The City of York England
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City of York Smartphone Tour

todoinyork.com City of York England

City of York Smartphone Tour

The City of York Smartphone Tour is a simple guided tour around the City of York. The tour reveals where to look and concisely describes the historic landmarks that you discover - all from your smartphone with no apps to install! We begin our tour at the gates to the Museum Gardens situated on Museum Street. Please see the Google Map below.

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Sightseeing in the City of York
Historic York

The City of York has an enormous history, from the Romans, Angles, Vikings, Normans, Georgians, Victorians through to the modern day. This history is reflected in the cities architecture. Let's discover it today!

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Sightseeing in the City of York
York Castles

Clifford's Tower is the remnant of a Norman castle keep. The two castles sat side by side with the River Ouse flowing between, originally constructed in wood.

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Sightseeing in the City of York
York's Streets

Around the city you will see fascinating architecture that reflects various eras. The Shambles consists of overhanging timber-framed buildings that cast shade on the butchers stalls below.

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Stunning

York goes beyond cathedrals, towers, walls and cobbled streets. York also features stunning stately homes such as the Treasurer's House, Mansion House, Fairfax House as well as a plethora of grand architecture to explore and admire.

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York's Industry

York has been the birthplace of three family confectioners, Rowntree's, Terry's and Craven's. York has also played a major part in the development of the railways too!

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Notable Characters

The City of York has been the birthplace and home of several historical characters including Dick Turpin the notorious highwayman, Guy Fawkes who failed in his attempt to blow up Parliament and more!

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Introduction to the City of York Smartphone Tour

The smartphone tours have been designed to either read or play the audio file as you greet each place of interest. For your convenience, each smartphone tour has been spit into two parts in case you want to take a break part way through. Simply follow each route and learn more about the historic City of York! All content on todoinyork.com is free to read, watch and listen to!

Museum Gardens

Museum Gardens

City of York Smartphone Tour

A city park may seem an unusual place to begin a tour of the City of York, but in fact the Museum Gardens consist of many historical structures concentrated in one area.  It is home to an abbey, a Roman wall and tower, one of the first purpose built museums, a gatehouse, a timber-framed guest house, a former medieval hospital, a purpose built observatory, as well as an abbots lodging. All these are situated in an historic botanical garden that is popular with visitors and residents. If you arrive at the right time, you may also witness the RSPB featuring some birds of prey too!

 

The Museum Gardens is a historic botanical garden that is 10 acres in size that meets the River Ouse. The area was originally the grounds of St Mary’s Abbey. The gardens and Yorkshire Museum were created in the 1830’s by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. The gardens are a huge green space with vibrant beds as well as a story telling area.

St Leonard’s Hospital
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 

As you walk through the gates to the park you can see what is left of the largest medieval hospital in England, St Leonard’s Hospital. However, it wasn’t what we might imagine a hospital to be. The remnants of the structure (that you can enter) is part of the chapels undercroft. The hospital was so large that it formed part of the Minster’s grounds and covered where the Theatre Royal stands today. Sadly, the hospital was dissolved in the suppression of the monasteries under Henry VIII in 1539. 

 

Multangular Tower
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 

Immediately next door to St Leonard’s stands what is left of the original Roman wall, although the Roman stoneworks is below the orange band that you see (the smaller stones). We cover this more in the York City Walls Smartphone Tour.

 

If you follow the path around the tower you will see a path through the wall on the other side. This takes you to the reverse of the tower. 

In its heyday the tower was a roomed structure, and sadly this is the only original Roman tower left as the others were demolished by the Vikings. You can see from the ruins the form that the tower would have taken.

 

You get to receive further views of St Leonard’s Hospital here by walking up to it from the other side. You can also follow the path to the city library to get a view of the wall and window. 

The Yorkshire Museum
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 

The Yorkshire Museum is one of the first purpose built museums in England and opened in 1830 to house the collections of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.  Its first owner was the famous geologist who was known as John Phillips.  You can see a plaque at the gatehouse we visit shortly. The Yorkshire Museum still contains many collections and exhibitions today and is one of York’s top attractions.

St Mary’s Abbey
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 

Although a ruin, St Mary’s Abbey is the most predominant structure in the Museum Gardens. It was the largest, the most powerful and richest Benedictine abbeys in England.  It began at the time of William the Conqueror (1066) when he wanted to solidify is presence in the north of England. Sadly, the abbey was dissolved in 1539 owing to the suppression of the monasteries when Henry VIII reformed the church. Many of the abbey’s in the country constructed before this time are ruins as they were stripped of their roofs and largely left to ruin. It is recommended to walk between the abbey and museum to get an idea on the sheer size of the structure.

