Pictures of York England - A Gem of a City

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    York's City Walls

    York City Walls
    ••• York City Walls. These scenic Medieval walls, built on Roman foundations, are the longest in England and circumnavigate the city of York. Getty Images

    Roman, Viking, Medieval and Modern York in Pictures

    The small northern English city of York wears its 2,000 years of history lightly. As seen in these pictures of York, the city's Roman, Viking and Medieval history, its relics, monuments and architectural treasures are woven into the fabric of everyday modern life.

    Markets in the same squares and stalls they have occupied for hundreds of years sell the latest goods - everything from fruit and vegetables to snazzy hats, designer kitchen utensils and music DVDs. Surprising views of one of Europe's greatest Gothic Cathedrals crop up in the most unexpected places. Streets and lanes are scattered with exceptional black and white, half-timbered buildings. And smart jewelry boutiques fill shops on a street mentioned in the Domesday Book that has been a commercial center for 900 years.


    More pictures of York

    Built on Roman foundations, York's Medieval City Walls are, at 3.4...MORE kilometers, the longest in England. A leisurely circuit of York takes about two hours.

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    Micklegate Bar - An Ancient Entrance to the City of York

    Micklegate Bar
    ••• Mickelgate Bar was once the most important toll gate through York's City Walls. It is the traditional entry for kings and queens. In a ceremony dating back to Richard II in 1389, monarchs touch the state sword when crossing Micklegate Bar. britainonview

    Micklegate Bar is, by tradition, one of the most important, ceremonial entrances to York, through which Kings and Queens enter the city.

    In York, "bars" are gates through the city walls and "gates" are streets. It's a bit confusing but you quickly get used to it. The terminology dates from the days when the entrances to York were barred by toll collectors.

    Since 1389, in a tradition established by King Richard II, monarchs visiting York have entered through Micklegate, touching the state sword as they cross.

    Traitors heads were once displayed on spikes above Micklegate Bar to discourage rebellions. The heads sometimes remained on the spikes over the Bar for years. Among the traitors accorded this gruesome honor were:

    • Sir Henry Percy, known as Harry Hotspur, who led a rebellion against Henry IV in 1403
    • Lord Scrope, who conspired to assassinate Henry V in 1415
    • Richard, Duke of York, a pretender to the English throne during the Wars of the Roses, he was killed in battle in...MORE 1460 and his head displayed in 1461, with a paper crown. His son, however, eventually secured the throne as Edward IV.
    • Thomas Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland, a Catholic nobleman during the Protestant Reformation in the reign of Elizabeth I, who joined the northern rising of the earls, was captured in Durham and beheaded in York in 1572.
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    Walking the Walls for Some of the Best Views of York and York Minster

    York Minster from the City Walls
    ••• York's Medieval walls, built on Roman foundations, are the longest in England. Circumnavigating York on the city walls is a great way to get your bearings and enjoy some of the best views of York Minster. britainonview

    At least 2.5 million people walk along York's Medieval Walls every year, talking in fantastic views along its 3.4 km distance.

    It takes about two hours to circumnavigate York along it's beautifully preserved Medieval walls. The City Walls have five main "bars" or gateways, a Victorian gateway, a "postern" or small entrance, and 45 towers. Someone has taken the trouble to estimate the total weight of the wall at 100,000 metric tonnes. After asking myself, how did they do that, I had to also ask, why would anyone bother? Nevermind. It's a great walk with terrific views.

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    The Shambles - A Typical Medieval Shopping Street

    The Shambles, York
    ••• The Shambles in York is a street of superlatives - one of Europe's oldest and best preserved streets and also one of England's most photographed. © Ferne Arfin

    The Shambles, one of the most photographed streets in Britain, is considered one of the best preserved Medieval shopping streets in Europe. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book, recording its use for retail activities 900 years ago.

    None of the original shop fronts have survived from medieval times, but many of the buildings have wooden shelves or wide windowsills left from the days when cuts of meat were sold from open windows.

    The street is short and so narrow in places that you could probably reach out from one building and touch one on the other side. Many visitors assume the structures tilt toward each other because of their great age. In fact, the Shambles was made narrow to keep the meat sold there out of direct sunlight.

    Nevertheless, it was a dangerous and unhealthy place in the Middle Ages, and probably a hot spot for the periodic outbreaks of plague.

    Today the Shambles is lined with cafes, small boutiques and people with cameras.

