York Streets and Buildings

York Streets and City History

The term ‘gate’ used in York street names like Walmgate, Coppergate, Stonegate and Skeldergate, derives from the Viking word ‘gata’ meaning street. The term should not be confused with the word ‘gate’ meaning a gateway. The historic gateways to the city of York are called ‘Bars’.

York Minster from Low Petergate
York Minster from Low Petergate © David Simpson 2021

Aldwark

Aldwark is a street that gets its name from ‘Old earthwork’ and was so named because the Roman wall that surrounded York ran near here. The wall was later replaced by the medieval city wall which runs adjacent to the street.

The interior of the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, just off Aldwark dates from around 1400, although the brick exterior dates from 1672 and 1715. It was the home of York’s Merchant Taylors’ Guild, established by a Royal Charter of Incorporation from Charles II in 1662. The charter merged the guilds of the drapers, hosiers and tailors. The hall is the only surviving hall of a craft guild in York.

Bishophill and Baile Hill

Bishophill  on the east bank of the River Ouse stands in the area that once formed the Roman Colonia or civilian city of York. Much later it was part of the land owned by the Archbishop of York. St Mary’s Church, formerly called St Mary’s Bishophill Junior has a western tower that is said to be the oldest piece of ecclesiastical architecture in York. It was built in three conquest phases, incorporating re-used Roman stone, Anglo-Saxon herring-bone masonry and a late Anglo-Saxon bell-opening at the top of the tower.

An Anglo-Saxon cross-shaft can be seen in the church. There was once also a medieval church called St Mary’s Bishophill Senior, a little further to the south in the street called Bishophill Senior. Parts of this church were used in the construction of the modern church of the Holy Redeemer on Boroughbridge Road in the Acomb area of York.

Bishophill is the site of Baile Hill, which was one of two castles built by William the Conqueror. Trees now grow out of the mound near this south west corner of the city walls. Bishopgate Street runs alongside the walls outside these defences and crosses the Ouse at Skeldergate Bridge towards the site of York Castle and Clifford’s Tower..

Blossom Street

Blossom Street is the southern continuation of Micklegate, outside Micklegate Bar. It was historically known as Ploxwangate, deriving from Ploughswain gate, meaning ‘the street of the man who repairs ploughs’. Ploxwan was corrupted through natural changes in English speech to ‘Blossom’. A street called Blossomgate also exists in Ripon and has the same origin. St Mary’s Bar Convent near Micklegate Bar in Blossom Street was built in 1765 by Thomas Atkinson.

Bootham Bar, York © David Simpson 2021
Bootham Bar, York © David Simpson 2021

Bootham and Bootham Bar

Bootham means ‘at the booths’ and probably refers to booths erected near Bootham Bar, which were used for a weekly market held by the monks of St Mary’s Abbey. Bootham is a continuation of Petergate but lies outside the city walls beyond Bootham Bar.

A stretch of the wall of St Mary’s Abbey runs along the southern side of the street. At the corner of the wall at the junction of Bootham and Marygate is St Mary’s Tower. Bootham leads out to the village of Clifton, a suburb of York with a Victorian village green.

The city gateway of Bootham Bar lies at the western end of High Petergate, within the city walls. Exhibition Square and the street of Boortham lie just outside the bar. Bootham Bar was the main medieval entrance into the city from the north through the Forest of Galtres and stands on the site of an earlier Roman gateway called Prima Porta Dextra.

Bootham Bar and York Minster
Bootham Bar and York Minster from an old postcard

Parts of Bootham Bar, with its four bartizan towers date from the 11th century, but the part facing into the city was rebuilt in 1719 and again in 1832. In 1832, the outer extension of the gateway or ‘Barbican’ was removed. In historic times guards were posted here to guide travellers through the Forest of Galtres. Monks from St Mary’s Abbey once held a weekly market nearby.

Bootham Bar overlooks Exhibition Square, which is just outside the city wall. Nearby are the York City Art Gallery (1879) and the King’s Manor and a statue of the York-born artist William Etty (1787 – 1849).

Castlegate

Castlegate was and is of course the street leading to the castle. There are two Georgian buildings of note in this street and both are designed by the Yorkshire architect John Carr (1723-1807).

One is Castlegate House, dating from 1759 and built for the City Recorder, Peter Johnson. The other building is Fairfax House dating from 1755. The latter house has a fine collection of Georgian furniture and other Georgian items known as the Terry Collection.

A church has stood on the site of St Mary’s Church in Castlegate since pre-conquest times, and although most of the present church is 12th-13th century there is a dedication stone in the building which dates to around 1020. The names Ervard, Grim and Aese are mentioned on the stone.

St. Mary’s became redundant as a church in 1958 but reopened in 1975 as the home of The York Story, a heritage centre displaying the history of the city in models and reconstructions and audio-visual displays.

