The City of York England
A Phill James Production
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City of York Smartphone Tour Part Two

todoinyork.com City of York England

The Shambles

The Shambles
 
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Heading left along High Petergate, we come to Kings Square and in the top right corner you will find our next landmark. Probably one of the most photographed streets in York, if not the country, is The Shambles. The term shambles denotes a street of butchers. The street may seem very narrow and cramped with buildings almost touching in the middle, but they were designed this way. In the days of no refrigeration, the shade protected the freshly slaughtered meat from the strong sunshine. The animals grazed in the Walmgate area and were taken around the back of The Shambles to be slaughtered. Grossly, the blood would have travelled down the guttering on the street. The Shambles isn’t unique to York, as most settlements would have had a so-called street of butchers.

If you look carefully at some of the shops you can see the wide window ledges where the meat was sold as well as butcher hooks.  Today, you will find some interesting artisan retailers and one of the shops has a Priest Hole that were found in catholic houses where the priest would hide when they were persecuted by law. See if you can find it!

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Thomas Herbert House
 
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At the foot of the Shambles along Pavement, you will see a large timber-framed building currently York Gin. If you can possibly take your mind away from gin for a moment, this historic house belonged to Thomas Herbert who was 1st Baron and personal assistant to King Charles I. This was between 1647 until the king’s execution in 1649.  Thomas Herbert became known for being an English traveller, historian as well as Gentleman of the Bedchamber. This was a Royal appointment, an adviser to the king or queen. 
Lady Pecketts Yard
 
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Just alongside Herbert House you will find Lady Peckett’s yard where you can see a little more of the building. It is not uncommon to find these medieval snickleways (or alleys) in the City of York. Lady Peckett’s is the location of two medieval snickleways that meet, and these were originally Bakehouse Lane and Cheats Lane.  
 
Lady Alice Peckett was the wife of a former Lord Mayor of York who was in office between 1701 and 1702.
All Saints Church Lantern Tower
 
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From Herbert House, looking right we see All Saints Church. Not uncommon in York, you will find these interesting lantern towers where a fire was held at night inside them. All Saint’s Church and St Helen’s Church not far away both have these fantastic lantern towers. It escapes unnoticed today, but in medieval times the entire city was surrounded by the Forest of Galtres that was quite extensive. These burning towers provided a beacon to assist travellers to find the City of York. The forests were often dangerous owing to thieves and occasionally wild animals. 
Merchant Adventurers Hall
 
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Walking down Piccadilly, you can see the Merchant Adventurers Hall, another example of a fantastic timber-framed building. It is classed an an ancient monument and grade I listed. It was one of the first of its kind, constructed in 1357, before many of the craft and trade halls were constructed elsewhere. Today it is open for events as well as the general public and there is also a popular cafe here for both visitors and residents to relax and enjoy. The gardens are just as much of a feature than the building itself. It comprises of the great hall, the undercroft as well as the chapel as pictured here. 
St Mary’s Church Spire
 
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From the Merchant Adventures Hall, cross the road and follow the path part way beside the River Foss. If you walk through the corridor in the Coppergate Centre you will see St Mary’s Church opposite. St Mary’s Church has an interesting spire as it is the tallest in York. Note that we say spire and not tower, as obviously York Minster has the tallest towers in the city. Another feature to this church is that it hosts a fully immersive light show presenting the works of Van Gogh. As most churches do, it derives from the 11th century. John Nevison, a notorious highwayman was hung on the Knavesmire (Racecourse) and buried at St Mary’s. Dick Turpin was also hung on the Knavesmire but he was buried at St George’s Church. 
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York Castle

Clifford’s Tower
 
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Clifford’s Tower is the remnant of one of York’s two castles built at the time of William the Conqueror. York had two castles side by side with the River Ouse flowing between. These castles were constructed in wood, although Clifford’s Tower was later reconstructed in stone at a later date. The castle opposite however was left to ruin. During England’s persecution against the Jews, this castle was sadly a place of massacre in 1190. What we see today is the castle keep (a main living area) sat on a motte. However, in its heyday the castle complex was much more substantial because it stretched over the Eye of York, the Crown Court and the Castle Museum. It was eventually owned by the Clifford family, local wealthy landowners, as a garden piece. This is why it is known as Clifford’s Tower.
The Eye of York
 
