Drawing = Seeing?


King’s Manor, York


It’s been a while, guys… turns out third year is pretty busy, who knew?

But my Visual Media essay is now out of the way, so I get to make a happy return to blogging. Since writing about the Bar Convent, I’ve been looking a bit more closely at my surroundings as I walk through York. One building in particular that I spend a lot of time in is King’s Manor. This building houses the University of York’s archaeology department, and is situated on Exhibition Square, between the Museum Gardens and the Art Gallery. It was one of the reasons I originally chose to come to York – what archaeology student doesn’t want to study in a Grade I listed medieval building?

The drawing above shows the main entrance into King’s Manor. It’s a bit of a work in progress, but will demonstrate a few of the points I’ve been thinking about recently.

With digital cameras becoming cheaper, and the quality of our phone cameras improving so rapidly, we can take photos whenever and wherever we want – drawing almost seems a bit superfluous. However, I would argue that drawing gives you a much deeper understanding than simply taking a photograph. Drawing forces you to observe. To draw something you must examine details as they really appear – which is often very different to what we would expect! The brain likes to trick us, missing out details that can be important.

It took me a while to draw King’s Manor, and it’s not nearly as accurate as a photo would be. However, through drawing the building, I noticed a lot of things that I hadn’t seen before – even though I’d been walking past them regularly for the last two years!


Modifications to King’s Manor


Outlined in orange are two examples of surviving brick relieving arches. These show the positions of the building’s original windows of 1480, which have since been filled in and replaced by new windows in very different positions. As you walk past, they’re not particularly noticeable, as the brick surrounding them looks exactly the same – just arranged slightly differently. I’m not sure what the lines in the purple boxes are, but I’d guess they’re something similar, possibly another outline of a previous window.

The blue line shows a separation between two different building phases. Below is a stone plinth. This was disturbed in the 17th century by the creation of a new doorway, now the main entrance that we use today.

To be honest, I’m impressed that King’s Manor is still standing, given the amount of changes it’s been subjected to! Some very detailed information about the modification of King’s Manor throughout its history can be found here.


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