York City walls and Micklegate Bar © David Simpson 2021

City Walls

York’s limestone city walls are the longest in England and are principally famous for the gateways into the city called bars. Some stretches of the wall have Roman origins, most notably the Multangular Tower in the Museum Gardens but there are also remains of an Anglo-Saxon tower near the Public library – the only Anglo-Saxon tower in England.

Some parts of the city wall were renovated in the nineteenth century but on the whole, still exist in their medieval form dating from the 12th to the 14th century.

York City walls
The south-facing stretch of the York City walls viewed from Nunnery Lane © David Simpson 2021

The only section of old York which does not have a wall is between Peaseholme Green and the Red Tower (Foss Island Road) where there was once a huge fishpond in medieval times.

York castle and its moat also accounted for another gap in the otherwise continuous wall. The main gateways to the city through the wall are Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar. Two historic towers also stand on the opposite ends of Lendal Bridge. Some new gateways were added in the nineteenth century including the Victoria Bar constructed in 1837.

Clifford’s Tower and the Castle Museum

Clifford Street runs from Nessgate and Coppergate south towards Clifford’s Tower. A Franciscan friary once stood in the street but the most prominent building today is the York and Selby Magistrates Court.

Clifford’s Tower, near the Castle Museum is the remaining mound of York Castle keep. The castle was one of two built at York by William the Conqueror (the other being at Baile Hill across the other side of the Ouse).

Originally built of wood, York castle was burnt down in 1190 after an anti-Jewish mob, inflamed by rumours went on the rampage looting Jewish properties that forced the Jewish community of York (around 150 people) to seek refuge in the castle. The castle came under siege by the mob and the members of the community took their own lives when it became clear they could not hold out against the attackers.

Clifford's Tower
Clifford’s Tower. Photo © David Simpson

The tower was rebuilt and then rebuilt again in stone in 1250-1275. Once surrounded by a moat, the castle keep is called Clifford’s Tower because of Roger De Clifford who was hanged here following the Battle of Boroughbridge in 1322. Used later as a prison, the tower was garrisoned by the Royalists during the English Civil War.

The nearby Castle Museum stands on the site of York castle which of course included Clifford’s Tower. The museum building was erected around 1705 as a Debtors’ Prison and the architect was probably William Wakefield. His style is similar to that later employed by Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor (See Castle Howard).

A female Debtors’ Prison was added to the building by John Carr in 1777. The Castle Mills Bridge is a minor bridge across the River Foss near the Castle Museum.

College Street

College Street near York Minster is home to St William’s College a medieval half-timber building dating from around 1467 with later additions. The college is named after William Fitzherbert, an Archbishop of York who was also a great-grandson of William the Conqueror. During the reign of Charles I it was temporarily the site of a Royal printing press. The door to the building has a carving of a mouse made by Robert Thompson of Kilburn.

Old postcard showing St William's College
Old postcard showing St William’s College

Coney Street

Coney Street is one of York’s main shopping streets, where familiar high street retail names cater as much for locals as for tourists. Some of the buildings in the street are timber-framed structures. Coney Street runs along the course of a stretch of Roman road which lay just outside the Roman fortress and which ran almost parallel to the eastern bank of the River Ouse.

The earliest record of Coney Street’s name is in 1213 when it was called Cuningstreta, deriving from the Viking word Konungra and straet – a street. Konungr means king – thus it was King’s street. Coney Street was once divided into three stretches – Old Coney Street to the north of St Helen’s Square, Coney Street in the middle and Little Coney Street to the south. Old Coney Street is now called Lendal, and Little Coney Street is now called Spurriergate.

The Mansion House, located where Coney Street meets Lendal in St Helen’s Square is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of York and was built 1725-27 by John Etty. It has an interesting collection of city regalia including a 15th century Sword of State and the Great Mace of 1647.

The medieval church of St Martin-le Grand is located on the south side of Coney Street. Its recorded history goes back as far as the Domesday Book but the church was severely damaged during a World War Two bombing raid in 1942. The church’s tower (1427) was originally the south western tower.

Some interesting stained glass can be seen within the church, but much of the church is a rebuilding of the 1960s. A pretty clock protrudes from the church exterior overlooking shoppers in busy Coney Street. It dates from 1668 but was given a new dial 1778. A model of an Admiral with a sextant stands on top of the clock.

Coppergate, York
Coppergate, York © David Simpson 2021

Coppergate

Coppergate’s name comes from the Viking Kopparigat which means the street of the joiners or turners. Viking houses have been excavated in the street and finds are displayed in the Jorvik Viking Museum here.

Duncombe Place

Duncombe Place is a short continuation of Museum Street linking that street with Petergate to the north. It is a street of Victorian origin like the neighbouring St Leonard’s Place. One of the most notable buildings in the street is the Red House which was built for sir William Robinson in 1700. Robinson was a one time mayor and MP for York. The city’s coat of arms can be seen above the doorway to the house.

