Micklegate Bar, York England

Micklegate Bar Audio Guide

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Micklegate Bar Quick Facts

  • Micklegate Bar is the southern gateway to the city and is situated on a straight Roman road now known as Blossom Street.
  • It’s position made it the royal entrance to the city for visiting monarchs.
  • Monarch’s visiting the city had to ask the Lord Mayor’s permission before passing through the gate.
  • It was also known as Traitors Gate because traitors heads were boiled in tar and hung on the gateway as a warning. One of these heads belonged to the Duke of York.

Where to Find Micklegate Bar

Micklegate Bar was a prominent gateway into the city. On the approach to the bar is a stretch of straight road known as Blossom Street and The Mount. Straight roads are typical for a Roman road such as this one. Today they are adorned with properties of Georgian and Victorian periods, but even in Roman times it was one of the most affluent areas of the city.  Also typical to Romans is how they buried there dead alongside roads and this Roman road is no exception to the tradition. This could possibly be because they wanted the dead to hear the living going on with their every day lives. 

Micklegate York looking down from the rear of the gateway
Micklegate York looking down from the rear of the gateway

In The Mount area in 2004, building work uncovered a grimly 80 bodies in the gardens of a 18th century mansion home. It is thought that the bodies were those of professional fighters who fought to provide entertainment in Roman times. These gladiators were brought to Britain from across the Mediterranean, but the amphitheatre in which they fought has never been found to this date. 

The name “Mickegate” derives from the word “Micklelith” which means “great street”.  Due to its south facing position, it is noted to be the front gate to the city.   It was also regarded as the Royal Entrance and interestingly, every monarch had to ask the Lord Mayor’s permission to enter the city.  However, Henry VIII on his second visit forsook this ceremony as well as Queen Victoria. Even Elizabeth II on her Diamond Jubilee celebrations visit York and asked the Lord Mayor’s permission to enter the city! Richard II is said to have given the city a sword from his side in 1389 establishing a tradition of monarchs’ touching the city’s sword to confirm the gift before entering the city.   The only two monarchs that failed to follow the tradition were Queen Victoria and Henry VIII. 

Micklegate Bar that we see today dates back to the 14th century that replaced an earlier 12th century structure. Like Monk, Bootham and Walmgate Bar’s it would have had a barbican attached to the front of the structure as well as a very heavy portcullis. Until the 20th century the upper floors were inhabited but now belong to the Henry VII Experience relating to the Richard III Experience at Monk Bar.

Micklegate Bar is also known as “Traitors Gate” as severed heads were boiled in tar and stuck on spikes at the top of the gate. This was to warn people coming into the City of York.  One of which was the Duke of York who was captured during the War of the Roses.