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Before 1974 Yorkshire was split in to three ridings that derived from the Viking period. These boundaries of the ridings or districts of Yorkshire intersect in the Eye of York. Today we see a large grass circle with the Castle Museum and Crown Court sat around it. If you time it just right, you may get to sit on the Victorian style Carousel. This area of York has been heavily associated with law and order. Today the Crown Court resides here, but there was also a Women’s Prison and Debtors Prison here at the site of the museum. Prior to this, the castle held prisoners that exist at the same site. 
Castle Museum
 
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If you walk behind and over the River Foss, you can see what used to be the castle complex and part of the castle’s wall. At that time, the Foss was far from canalised as it is today, and William the Conqueror damned up the river to create a fish pool. This filled the moat and the water would have met up with the wall. The Castle Museum is a tour of its own because it has a Victorian Street that has been reconstructed inside brick by brick. This amazing street is known as Kirkgate. 
York Crown Court
 
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York Crown Court was part of three buildings that were constructed early 18th century forming a U shape. The large building on the west side (or on the right hand side) is what is now York Crown Court but originally the assize courts. It was designed by architect John Carr. The Assizes were criminal courts that exist in the British isles before these were superseded in 1971 owing to the Courts Act. 
Castlegate
 
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Castlegate was the original street to the castle and again it approximately follows the course of a Roman road. You will also see St Mary’s Church once again. The Roman Road ran from the fortress of Eboracum towards the River Ouse that merges with the River Foss close by. During excavations, remains of Roman dwelling have been discovered here. This is a constant feature of York as it spans many era’s and excavations uncover the layers of history beneath the ground. In the Georgian period, the street was a very well to do place to live, and Fairfax House (open to the public) is just one example of Georgian living.
Viking Excavation Site
 
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Back in the Coppergate Centre however, an excavation revealed thousands of artefacts pertaining to the Viking Period. Therefore the layers of Roman and Viking pasts merge here. The find was so substantial that much of these artefacts are on display in the Jorvik Viking Centre, time travel to the Viking period. Between the Roman and Viking periods, the angles arrived and controlled much of the area. At busy seasons, the Jorvik Viking Centre may have daunting queues, but they are worth enduring for for the experience that follows. This is one of York’s top tourist attractions so it can get very well supported. The Coppergate Dig began in 1976 and finished in 1981. The dig also included beneath Lloyds Bank on Pavement.  This endeavour catalogued a staggering 40,000 items. 

St Helen's Square & Stonegate

The Mansion House
 
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Turing left and heading upwards upon Coppergate, we can reach the junction and turn right for Spurriergate and Coney Street. Coney Street originally was split into three. However, if we walk along Spurriergate and Coney Street we reach St Helen’s Square. On the left you will find the Mansion House, a large red and cream structure that has seen many Lord Mayor’s of York. This is a lavish residence that was constructed in the early Georgian style. It is the earliest purpose built residence for the Lord Mayor in existence today and took 7 years to construct between 1725 and 1732. It’s thought that the frontage of the house was a design by William Etty – haven’t we followed his path today? Although it may have come from a kind of ‘pattern book’ that was common at this time. The Mansion House is open to the public and it is really worth having a look. 
Roman Road & Roman Wall
 
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In the same square you will see a large building that currently hosts Harkers Bar. You will see a plaque for the Praetorian Gate that once existed in the area. The wall ran from the river towards where the minster resides and Stonegate was the main road to the Roman headquarters. Part of the wall still exists in Museum Gardens, the multangular tower that we saw at the outset of this tour. So again, we’re peeling away at the layers of history to reveal York’s Roman beginnings. 
Harkers Bar York (Sight of a principle Roman Gateway)
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St Helen’s Church
 