Blake Street links Duncombe Place to St Helen’s Square and is the home of the York Assembly Rooms built by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1730 in a neo-classical style with Egyptian influence. It was built as a grand ball room, but Daniel Defoe later described the work as tasteless. Blake street may be named from a Viking called Bleikr.

Fishergate and Fishergate Tower

Fishergate was the once the fishermen’s street. Fishergate Bar was a minor gateway on the street. The northern part of the street within the walls is called George Street. Fishergate Tower lies a little further west near York Castle. Chains ran across the River Foss here to the castle to further add to York’s defences.

Fulford Road leads south from Fishergate towards the York suburb of Fulford. The road is home to a former cavalry barracks dating back to 1795. George Street is on the site of a churchyard belonging to a medieval church dedicated to St George. George Street is the northern continuation of Fishergate.

Foss: River, Bridge Island, Street and Road

The River Foss is York’s other river which joins the Ouse and forms a natural defence along much of the eastern side of the old city. Foss means ‘ditch-like river’ and the roots of its name may be the Latin ‘fossa’. Ouse, incidentally is a name of Celtic origin thought to simply mean ‘water’. It may be related to the Sanskrit word Udso.

Foss Bridge, on the site of a medieval bridge links Fossgate with Walmgate across the River Foss to the east. It is a stone baluster bridge built by Peter Atkinson in 1812. A chapel dedicated to St William is known to have stood on the medieval bridge.

Fossgate simply means street leading to the River Foss. The most notable feature in the street is The Merchant Adventurers’ Hall which is reached via an alleyway. It was founded in 1357 as the Guild of Our Lord and the Blessed Virgin but was absorbed by the Guild of Mercers in the fifteenth century. In 1580 the guild became the Merchant Adventurers, a powerful company which co-ordinated foreign trade in York. The gatehouse to the hall dates from the seventeenth century.

In medieval times part of the River Foss just east of the Foss Bridge broadened out considerably to form the King’s Fish Pond which created a wide gap in the city walls. The brick-built ‘Red Tower‘ in York’s city wall dates from the sixteenth century and was located at the south side of this gap in walls. The gap (and pond) stretched as far as Peaseholme Green and the Layerthorpe Bridge near Jewbury to the north.

George Hudson
George Hudson, The Railway King

George Hudson Street

Off Micklegate, this street is named after George Hudson (1800-1871) who was known as the ‘Railway King’. Hudson, a Yorkshireman and an MP for Sunderland, developed the rail network in the north and firmly placed York at its hub.

Gillygate

Gillygate is a largely Georgian street, leading north from Exhibition Square near Bootham Bar. The street is so named because it was once the site of a church dedicated to St. Giles. In this respect it is similar to the street called Gilesgate in Durham.

Goodramgate

Goodramgate was in Viking times the street belonging to or inhabited by a Viking called Guthrum and may refer to the Viking king Guthrum who ruled from York in the 9th century. Goodramgate’s main features are the church of Holy Trinity and a row of medieval cottages called Lady Row.

Lady Row is a row of timber -framed cottages near the Holy Trinity arch and date from the 1320s when they were built for chantry priests. The cottages are notable for their overhangs where the upper floors project into the street beyond the lower floors. This overhang feature is thought to be the oldest example in England. In Bedern Lane just off Goodramgate there is a ruined Bedern Chapel dating from the fourteenth century.

The church of Holy Trinity, which stands back from the street was first mentioned in the eleventh century, but the present building dates from 1250-1500. It can be reached via an eighteenth century brick archway. Inside the church is a chapel that was once blocked off from the rest of the church so it could be used by a leper. A squint hole in the wall enabled lepers to see the altar and take part in the service.

Grape Lane
Grape Lane, York © David Simpson 2021

Grape Lane

Once, a dark alley called Grapec**tlane. Grape originally meant ‘grope’. It links Petergate with Swinegate.

Hungate

Hungate, an offshoot of The Stonebow was once Hundgate – the street where dogs (hounds) were kept. It was a common medieval Viking street name.

Jewbury

Jewbury was the Jewish quarter of York in medieval times. It is known that this area was the burial ground for wealthy Jews who settled in York from as early as the 12th century.

Jubbergate

Jubbergate was originally Brettegate meaning the street inhabited by Celtic Britons in Viking times. It is thought that these Britons were of Cumbrian origin and were brought to York by Irish Vikings (connected with the Viking colony in Dublin). Their habitation lay outside the Viking walls of York and it is thought that they held a servile role. Later in the fourteenth century Brettegate became Jubretgate, perhaps because it became an area of Jewish settlement.

King’s Manor

The King’s Manor near Exhibition Square and the Yorkshire Museum started as an abbot’s house for St Mary’s Abbey. It was later rebuilt of brick in 1483 by a medieval bricklayer called Richard Cherryholme.

