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Monday, 29 April 2013

A-Z Challenge - Y is for York

Join me on his A-Z journey  into  A SENSE OF PLACE with reminiscences on places that are connected with my family history or are part of my own personal memories.

Y is for YORK

As a lass from Lancashire, I crossed the Pennines with my family to live in Yorkshire for four years as a teenager.  Home was the village of Upper Poppleton and school was four miles away in York. 

York then was quite a sleepy town then  ahead of its status as a university city and its honeypot draw for tourists, but I  was surrounded by history

Micklegate Bar
In Roman times it was  called "Eboracum"  then the Vikings came and renamed it "Jorvik", before it became Eoforwic under the Saxons.  York flourished in medieval times, illustrated in the famous narrow street of the Shambles. 

The mediaeval city  walls  with their entrance gates, known as bars, encompassed virtually the entire city.  I walked every day for the bus home through Micklegate  Bar which during the Wars of the Roses had been decorated with the heads of leaders killed by one side or the other.

The magnificent Minster was  built in Gothic style over the years 1220-1482, and contains England’s greatest concentration of medieval stained glass.  The Archbishop of York was second only in religious power and influence to the Archbishop of Canterbury. A full forty other churches were built in the city during the medieval period, contributing to York's  rich heritage of architecture, spanning timbered buildings to Georgian elegance in the Mansion House and Assembly Rooms.

Street names are fascinating - Gillygate, Coppergate, Baggergate, Monkgate, Swinegte, Stonegate and Petergate, with the longest Whipmawhopmygate.  Gate here does not mean an entrance  but is derived from the Scandinavian  "gata"  meaning "street"  

One of the most photographed views of York from the city walls looking towards the Minister.

The Shambles

St. William's College

By 1660 York was England's third largest city after London and Norwich.  In the 19th century York became a major centre for the railway, thanks to the "Railway King" George Hudson, with the first railway station built in 1839. 
My school,  Mill Mount Grammar School for Girls had the city crest as its badge and was a very formal, academic establishment with strict rules on wearing of school uniform etc.  I recall  visits to the famous Castle Museum, then regarded as well ahead of its time in creating period rooms and  a Victorian street; being part (as a programme seller) of  the famous York Mystery Plays, performed in the grounds  of St. Mary's Abbey every ten years, and a lunch by the Lord Provost at the Mansion House to welcome German  pen friends to the city - this was regarded as very significant being only 15 years after the end of the war.
On a more prosaic note we visited York's famous chocolate factories of Rowntrees (Kit Kats, Smarties & Aeros)  and Terry's (Chocolate Oranges).  My memory  apart from the free samples,  was of the boring job that some staff had,  drawing the squiggle on top of a chocolate box selection  as the sweets  passed along a conveyor belt.   
it was at York that my love of history crystallised, thanks to an inspirational teacher - Miss Edwards.  I have much to thank the city for and just writing this post makes me want to go back there.  A visit is definitely called for!

Join me on the last  stage of this A-Z Journey as tomorrow we reach Z.


  1. Well take me with you! I love how the "modern" city grew up and just attached to the old gate. It almost seems like a make-believe village.

  2. Beautiful photos, fascinating history and amazing buildings. My dad's mum was a Yorkshire lass, from Leeds, and married my grandfather (a Londoner)in York. Thanks Susan... I enjoyed this post very much indeed. Cheers Catherine.


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