York Tour. 1. York City Art Gallery. You should now be outside the York City Art Gallery, one of the city’s most famous land marks.
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You should now be outside the York City Art Gallery, one of the city’s most famous land marks.
The city of York was founded in 71 AD by the Romans who declared the city to be the capital of Britannia Inferior and named it ‘Iba Accum’, the place of the Yew tree.
Before the romans, there was no settlement here, although there were many attractive qualities for settlers; qualities such as good river connection to the north sea via the river Ouse, which flows right through the city. There were also large rock deposits left by the last ice age that provided strong foundations for the romans to build on. The ancient city had theatres, forums, baths and even a large burial ground that now sits right by the train station!
If you now stand with your back to the gallery and look to the left, you will see Bootham Bar, the largest of a series of gates that surround the city. Bootham Bar acted as a former entrance. The gate also used to house market stalls, or booths, hence it’s name.
The 3 statues on top of the gate represent the Lord Mayor of York, a master mason and a knight. You’ll also see the Stewart dynasty's coat of arms as well as two coats of arms representing the city of York.
The statue outside of the gallery is of William Etty, an artist who heavily features within the gallery. Etty was born in York in 1787 and was famous for his nude paintings.
The red brick building to the left of the gallery as you face it is the King's Manor, which acted as the lodging house of St. Mary’s Abbey.
To continue your tour, head towards Kings Manor, taking a pathway left of the building. You will be walking along an ancient part of the city’s wall. Soon you shall be in the Museum Gardens. Pass the remains of a tower and when you reach the T-junction in the path, this will be Audio Point 2.
The tower itself dates from 300 AD but it has been modified extensively over the years. The crossbow slits, for example, were added it the 13th century.
There are a number of Roman coffins on display near the tower which were discovered nearby when the train station was built. The corpses were believed to be Roman nobles as they were buried with precious artefacts such as golden jewellery.
The museum is very close by to this point which is well worth a visit if there’s time.
To continue the tour, take the pathway on your right as you face the tower, heading towards and out of the gate leading to Museum Street. Cross the street and continue down a narrow street called Lendal. Walk for about 200 metres until you reach St. Helen’s Square. This is audio point 3
This historic square is dominated by the impressive red and white building. This is York Mansion house. Built in 1726, before London’s Mansion house, it is the official residence of the Lord Mayor of York.
The building was damaged by bombs in WW2 and has since been heavily refurbished.
Near the square is Betty’s Tea Rooms, a famous restaurant chain in York.
One more feature of the square is St. Helen’s Church, which dates back a 1000 years or so. The building also has a rare lantern tower, which would’ve housed small fires to draw attention to the church.
To continue the tour, you need to head for Stone gate, a narrow street to the left of the church. Follow the medieval street for about 100m and on the right should be Mulberry Hall. This is Audio Point 4.
This magnificent gothic cathedral, one of the largest in the country, was built between 1220 1472.
The cathedral was built to rival the Canterbury Cathedral and it took over 250 years to complete!
Inside are many religious artworks, such as sculptures, statue and stained glass windows, some of which date back to the 12th century.
The 76 foot tall great east window, created by John Thornton, is the largest medieval stain glass window in the world. More than 2 millions individual pieces of glass make up the windows of the cathedral.
There are two more points of interest. Just to the right of the Minster is a statue of Constantine the Great, who was the roman emperor here in York.
You will also notice a large column. This part of the remains of the Roman Fortress.
Follow the path around to the right of the Cathedral. Continue around to the left. Shortly, you will pass Chapter House Street on your right. Continue o down the road just a little bit more in order to get to the entrance to Treasurers House.
This beautiful house was the home of all the treasurer’s in York during medieval times. The house was used in this way until 1547. After that, it was privately owned as residence until 1930s. It bears little resemblance to the original building now after much reconstruction.
As well as being an impressive house in it's own right, this building is the most famous haunted house in York, having had many ghost sightings over the years.