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William Etty Grave
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 

Although it has been covered up of late, you may see the grave of William Etty (his statue is found in Exhibition Square) in the churchyard of St Olave’s Church. He was a Victorian painter who painted nudes in historical scenes.  He also fought against the Corporation of York to protect the walls from being demolished as it was considered they hampered the flow of traffic.

The Abbey Gatehouse
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 

Returning back to the path that cuts through the middle of the park you and turn right, you will find the gatehouse for the abbey. This is known as St Mary’s Lodge and its the current offices for the York Museum Trust.  The walls were added later in 1260 and they came in particularly useful when it came to privacy and protecting the abbey and grounds. The poor were to claim alms at the gatehouse. 

St Olave’s Church
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 

Walking through the gateway and turning right you certainly cannot miss St Olave’s Church. It was built by an Earl of Northumbria and was dedicated to St Olaf of Norway. He was the warrior King of Norway who converted Norway to Christianity. As mentioned, the churchyard features the grave of William Etty and the church bells are somewhat historic!

Abbey Walls
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
You may want to follow the walls of the abbey and take a look at the towers. The tower by the River Ouse acted as a toll system for the abbey. The opposite direction takes you to  Hamlet of St Mary’s corner tower and following the wall further takes you to Exhibition Square. 
 
Both the Abbey and the City of York had a toll system that at one point angered the citizens so much so that it even lead to rioting and death. The River Ouse complete the protective wall of the abbey and you can see the end tower by the Ouse today. This was where a toll system for the abbey exist in its heyday. 
The Hospitium
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Heading back into the Museum Gardens, the timber framed building at the foot of the park, The Hospitium, never escapes unnoticed. It is thought that this building was a kind of guest accommodation for visitors to the abbey, people who were not permitted to reside in the abbey itself. It is now in possession of the York Museums Trust and can be hired for events. You will notice the arches on the left that was a boathouse extension added later. This may denote that the building had a warehouse function as well. 
 
The River Ouse was less canalised at this time so the water would have come further into the gardens. The arches were known as watergates. 
The Observatory
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
One last structure in the Museum Gardens is the York Observatory. It was constructed between 1832 and 1833 and is the oldest working observatory in Yorkshire. Thomas Cooke was a York man who constructed a 4″ refractor telescope that was installed at a later date. There are two further astronomers from York who became well known. In the 1780’s John Goodricke and Edward Pigott became noted in the study of stars. John Goodricke was the first Englishman to discover a comet and have it named after him. Thomas Cooke went on to create the largest telescope in the world during his lifetime.
 
We are all familiar with time, such as GMT Greenwich Meantime. However, in 1811 a clock was installed that measured time by the position of stars. This clock is always four minutes and twenty seconds behind Greenwich Meantime
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The Kings Manor
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Taking the path that runs beside the The Multangular Tower and wall will bring you down a narrow lane to Exhibition Square.  On the left of you resides the Kings Manor that was the home of the abbots of St Mary’s Abbey. Today it is part of York University and you can study archeology here. The building has been extended twice and it was spared during the Suppression of the Monasteries as King Henry VIII admired the building.
 
 
In 1539 at the time of the reformation of the church, Henry VIII instructed that it should become the seat of the Council of the North. Although the original building originates from the 15th century, it is thought that an abbots lodging has existed since the 11th century. 
York Art Gallery
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Another historic building as well as one of York’s top attractions is the York Art Gallery. It was built and opened in 1879 as a venue for the Yorkshire Fine Art and Industrial Exhibition. It was the second exhibition to be held and the monies gained from the first exhibition went towards creating the York Art Gallery
 
The site of Exhibition Square was originally a garden before it was cleared for the construction of the venue. The gardens were known as ‘Bearparks Garden’. Sadly the building suffered bomb damage during the Second World War when the city was attacked by air. 
 
We mentioned William Etty earlier and this is where you will find his statue. You can find out more about him in our York City Walls Smartphone Tour

York Minster

York Minster
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
From Exhibition Square we now walk under the arch of Bootham Bar, the gateway on the city walls opposite. Following Petergate which was a street packed with shops and stalls approaching the Minster, we can walk to this enormous cathedral. Although it’s much easier to call it York Minster, its actual name is Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York. You can see why we prefer to call it York Minster! It took 250 years to build between 1220 and 1472. This is because it is multigenerational and parts have been modified and added to over this period of time. For example, the chapter house was added around 1260. You can play the sound of York Minster’s hourly chime below – listen out for Great Peter the 10 ton bell!
 
The Rose Window is the circular window situated in the south extension under the central tower.  Owing to a fire in the nineteen eighties, the window had to be restored. Rose Windows are not unique to York Minster, they are circular windows that appear on Gothic style buildings. 
 
The front of the minster is the west, the rear the east. So the Rose Window is situated on the southern side. You can walk all the way around the Minster and the north transept can be seen from Dean’s Park. 
 