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    Medieval Carvings and Ships Figureheads in York

    Medieval figures in York
    ••• Carvings for Good Fortune or as a Sign of a Trade Medieval carvings and figurines decorate buildings and archways in York. The little devil, near the entrance to a doorway on Stonegate indicates the workshop of a printer. britainonview/Doug McKinlay

    Throughout the streets of York, buildings are decorated with unusual gargoyles and figureheads. Some, like the ship's figurehead on a York teashop in Stonegate may have hinted at the tea trade of the owners. The carving of Minerva on Petergate was a symbol of music and drama.


    The Little Devil

    The fiery little horned imp on the corner of 33 Stonegate was not a sign of evil doings on the premises but was an indication of a print shop. Traditionally, the printer's apprentice and assistant, who ran around the shop carrying hot metal type, was known as "The Printer's Devil." The lever used to apply pressure to a printing press was also called that because it sometimes snapped back dangerously, sending the printer and his apprentice across the room - or worse.

    Because of its ancient buildings and their interesting gargoyles and details, Stonegate is one of York's most photographed streets.

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    York Minster Seen From a Lane

    York Minster seen from a lane
    ••• The way that York Minster suddenly appears in sunlight around the bend of a shady medieval lane lets you imagine how important the Minster was in the lives of ordinary people 600 years ago and more. © Ferne Arfin

    Startling views of The Minster frequently emerge from the darkness of a lane.

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    View of The West Door of Medieval York Cathedral from Preceptors Court

    View of The West Front of York Cathedral
    ••• View of the west door of York Cathedral from Preceptors Court, one of the York snickelways. ©Ferne Arfin

    Preceptors Court is one of York's shadowy alleys, known as snickleways or ginnels. Find your way there and you're rewarded with one of the best views of the the West Face of York Minster.

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    The Treasurer's House - A Ghostly Hot Spot in York

    The Treasurer's House
    ••• The Treasurer's House in York was the home of the Minster treasurers, from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Reputedly haunted, it is the site of several famous sitings of ghostly Roman soldiers. © Ferne Arfin

    York claims to be one of the most haunted cities in England.And one of York's most famous hauntings, took place in the Treasurer's House.

    The Treasurer's House was originally built to house the treasurers of York Minster. Between 1897 and 1930 it was owned and restored by a wealthy local industrialist, Frank Green. In it, he housed his collections, a mixture of genuine 17th and 18th century antiques, reproductions and fakes.

    Walking through the house, now owned by the National Trust, one can admire its architectural features and its lovely walled garden, but the overall impact is a bit like walking through a theatrical set. Different rooms reflect different periods of Green's interest. There are not quite enough "props" not enough things to make it feel like the home it actually was.


    Maybe It's The Ghosts

    In 1953, while working on repairs in the cellar, a young workman heard the sound of a trumpet. While he watched - probably frozen with fear (or maybe legless...MORE with beer) - a Roman soldier's helmet, followed by about two troups, came through the wall. He reported them carrying round shields, lances and short swords.

    Apparently they looked tired and battle weary - but the most interesting feature of this sighting is that their lower legs weren't visible. It was as though they were walking on a surface below the cellar of the house.

    It was only much later, when excavations were conducted that it was discovered the house had been built across a Roman Road. And that road was 18 inches below the cellar floor! The apparitions of the Roman soldiers, with their 4th century round shields, have been seen on several other occasions.

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    The Guy Fawkes Connection - St. Michel-le-Belfry Church

    St. Michael-le-Belfry Church in York, where Guy Fawkes was baptized.
    ••• St. Michael-le-Belfry Church in York, where Guy Fawkes was baptized. ©Ferne Arfin

    The infamous Guy Fawkes remembered with fireworks every November 5, was a native son of York. He was baptized here, in the shadow of York Minster.

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    The Mansion House, Home of York's Lord Mayor

    The Mansion House, York
    ••• The Mansion House is the home of the Lord Mayor of York. It is a repository of a fine collection of civic silver and regalia and is open for tours. York's Mansion House predates London's by several years. © Ferne Arfin

    Considered one of York's architectural masterpieces, the Mansion House contains an extensive collection of civic regalia, artifiacts, silver, paintings and furniture. Though it is now the home of the Lord Mayor, it is open for guided tours every Friday and Saturday at 11:00am and 2:00pm, from the first weekend in March to the last weekend before Christmas.