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the house became the home of the President of the Council of the North and successive presidents enlarged and changed the building, but the council was disbanded in 1641. King’s manor is so named because it belonged to the king and was the place the Kings of England stayed at during visits to York. English Kings who stayed at the manor included Henry VIII, James I, Charles I and Charles II.

King's Square, York looking towards Low Petergate
King’s Square, York looking towards Low Petergate and York Minster © David Simpson 2021

King’s Square

King’s Square lies at the junction of several of York’s most famous streets including Petergate, Goodramgate, Colliergate and the Shambles. It is thought to have been the site of the Konungsgarthr or Royal palace of the Viking kings of York (Jorvik). Colliergate runs between King’s Square and Fossgate, and is almost a continuation of Petergate. The street was once the place where coal or charcoal was traded in medieval times. Today most of the houses in the street are Georgian.

King's Staith, York
King’s Staith, York and the River Ouse. © David Simpson 2021

King’s Staith

King’s Staith, a cobbled quay on the north bank of the River Ouse near Ouse Bridge means the King’s landing place, the word staith being of Viking origin. An eighteenth century building called Cumberland House overlooks the staith. Further along the river bank towards Skeldergate Bridge is a stone wall which once belonged to a Franciscan Friary which was located nearby. On the opposite side of the river is Queen’s Staith.

Knavesmire

Knavesmire, the site of York’s Racecourse may have been the marshy land or area where knaves or felons were executed, although another view is that derives from a Viking personal name, Knörr. Most of the racecourse grandstand dates from 1964 but part of John Carr’s Grandstand of 1754 remains.

Lawrence Street

Lawrence Street is an eastern continuation of Walmgate beyond Walmgate Bar. The main historic feature is St Lawrence Church, which has a medieval tower.

Lendal and Lendal Bridge

Lendal, a street located at the western end of Coney Street ( St Helen’s Square) was originally Old Coney Street or ‘Ould Connystrete alias Lendinge Street’. It is named after St Leonards Lendinge – a landing place on the River Ouse belonging to the medieval St Leonard’s Hospital, which stood nearby.

Lendal runs from St Helen’s Square to its intersection with Museum Street which leads across the Ouse via Lendal Bridge. Lendal’s most notable buildings are The Judges Lodging of 1718-25 and Lendal House, a former Congregational Chapel dating from 1816. An Augustinian priory once existed between Lendal and the river.

Lendal Bridge was built across the River Ouse by Thomas Page in 1863 and is an iron bridge with Gothic details. The bridge links Station Road with Museum Street on the north bank of the Ouse and is the main point of entry into the city for tourists and commuters arriving via the railway station. Historic towers stand near both ends of the bridge .

On the south band of the Ouse is Barker Tower named after Barkers who stripped oak bark for use in tanning. Tanners Yard is nearby. A ferry ran across the Ouse from here towards Lendal Tower and there was once a chain across the river here which prevented traders from entering the city without paying tolls. Lendal Tower was made taller in the seventeenth century using stone from the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey.

Lord Mayor’s Walk

Lord Mayor’s Walk runs west to east from the top of Gillygate and runs parallel to the north western section of the city walls. It is the location St John’s College which dates from 1841.

Marygate and York Minster
Marygate and York Minster © David Simpson 2021

Marygate

Marygate runs alongside the walls of St Mary’s Abbey which now enclose the grounds of the Yorkshire Museum. The wall runs along the whole eastern flank of the street from St Mary’s Tower near Bootham to a water tower near the River Ouse.

St Olave’s Church in Marygate was founded by an Earl of Northumbria called Siward in 1090 and is named after St Olaf, a Norwegian saint. The church stands at the entrance to St Mary’s Abbey and is a reminder of the Viking influence in the city of York. Following the Norman Conquest the church passed to Alan Earl of Brittany (Alan the Red, Earl of Richmond).

Alan gave the church and its surrounding land to Stephen, a monk from Whitby for him to establish a monastery (St Mary’s Abbey ). During the Civil War St Olave’s church suffered some damage when its tower was used as a gun platform.

Micklegate and Micklegate Bar

Micklegate was described by the architectural historian Sir Nicholas Pevsner as ‘without any doubt the most rewarding street in York’. Micklegate means the great street and is the major historic street in York on the western side of the River Ouse. Most of the buildings in the street are of Georgian origin, but from the medieval age there are three historic churches and Micklegate Bar.

St Martin-cum-Gregory York
St Martin-cum-Gregory and St Martin’s Lane, Micklegate, York © David Simpson 2021

Micklegate’s three medieval churches are St John’s, Holy Trinity and St Martin-cum-Gregory. St Martin-cum-Gregory was first mentioned in the Domesday Book and later in 1175. Much of the building is fourteenth and fifteenth century, but the brick tower dates from 1844. The church is no longer used for services.