In 1953, Harry Dale, a young apprentice plumber, was working in the cellars of the building when he saw the ghost of a horse emerge from the stone wall. The horse reputably had a rider and a soldier convoy following it. All were dressed in Roman clothing and armour.
Retrace your steps, through the gate and out into the square ahead of you. You’ll soon see a black and white beamed building on your left. This is audio point 7.
Dating from 1461, this building was built as a home for priests and even today, is still owned by the minster.
St. William became archbishop of York in 1154, after an 11 year wait. The reason for the long wait was due to the Pope not liking William. He deliberately delayed Williams succession for as long as possible out of spite.
When ready, stand with your back to the college and turn left. At the end of college street, bare right onto Goodramgate. After about 100 metres, you will notice on the left a row of extremely old houses, and just past this, the entrance to Holy Trinity Church. This is audio point 8.
If you can, try and get a look inside. The astonishing array of stained glass windows date from the 15th century and the amazing box pews form the 17th century.
There is no electric lighting or heating within the building and the walls and floors all have unusual angles.
This church was actually mentioned in the doomsday book of 1066 although most of what you see here dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The ancient houses in front of the church are known as ‘Our Lady’s Row’ and are considered to be the oldest surviving houses in the city.
When you are ready to move on, return to Goodramgate and continue in the same direction. After about 100 metres, bare left into King’s Square. Cross the square and then turn right into Newgate. Almost immediately on your left will be The Shambles. This is Audio Point 9.
The shambles is York’s most famous street. This street, which features the famous overhanging houses, dating from the 14th century, gives the best impression of how medieval York would’ve looked.
The 2 extra reasons for the overhanging houses was to 1. create more space on the upper floors and 2. to avoid paying too much tax as it was largely based on the ground floor surface area.
This was the very street that inspired the art department in Harry Potter to create Diagon Alley. They based the look of the Diagon Alley on this street – they couldn’t film on the street due to the narrowness of the alleyway - It would’ve been impossible to film here as the cameras are so large.
To continue the tour, carry on along Shambles, just before you reach the end, you’ll notice a small alleyway on the left. It’s easy to miss so be careful! Go through the alleyway and you will come out at Audio Point 10.
This word literally means ‘What a Street’ and this street is actually the shortest street in York, spanning just 32 metres.
This is the more recent part of the city and the buildings are therefore much more new.
To continue the tour, turn right and then immediately right again into Pavement. Follow the road, that goes in a curve to the left, until you reach the entrance to Coppergate Walk. Thisis Audio Point 11.
This is the nearest point on the tour to the Jorvik Viking Centre, probably York’s busiest tourist attraction.
It is well known that York was once home to many Vikings. Jorvik was it’ Viking name.
This Viking history was brought into focus in the 1970’s when the area was excavated for a new shopping centre. Completely unexpectedly, archaeologists unearthed the remains of 10th century buildings surrounded by wet spongy layers of earth. This earth had the perfect conditions to preserve ancient artefacts. Over 6 years, and 36,000 layers of earth, an amazing 40,000 historical objects were recovered.
To carry on with the tour, retrace your steps to Parliament street, turn left. At the end of Parliament Street, you will reach St. Sampson's Square and audio point 12.
This whole area has, for many centuries and still to this day, been a place where markets are held.
To continue to the last part of the tour, carry on in the same direction to Blake Street. You will come across a large columned building that has been converted into a restaurant. This is audio point 13.
The York Assembly Rooms is an 18th-century assembly rooms building and was originally used as a place for high class social gatherings in the city.
This building, now a restaurant, was designed by Richard Boyle, the third Earl of Burlington and was built between 1730 and 1735.
The building is situated on Blake Street and is a Grade I listed building. It is one of the earliest neo-classical buildings in Europe and one of the most influential pieces of architecture of the early 18th century.
This is the last part of the tour. To get back o where you started, follow the road along until you see the familiar sight of the York City art Gallery.