    • Mansion House
    • St. Helens Square, York Y01 9QL England
    • Telephone: +44 (0)1904 552036
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    The Hospitium, York

    The York Hospitium
    ••• The 14th century Hospitium, in York's Museum Gardens, is one of the oldest surviving half-timbered buildings in York. It was originally a guest house for St. Mary's Abbey, the ruins of which are nearby. ©Ferne Arfin

    The Hospitium is typical of the picturesque 14th Century listed buildings that are part of York's everyday fabric. Located in the middle of York's Museum Gardens, it is one of York's oldest half-timbered buildings yet it is passed, without a second thought by hundreds of locals who criss-cross the park every day.

    Built as a guest house for a nearby Abbey, now in ruins, it's used today for exhibitions, conferences, wedding receptions and seminars.

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    The Half-Timbered Barley Hall, Visited By Our Friend From the North

    The Barley Hall
    ••• The Barley Hall, built and occupied between the 14th and 15th centuries was hidden for more than 500 years under derelict workshops and storehouses. When a derelict office building was demolished, it was discovered in 1984. © Ferne Arfin

    The Barley Hall has been restored to reflect its last use as a home in the 15th century. It had been hidden in the center of York for more than 500 years.

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    Barley Hall's Brick Open Hearth

    The Barley Hall Hearth
    ••• The narrow bricks discovered in the floor of the Barley Hall would have been the hearth on which an open fire burned in the original 14th century house. ©Ferne Arfin

    The Brick hearth was part of the original floor of the Barley Hall, uncovered by archaeologists in 1984.

    The Barley Hall, built in the 14th century between Grape Lane and Stonegate, was hidden until 1984 - right in the center of York - under a jumble of derelict buildings and abandoned workshops.

    Originally built for and occupied by the Priors of Nostell (canons of York Minster), from 1337 to 1372, the house was later used as a town house.

    It was occupied by Alderman William Snawsell, a goldsmith and Lord Mayor of York at the end of the 15th century. It has now been restored to reflect that period, but with modern visitors in mind. Visitors can make themselves at home, sit on the chairs, handle the objects, try on some 15th century style clothes and experience what it would have been like to live in Medieval England.

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    The Merchant Adventurer's Hall in York

    The Merchants Adventurers Hall
    ••• One of England's Largest, Oldest and Best Preserved Guildhalls The Merchant Adventurers Hall is one of the oldest guild halls in England. Dating from 1357, it maintains continuous membership records that are older than the hall itself. britainonview

    This impressive, half timbered structure, built between 1357 and 1367, is still the guildhall for the Merchant Adventurers Guild.

    A Grade 1 listed building and scheduled ancient monument, the Merchant Adventurers Hall was one of the largest buildings of its kind and date in England.

    Unusually, the building retails the three rooms that would have served the functions of a medieval guild:

    • The Great Hall, for business and social gatherings
    • The Undercroft, for charitable activities
    • The Chapel, for religious functions

    Who were the Merchant Adventurers

    Primarily wool merchants, the Medieval Merchant Adventurers of York were traders of goods who ventured further than ordinary entrepreneurs, buying and selling in the Baltic States and even Iceland. After selling their textiles and fibres, they returned to York with exotic goods such as mirrors, seal meat and squirrel fur.

    The guild still exists today, with a membership of entrepreneurs, teachers, professional and business people. Membership is by...MORE patrimony (in other words, passed along in families) and by invitation.

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    The Merchant Adventurers' Great Hall

    The Great Hall of the Merchant Adventurers Guildhall in York
    ••• The Great Hall of the Merchant Adventurers Guildhall in York. britainonview/Doug McKinlay

    The Great Hall of the Company of Merchant Adventurers has been used for business and feasting for more than 650 years.

    Visiting the Merchant Adventurers' Hall

    The half-timbered hall is about 30 meters long by 13 meters wide. It contains some fascinating examples of early 13th century furniture, including an "evidence chest" where the company of Merchant Adventurers kept leases and documents about the property they owned.

    • Where: Fossgate, York YO1 9XD, England
    • Telephone:+44 (0)1904 654818
    • Website
    • Open from April to September
      • Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
      • Friday and Saturday, 9a.m. to 3:30p.m.
      • Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.
    • Open from October to March
      • Monday to Saturday, 9a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
      • Sunday, closed

    There is a small admission fee that goes toward upkeep of the Hall and grounds.