St John’s church, first mentioned in 1235 underwent much restoration in the 1500s. The church fell redundant in 1934 and is now the York Arts Centre.

Holy Trinity Church was originally part of a Benedictine Priory founded in 1089 by Ralph Pagnell as a cell of Marmoutier. A fire in 1137 damaged much of the building and was rebuilt. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the church became parochial.

Priory church, Holy Trinity, York
Priory church, Holy Trinity, York © David Simpson 2021

Parts of the priory other than the church remained standing until their demolition in 1856. Other major historic streets on the east side of the Ouse are Skeldergate, Bishop Hill, Trinity Lane, Tofthill and North Street. Trinity Lane, named from Holy Trinity Church  is the home of a medieval timber building called Jacob’s Well.

Micklegate Bar, the southern gateway into York’s city walls was first mentioned in the twelfth century. Its archway is of Norman origin but the bartizans (little towers) were added in the 14th century.

Micklegate Bar, York
Micklegate Bar, York © David Simpson 2021

The barbican was removed from the bar in the 1820s. The street of Micklegate leads out off the city wall through Micklegate Bar where it becomes Blossom Street.

Minster Gates

Minster Gates is the northern continuation of the street of Stonegate where it approaches the Minster after intersecting with Petergate. Historically the street was called Bookbinders Lane and before that Book Lane. It had long been with the making and selling of books, which may account for the old name. However there has been a suggestionn that the named derives from the Anglo-Saxon’boc-land’ meaning land held by a Royal Charter.

Minerva, Minster Gates
Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, commemorates the Minster Gates’ links to the book trade. © David Simpson 2021

Monkgate and Monk Bar

Monk Bar is at 63 feet, the tallest of York’s bars and is the north eastern gateway to York’s city walls. It lies at the northern end of Goodramgate, a street which becomes Monkgate on the other side of the gateway. Its is not known who the monks were who gave Monkgate and Monk Bar their name.

Monk Bar has four storeys – the first three floors being 14th century and the upper floor being fifteenth century. Each floor could be defended like an independent fort, even when other floors had been captured. In the sixteenth century the bar was used as a freeman’s prison. Monk Bar’s barbican was removed from the gateway in 1825.

An ice house dating from 1800 can be found near the city not far from Monk Bar. It was used for storing ice collected in winter, which could later be used in summer time for various purposes. The street of Monkgate has mainly Georgian buildings, but the old County Hospital dates from 1851

Museum Gardens

The Museum Gardens are the gardens of the Yorkshire Museum built 1827-30 as the home of the York Philosophical Society. Nearby are the remains of the Roman Multangular tower and an Anglo-Saxon tower dating from around the 7th or 8th century. The gardens are also home to an astronomical observatory. The Yorkshire Museum and the Museum Gardens are on the site of St Mary’s Abbey of which ruins remain.

Nessgate

Nessgate leads from Coney Street and Ousegate to Castlegate and York Castle. The castle stands on a ness, the Viking word for a triangular headland between the River Foss and River Ouse on which Clifford’s Tower stands.

North Street

All Saints Church in North Street was first mentioned in 1089. It dates from the 12th to 15th century. It has a 120 ft spire and a hammerbeam roof. An early 20th century anchorage can be found in the south west corner. North Street is a continuation of Skeldergate and runs parallel to the western bank of the River Ouse. The North Street Postern or Barker Tower stands at the western end of the street.

Ogleforth

Ogleforth is on the route route from Monk Bar to York Minster. The street is thought to be a Scandinavian name which means the ford haunted by an owl. It may alternatively have belonged to someone called Ugel. There are some Georgian buildings in the street.

Ouse Bridge, York
Ouse Bridge, York © David Simpson 2021

Ouse Bridge and Ousegate

Ouse Bridge was built in 1810-20 by Peter Atkinson Junior and has three eliptical arches, with niches in the piers. The bridge stands on the site of a medieval bridge which crossed the Ouse here and links the street of Micklegate on the south side of the river with Ousegate on the north bank.

Patrick Pool

The street of Patrick Pool, a continuation of Swinegate was described in 1249 as so deep and unused that no-one can pass through it. Perhaps the area was the residence of an Irishman called Patrick.

Pavement

Pavement’s name comes from an old French word meaning paved way. A street of this name can also be found in Nottingham. Herbert House, a timber house in the Pavement dates from 1620 and was on the site of a house belonging to Christopher Herbert, who was a wealthy merchant and a Lord Mayor of London.

All Saints church in the Pavement is sandwiched between High Ousegate and Coppergate at the southern end of the Pavement. Saxon and Viking tomstones can be seen in the church which was mentioned in the Domesday Book.