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We spoke of St Helen’s Church earlier when we referred to the lantern towers that guided travellers to the city at night. Facing the Mansion House you can see St Helen’s Church opposite. The churchyard spread across were we stand at the time it was constructed.  The church however was constructed in the 1400’s and it’s unusual because many churches were built in the 11th century. It was declared redundant in 1551 and partially demolished.   It was then reconstructed in 1857 and it is what we see today. 
Betty’s Tea Rooms
 
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If you are predominantly a tea drinker you are more than likely going to be looking towards Betty’s Tea Rooms. It was established by a young baker and confectioner from Switzerland. He had the dream of creating a business in England. It really is a staggering story because initially he found himself broke, jobless as well as cold at one of Bradford’s railway stations only to open his first tea room later in 1909. Today, Betty’s Tea Rooms exist in Harrogate, York, Ilkely, Harlow Carr and Northallerton.  You could take a break here in your discovery of York if you wish, but we don’t have much further to go!
Stonegate
 
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We have already mentioned how Stonegate was a main route to the Roman headquarters, but it was also a useful road in establishing York Minster. Limestone and other materials were delivered along the river bank and taken up along Stonegate and used for construction. Stonegate was also the birthplace of Guy Fawkes who attempted to destroy the Houses of Parliament, unsuccessfully.  Again, we see the layers of history, Roman, construction of the Minster and Guy Fawkes, and we see a little more about him shortly. Much of the street was under the land ownership of the Minster close by.
Petergate
 
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Stonegate intersects with High Petergate and Minster Gates that we encountered earlier. Low Petergate can be found between Bootham Bar and the Minster. Stonegate and Petergate are bristling with independent retailers who specialise in their field of expertise. It follows the original via principalis of Roman Eboracum. It ran from the Porta Principalis Dextra (the gateway that exist before Bootham Bar) to Porta Principalis Sinistra which is now the site of King’s Square. It’s believed that the Minster had a large church yard that extended towards Petergate. When the Romans departed it is thought that the street was immediately disused until the first form of York Minster was constructed (in wood).
Guy Fawkes Inn
 
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Walking towards Low Petergate and the junction for the Minster we can see further signs of Guy Fawkes who was also known as Guido Fawkes when he fought alongside the Spanish. In 1604 he became associated with a group of English Catholics who planned to assassinate King James who was devout protestant, and replace him with the daughter of their leader Robert Catesby. Thomas Percy, one of the co-conspirators purchased a house near to the Houses of Parliament where he employed Fawkes under the pseudonym of John Johnson. They proceeded to dig a tunnel from the house to parliament in order to plant the gunpowder. Guy Fawkes Inn is a place to stay but it was also the home of Guy Fawkes who was baptised just over the road at St Michael le Belfrey church. Of course, every November 5th, Bonfire Night is observed to reflect the foiling of the plot to destroy the Houses of Parliament even though most individuals probably wish the he was successful!
York City Library
 
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Before we move on with our circular tour of York’s historic landmarks we are going to turn left towards the crossroads and the gates to the Museum Gardens where we first started. The next structure is that of the City of York Library. It is relatively modern construction built in 1927. The library prior to this was what is now the York Dungeon attraction, The Victorian Institute of Learning. You can actually use the path at the left of the building to receive views of St Leonard’s Hospital, or at least the remaining chapel undercroft. The library not only provides books and archives, but also room hire and a cafe too. Smaller local libraries also exist in the York area that lend books to local residents. 
 
City of York War Memorial
 
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We are now going to walk over Lendal Bridge and at the opposite side we can find some steps down to the River Ouse. Walking away from Lendal Bridge we come to a small park on the left. These are Memorial Gardens where you will discover York’s war memorial designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. He also designed the North Eastern Railways War Memorial too. At the time, there was debate over the design as well as the location as they were too close to the city wall as well as each other. Today, the City War Memorial reflects on the lives of those who died during the Great War.
 