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    Newgate Market in York

    Newgate Market, York
    ••• The covered stalls of Newgate Market, York. The market is open every day of the year except Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year's Day. © Ferne Arfin
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    Traditional Open Market in York

    vegetable market in york
    ••• Fruits and vegetables are sold at a traditional market in the center of York. © Ferne Arfin

    Traditional markets selling fruit, vegetables, cheeses, baked and household goods occupy some of Yorks most picturesque squares.

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    Vikings Parade by Torchlight

    Viking Parade
    ••• Viking Parade during the Jorvik Viking Festival, held every February in York. Jorvik is the Viking name of the city of York. britainonview

    York remembers its Viking past during the Jorvik Viking Festival in February. Visitors can experience every day Viking life at The Jorvik Viking Centre

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    Pageant Wagon Procession for York's Mystery Plays

    Pageant Wagon Play Procession in York
    ••• Pageant Wagon Mystery Play Procession in York. Arrow indicates the play wagon. britainonview

    English passion plays are the oldest dramas in the English language. York's Mystery Plays are among the best preserved examples.

    The Passion plays, usually performed in the streets during Corpus Christi, were away of relating bible stories to the masses in the Middle Ages.

    The performances were supressed during the Protestant Reformation. But in York, where the pageants had been staged by members of the city's guilds, the best records of the tradition were preserved. Each craft guild or "mysterie" would have its own play to perform, on carts and wagons drawn through York. The plays would be part of a cycle and it would take all day to see the full cycle at various points around York.

    After almost 400 years, York's Mystery Plays were performed again in 1951 on a fixed stage. A young Judy Dench had a small part. Today, the mystery plays are performed, on Pageant Wagons, every four years. The last time the plays were performed was 2006. In between, historically minding...MORE visitors and thespians-to-be can follow the historic Mystery Plays circuit, on a walking trail that highlights the traditional stations for the plays.

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    "The Mallard" At the National Railway Museum in York

    The Mallard steam train
    ••• "The Mallard"- the UK's Fastest Steam Engine at National Railway Museum in York The Mallard, the UK's fastest steam locomotive, at the Railway Museum in York. britainonview/Doug McKinlay

    On July 3, 1938, the iconic and streamlined "Mallard" set the UK record - at 126mph - for the fastest steam engine - a record that remains unbroken today.

    "The Mallard" can be visited at one of York's premier attractions, the National Railway Museum. And from 4:50 to 5:20 p.m. every day, the cab is opened and you can climb aboard to have a look. Other attractions at the National Railway Museum include:

    • The Rocket A sectioned replica of Stephenson's 1829 masterpiece, the granddaddy of all the world's steam locomotives
    • The Chinese Locomotive A giant steam engine built in Britain for the Chinese Railways.
    • The Shinkansen A Japanese Bullet Train from the world's faster passenger network that you can board.
    • Queen Victoria’s Carriage The carriage used by Queen Victoria between 1869 and 1901, full of luxurious Victorian detail and craftsmanship in silks, satins and gold.
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    On the Straightaway at the York Racecourse

    A Day at the Races in York
    ••• A Day at the Races in York. In 2005, Royal Ascot was run at York Racecourse. britainonview/Grant Pritchard

    In 2005, while the Ascot Racecourse was under repairs, York's beautiful Racecourse stood in for Royal Ascot. The course is within an easy walk of York center.

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    Clifford's Tower - A Remnant of One of York's Sorriest Episodes

    Clifford's Tower
    ••• Clifford's Tower, scene of one of the most violent and unfortunate chapters in York's history, the mass suicide and massacre of the Jews of York. Getty Images

    Clifford's Tower named, for a nobleman executed in the 16th century, stands on the site of an earlier, wooden keep with a sadder, bloodier story.

    Clifford's Tower is a 13th century, stone built castle with a quatrefoil plan not seen elsewhere in England. The tower replaced a wooden keep built by the Norman's and destroyed during a fire, mass suicide and massacre in 1190.

    King Henry II had protected the Jews of England because of their economic role in Medieval Europe. When he was succeeded by the Crusader king, Richard I, crusade fervor was sweeping across Europe. This fervor could quickly turn violent and their were violent incidents against Jews and other "outsider" groups scattered in towns across England.

    After a particularly frightening disturbance in York, the city's Jewish community took refuge in the wooden keep where they were besieged by a violent mob. Eventually, rather than turn themselves over to the hands of the mob, many of York's Jews committed...MORE suicide and set fire to the tower. The survivors, who emerged the next day, were set upon and massacred.

    Eventually, the Royal Chancellor dismissed the sheriff and constable and fined the citizens of York for their part in the tragedy.