All Saints, Pavement, York
All Saints, Pavement, York. © David Simpson 2021

The church and its tower date mainly from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. All Saints’ lantern tower once guided travellers through the Forest of Galtres (to the north of York) but now a lantern is lit in memory of the residents of York who died during the two world wars. Thomas Percy, the 7th Earl of Northumberland was executed on scaffolding just outside the church in 1572. His head was displayed on Micklegate Bar.

St Crux parish room is located in the Pavement between the Shambles and Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate which branch off from the street. The building incorporates some of the walls from the medieval church of St Crux which was demolished in 1887. In medieval times the section of the Pavement outside the church was once called Hosier Row, later known as Hosier Gate and Hosier Lane. It was the street of the hose makers.

Peaseholme Green

Peaseholme Green was the once the water meadow where peas are grown. Notable buildings include The Black Swan Inn, a largely seventeenth century building on the site of an earlier medieval inn. In the fifteenth century it was the home of a merchant called Wiiliam Bowes, who was Sheriff of York in 1417 and Lord Mayor of York in 1428. In the eighteenth century the inn was the home to the parents of General Wolfe.

St Anthony’s Hall in Peaseholme Green, once the hall of the Guild of St Anthony dates from 1446-53. Some of its later brickwork dates from 1655. The Hall is now the home of the Borthwick Institute of Historical Research.

St Cuthbert’s Church, Peaseholme Green, was mentioned in the Domesday Book but there is known to have been an earlier Anglo-Saxon church. The church was saved from demolition by Martin Bowes, a Lord Mayor of London who had family connections with the parish. The city wall comes to a temporary end at Peaseholme Green and there was once a a tower here, which was demolished in 1829.

The wall reappears at the Red Tower, near Foss Islands Road about a quarter of a mile to the south of Peaseholme Green. Most of the area in between was the site of the medieval King’s Fish Pond, formed by the flooding of the River Foss and Wormald’s Gut. Its presence made the building of the city wall in this area unnecessary.

Low Petergate and York Minster
Low Petergate and York Minster © David Simpson 2021

Petergate

Petergate is so named because of its proximity to York Minster, which is dedicated to St. Peter. High Petergate stretches from Bootham Bar to the intersection of the street with Stonegate, Low Petergate stretches from there to King’s Square.

Some of the buildings in Petergate are of Georgian origin but the most famous features of the street are the city gateway called Bootham Bar and the view of York Minster at the end of the street. St Michael-le Belfrey’s church lies between York Minster and Petergate.

Piccadilly

Piccadilly, not a street of medieval origin, has buildings from more recent times. It runs parallel to Fossgate and both streets cross the River Foss. The Merchant Adventurers Hall lies between the two streets.

Railway Station

York Railway Station was built by G.t.Andrews in 1840 and was extended in 1877 by Thomas Prosser who also built the nearby Royal Station Hotel. Leeman Road near the Railway Station is the home to the National Railway Museum.

Shambles ,York
The Shambles (and Little Shambles) at York © David Simpson 2021

The Shambles

The Shambles form York’s most famous and most charming street. The timber-framed houses with over-hanging upper floors have a distinct medieval character and their popularity with tourists mean they are a home to many quaint shops.

Pevsner, the architectural historian perhaps unfairly described the street as ‘over-restored and twee’. In early times the street was known as ‘market shire alias Flesh Shambles’. Flesh shambles were flesh benches or stalls where meat was once sold in medieval times.

The Shambles at York
The Shambles at York and York Minster © David Simpson 2021

Skeldergate and Skeldergate Bridge

Skeldergate, along the western bank of the river Ouse has a Viking name and means the ‘Shield Maker’s street’. Skeldergate Bridge was built in 1881 by Thomas Page and like his Lendal Bridge is iron with Gothic details. It links the two sides of the River Ouse from Bishopgate Street on the west bank to the Clifford’s Tower area on the east bank. Fetter Lane which links Skeldergate to Bishophill and St Martin’s Lane was originally Feltergate – the street of the felters.

The River Ouse from Skeldergate Bridge in York, showing the Ouse Bridge and the  prominent clock tower of York and Selby Magistrates Court. © David Simpson 2021

Spurriergate

Spurriergate was originally Little Coney Street and its name means ‘ the street of the spur maker’. St Michael’s church in Spurriergate was first mentioned in 1088 and was rebuilt in Victorian times. It has some notable stained glass.

St. Andrewgate

St. Andrewgate is named after St. Andrew’s medieval church which fell into disuse in the eighteenth century when it came to be used as a stable and a brothel. It is now an Evangelical church. The street is also the home of a former Drill Hall dating from 1872. St. Andrewgate links Colliergate with Aldwark. Spen Lane, an offshoot of St Andrewgate near St Andrew’s church means the lane with a hedge.