George Leeman/Hudson Statue
 
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Coming out of the Memorial Gardens and walking towards the intersection of Leeman Road and Station Rise, you will see the statue of George Leeman who was a lawyer, railwayman, and Liberal from the City of York. However, the statue was supposed to be that of Railway King George Hudson. He was disgraced after persuading investors to invest in the railway, promising much in the way of returns. However, these promised returns never materialised. Therefore, instead of the statue having the head of George Hudson, the same statue came to have the head of George Leeman instead. A George Leeman head on a George Hudson body!
Cholera Burial Site
 
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At the time of a cholera episode in York’s history, there were around 25,000 people living locally. However, 450 of these residents began to suffer the effects of cholera and this cost the lives of 185 victims. Carefully crossing the road using the pedestrian crossing, you can see grave stones belonging to the victims. At the time, it was assumed that cholera was something that could be contracted from others, but in fact is was the dirty water and poor sanitation that was the cause. York was the 85th location in the country to endure cholera owing to widespread squalid living conditions at that time. 
York Railway Station and Royal York Hotel
 
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Granted, a railway station may not spring immediately to mind as a tourist attraction. Just over the road stands York’s railway station that was opened in 1877. You will also see the former Royal York Hotel that was added shortly afterwards. The stonework isn’t the common magnesian limestone you find in the area, but more of a darker orangey colour. This is because the stone came from Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast.
 
 
York railway station was designed by railway architects Thomas Prosser and William Peachey. In engineering terms, it was a marvel at the time of construction because all of the buildings, platforms and large glazed roof all followed the curve of the tracks running through them. At this time, it was the largest railway station in the world but sadly no longer. 
 
 
If you travelled by train, you may have noticed the plaques on the concourse giving you information about the station, employed by the York Civic Trust. The York Civic Trust have mounted informative plaques around the city and it’s a good thing to look out for these.
 
York was a huge railway centre and in 1840, the first train ran from York to London from a single wooden platform found on Queen Street. By 1850, there were around 13 trains a day running to the capital. Staggeringly, after the second major railway station was built, the line was carrying 294 trains on a daily basis. 

You do not require a platform ticket to access the platforms in York, so we strongly recommend having a walk around the station. Three features that you find together is the footbridge, original signal box and overhanging station clock. 

The bridge incidentally, takes you to the National Railway Museum as well as the platforms. The NRM is a heritage railway museum that hosts the record breaking Mallard (126 mph), the only Japanese bullet train outside of Japan, the streamlined Coronation Scot, a mock of George Stephenson’s Rocket and much much more. This museum is free entry and you can leave a donation if you desire to. 

Before we close our tour, we also recommend walking to the south of the station where you may discover some heritage locomotives. On our visit, we discovered two class 37 locomotives used for special charter trains at the weekend. These locomotives were built in the 1960’s and there are only a handful left on the network. 

The large brick building behind stands one of twelve operating centres that control the entire rail network. 

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Bar Convent
 
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Walking further along Queen Street towards Micklegate Bar, you will meet Blossom Street. Facing you, you will discover The Bar Convent. Catholicism was once punishable by death, so this convent was kept extremely secret. It was also the first school for girls only in York. Therefore, this building has been York’s best kept secret since it began in 1686!
Blossom Street and The Mount
 
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This is optional but you may want to walk along Blossom Street and The Mount, later becoming Tadcaster Road. This is the route of a Roman road that headed to what is now Tadcaster, a nearby market town. Today it is adorned with some grand Georgian properties and it has always been an affluent area. Blossom Street is the site of a Roman cemetery as they used to bury their dead on roadsides, possibly so that they could hear the continuation of every day life.
Knavesmire
 
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Again this is optional as it involves further walking. Having said this you can also board a bus here too. The Knavesmire is the home of York Racecourse but it was also where criminals would be executed such as Dick Turpin. Despite the place of public execution, very little has changed since the 17th century except for the construction of the racecourse. Today it is a popular open space to take your dog (as well as your horse) for a walk!
Terry’s of York
 
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Without a doubt, York is famous for its chocolate production with the Rowntree, Terry and Craven factories producing confectionary. Just astride from York Racecourse is what remains of the Terry’s chocolate factory, famous for its Chocolate Orange. It has recently been converted into apartments but you can still see the clock tower on the structure.

This concludes our City of York Smartphone Tour, but you may want to try the others if you have any energy remaining!

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