Although the glass shattered in the heat of the fire, the Rose Window dates back to 1500 and represents the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. 
Roman Column
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Also found in Minster Yard is a Roman Column that presents itself in front of the Minster School. This is not its original position but it does testify to the areas Roman history when a Roman headquarters existed here.  The headquarters was built by the Legio IX Hispana, an imperial Roman army. 
Amazingly, the column was discovered in 1969 underneath the Minster during an excavation. By 1971 it was erected in its current position as a reminder of York’s Roman past. 
Constantine the Great
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Constantine the Great (also known as Constantine I) was the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity although he was a pagan for much of his life. You can see his statue outside the south transept of York Minster.   The sculpture was created by Philip Jackson and unveiled in 1998. In 2016, astonishingly, the sword was stolen. 
 
In AD306 he became a Roman emperor and this unveiling commemorates his accession. You will notice an inscription at the foot of the sculpture which is pertaining to a legend. Translated it reads “Constantine by this sign conquer”.  The legend refers to Constantine looking up to the sun while marching with his army. He was allegedly to have seen a bright cross above the sun. 
Minster School
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Minster School was actually a so-called “song school” that was founded in 627 by Paulinus of York who was the first Archbishop of York. Of course, the Minster was built much later, although previous and much smaller places of worship exist before it. The school was refounded in 1903. Out of 180 students, 40 became choristers for York Minster. 
 
In 2020, the school sadly faced closure owing to a lack of funding. The school had been funded by York Minster through opening the minster to tourists. As we know, Covid 19 lockdowns prevented visitors from enjoying the minster and therefore the funds were paused. 
Great East Window
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
There are many attractive windows that are titled in York Minster, but by far the largest is that of the Great East Window. It consists of 300 stained glass panels and its the largest expanse of stained glass in Britain. It had been constructed between 1405 to 1408.
 
You may like to visit York Minster to take a look at the stained glass from inside. During the Second World War, the glass was carefully removed to prevent bomb damage. 
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York Minster Police
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
This may come as a surprise, but did you know that York Minster has its own policing staff? The Liberty of St Peter and Peter Prison was established all the way back in 1106 and employed their own officers.  In 1829 after a fire struck the Minster, an order followed to maintain a watch over the cathedral day and night by employed officers.  The Liberty of St Peter was dissolved ten years later. The first record of Minster Police was back in 1855, and the Minster Police still exist today to keep a watchful eye and to enforce security. Their role is very specialised and they are very well trained.
Chapter House Street, Ogleforth and Aldwark
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
When we follow the path around to the other side of the Minster you will notice a narrow lane known as Chapter House Street. This overlies the original Roman road that lead to the Roman headquarters. There was also a Roman gateway not far from Monk Bar the medieval gateway. Adjoining Ogleforth and Aldwark are also Roman roads, and in fact, Aldwark is more than likely the oldest street in York.
Treasurer’s House
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Heading back the way we came, you probably had noticed this beautify stately home, The Treasurer’s House. It is open to the public and we strongly recommend a visit. This structure was quickly upgraded by Frank Green into a lavish show home in preparation from a visit by Edward VII. It is not the only property that Frank Green played an artistic hand in renovating. The house is an enormous attraction by all means, but the surrounding gardens are also equally attractive and provides an idyllic corner in the City of York.
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Chapter House
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Walking around to the other side of the Minster and entering Dean’s Park you can see the impressive octagonal Chapter House. It is even more impressive to view the Chapter House internally. It was built around 1260 and like the minster itself, is a fine example of gothic architecture. The Chapter House is not unique to York Minster, they were used broadly for holding meetings. For example, Lincoln Cathedral also has a chapter house similar to York Minster.
 
It contains some of the Minsters finest carvings, and the ceiling inside is extremely impressive to say the least. The best place to see it externally is from Dean’s Park and you may also want to look at another large expanse of glasswork.
Five Sisters Window
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
The Five Sisters Window is a grand window that you can see further along the north transept of the Minster. It is somewhat rare and unique because it is the only window that commemorates the British women who died during the Great War. In other words, this window is a war memorial. Interestingly, the glass was removed during the war to protect it from zeppelin raids.
 
It dates back to the mid 1200’s and again it is even more impressive from the inside. 
Minster Gates
 
City of York Smartphone Tour
 
Close to the Roman column you will notice a very short street that links to Petergate and Stonegate. It is fittingly named Minster Gates because this is one of the four original locations where gates to the minster were installed. In fact this was the principle gate to York Minster. Sir Francis Drake referenced these gates back in 1736. It was known as Bookbinder Alley and Bookland Lane owing to the book binding trade found here. You will see a small figure of Minerva who was a Greek Goddess of Learning and Wisdom.
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