St. Helen’s Square

St Helen’s Square lies at the foot of Stonegate and is also joined by the streets of Lendal, Coney Street and Blake Street. It is linked to St Sampson’s Square by Davygate. Buildings in St Helen’s Square are largely Victorian or neo-Georgian, but the church of St Helen, between Davygate and Stonegate is medieval. The church gives its name to the square and was first mentioned in 1235. It underwent some restoration in the 1500s.

The Mansion House, located where Coney Street meets Lendal in St Helen’s Square is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of York and was built 1725-27 by John Etty. It has an interesting collection of city regalia including a 15th century Sword of State and the Great Mace of 1647. Behind the Mansion House, overlooking the River Ouse and clearly seen from Lendal Bridge is the Guildhall. It was originally built in 1447-8 for two guilds by Roger Couper on the site of an earlier guildhall dating from 1378. In a bombing raid on 29th April 1942 it was almost completely destroyed and had to be carefully rebuilt. It was reopened in 1960.

St. Leonard’s Place

St Leonard’s Place is famous for the attractive crescent of houses built in 1844-5 by P.F. Robinson and G.T. Andrews. The De Grey Rooms built by Andrews in 1841 were formerly an officers’ mess for the Yorkshire Hussars but are now York’s Tourist Information Centre. York Theatre Royal in St Leonard’s Place dates from 1877 and is located on the site of an earlier Georgian theatre. St Leonard’s medieval hospital stood near this site.

York, St Mary's Abbey
York, Entrance to St Mary’s Abbey and St Olave’s church. © David Simpson 2021

St. Mary’s Abbey

St. Mary’s Abbey was founded by William Rufus in 1088-89 and was probably built on the site of an Anglo-Saxon Abbey. It was originally within the grounds of St Olave’s Church. The abbey lay just outside the City walls but had walls of its own which can still be traced along the streets of Marygate to the west and Bootham to the north. The City walls provided a boundary on the eastern flank and the River Ouse protected the southern flank. The ruined building is mainly 13th century and can be seen in the grounds of the Yorkshire Museum.

St. Sampson’s Square

St Sampson’s Church which gives its name to the square, was first mentioned in 1152, rebuilt 1440-1450 and rebuilt again in 1848. It is the largest square in York and links the streets of Church Street, Davygate and Parliament Street. The remains of a Roman Bath can be seen in the cellar of the Roman Bath Inn in St Sampson’s Square, with the permission of the landlord. In medieval times St. Sampson’s Square was known as Thursday Market.

Parliament Street is a very wide street built in 1834 that leads from St Sampson’s Square to Piccadilly and Pavement. Parliament Street becomes Davygate in St Sampson’s Square.

Davygate is named after David Le Lardiner (the clerk of a kitchen). In the 12th century David’s father, John was the Royal Lardiner for the Forest of Galtres – a title which became hereditary in the family. Davygate was the site of the forest courthouse and prison. The Forest of Galtres lay to the north of York.

Church Street once called ‘Girdlegate’ was ‘the girdle maker’s street’, it now takes its name from St Sampson’s Church which is located at the southern end of the street near St Sampson’s Square. Mid way along, the street is linked to Swinegate and Patrick Pool and to Goodramgate, Petergate and the Shambles are at the northern end.

Feasegate is a southerly offshoot of St Sampson’s Square and a continuation of Church Street. Its name means ‘Fe-hus gate’ the cow house street.

St. Saviourgate

St. Saviourgate runs north from Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate to St Saviour’s Place and Spen Lane. It is named after St Saviour’s Church which dated from 1090, but which was completely rebuilt in the 1840s by R.H. Sharp. The street has some Georgian houses and is also the home of St. Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, the oldest non-conformist church in York, dating from 1693. St. Saviour’s Place links St Saviourgate to Aldwark and Peaseholme Green.

Stonegate, York
Stonegate, York © David Simpson 2021

Stonegate

Stonegate means the stone-paved street. In Roman times a road within the Roman Legionary fortress called the Via Praetoria more or less followed the course of present Stonegate and crossed the River Ouse by means of a bridge, near to where the Guildhall stands today. Stonegate is a Viking street name and it is quite possible that the Roman paved street survived into Viking times.

Stonegate is a long narrow street, and one of the most attractive in York. St. Helen’s Square is at the south end of the street and Petergate is at the north. There are a number of attractive timber-framed and Georgian buildings in Stonegate.

Stonegate, York
Stonegate, York © David Simpson 2021

Located in one of the alleys just off Stonegate is The Old Starre Inn, the oldest public house in York, which dates from the seventeenth century. A beam stretched across both sides of Stonegate advertises the pub near the alley. Nearby on one of the buildings is a carving of a red coloured devil, sitting high up, against one of the walls. This was a printer’s devil and once signified the site of a printing works.

Mulberry Hall at number 17 Stonegate is a building dating from the 15th century, but older still are the remains of a house dating from about 1180, the oldest dwelling house in York. It can be found in an alley just off Stonegate. The street of Little Stonegate is an offshoot to the east of Stonegate and leads into Swinegate.

