the back of a Hobgoblin beermat, swiped from The Sun Inn, Acomb, York. Probably sometime in 2015.

This was later developed over Easter 2016.

DSC_0249

 

 

 

 

 

 

Street Cats & Beer Mats