Swinegate

Swinegate was known in Viking and medieval times as Swinegail, meaning the lane where swine were kept. Swinegate once also included the street now called Little Stonegate. Swinegate is linked to Grape Lane, Patrick Pool and Stonegate.

Tadcaster Road

This road was the site of York’s ‘Tyburn’, where the York gallows were located.

Tanner Row

Tanner Row was the street of the tanners. It more or less follows the course of a Roman road between York and Tadcaster.

The Stonebow

The Stonebow’s name probably refers to an arch that once crossed the street. The street runs between Hungate and Peaseholme Green.

Walmgate and Walmgate Bar

Walmgate is thought to mean the street belonging to someone called Walba. It is an eastern continuation of Fossgate, but lies entirely on the east side side of the River Foss. The main medieval features in Walmgate are St Deny’s Church, St Margaret’s church and Walmgate Bar.

St Denys was first mentioned in the early 12th century but its spire was removed in 1798. The church has a Norman doorway, as does St Margaret’s further to the east. St Margaret’s was first mentioned in 1180 and has brick western tower dating from 1684. It underwent much rebuilding in the 19th century.

Walmgate
Old postcard showing Walmgate Bar

Most of Walmgate Bar, the most easterly gateway in York dates from the 14th century, but parts are Elizabethan dating from 1580. Like Bootham Bar and Micklegate Bar, it still has Bartizans or little rounded towers on the top, but unlike the other bars has retained its extensive Barbican – outer walls extending beyond the outside of the gateway alongside the road itself, to give extra protection.

A moat once passed beneath the barbican. Outside the city wall, beyond the bar, the street is called Lawrence Street, although this was originally also part of Walmgate.

Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate

This is the smallest street in York and has the longest name. A strange local custom of whiping small yelping dogs called Whappets was observed in this area in medieval times. It was presumably a reference to a whippet, often used as a racing dog. The street lies at the southern end of Colliergate.

Lost and renamed streets

Street names that no longer exist in York include Beggergate – the bag maker’s street which is now called Nunnery lane. It runs parallel to the southern section of the city wall, but just outside joining Blossom Street near Micklegate Bar.

Cargate was the old name for King Street which runs from Coney Street to King’s Staith on the River Ouse. It means the marshy street. Glover Lane was a street near Petergate where glove makers worked.

Girdlegate the girdle-maker’s street is now called Church Street. Hartergate, now called Friargate was the street belonging to a Viking called Hjartar. Haymongergate was the name given to part of the Shambles. It means the hay merchant’s street.

Ketmongergate was a Viking street-name meaning ‘the flesh-sellers street’. Marsh Street was a street leading to a marsh that once existed near Hungate.

Places around York

Acaster Malbis

Acaster means the site of a Roman fort which was later aquired by and Anglo-Saxon called Aca. After the Norman conquest the manor was owned by the Malbis family.

Acomb

Acomb derives from the Anglo Saxon Akum which means oaks, um being an Anglo-Saxon plural. There are two Acombs in the north, near Hexham and near York.

Appleton Roebuck

The name Appleton indicates an Anglo-Saxon farm where apples grew. Roebuck derives from Rabuk, the name of a man who owned the place in the fourteenth century.

Askham Bryan

Askham mean the homestead near the ash trees. Bryan son of Scolland was a thirteenth century owner.

Askham Richard

Thought to be named after Richard Duke of Cornwall in the thirteenth century

Bishopthorpe

Bishopthorpe lies about three miles south of York on the western bank of the River Ouse. Originally a village called Thorpe St Andrew, it was bought by an Archnbishop of York called Walter De Grey in 1230 who rebuilt the manor house as a place of residence which became Bishopthorpe Palace. This was rebuilt and extended by successive Archbishops over the centuries and extended in the eighteenth century. Bishopthorpe Palace is still the official residence of the Archbishop of York today.

Cawood

This means Wood of the Jackdaw. It was the medieval residence of the Archbishops of York who resided at Cawood Castle.

Copmanthorpe

Means village of the chapmen – the traders’ thorpe.

Dringhouses

Dringhouses is a souther subburb of York which has a Scandinavian name meaning the houses of the Drengs. A Dreng was a free tenant holding land by tenure older than the Norman conquest. Dreng could also mean ‘lad’ or ‘servant’. Goddards House in Dringhouses is a Tudoresque house dating from 1926

Heslington

Heslington lies on the south eastern outskirts of York near Walmgate Stray. It is the home of York University.

Sheriff Hutton

Once held by Bertram Bulmer, the Sheriff of York who died in 1166.

Strensall

A puzzling name which is often compared to the ancient name of Whitby.

Tockwith

This means Tocca’s Vithr, the wood belonging to Tocca.

Upper Poppleton

Poppleton is thought to mean the pebbly farm.

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