The Project Gutenberg eBook of York

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Title: York

Author: George Benson

Illustrator: E. W. Haslehust

Release date: July 14, 2015 [eBook #49440]
Most recently updated: January 25, 2021

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Shaun Pinder, Chuck Greif and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at (This
file was produced from images generously made available
by The Internet Archive)



The City
The Minster
The Abbey Grounds

List of Illustrations
(In certain versions of this etext [in certain browsers] clicking on this symbol , or directly on the image, will bring up a larger version of the illustration.)

(etext transcriber's note)



Y O R K  Described by George Benson  Pictured by E. W. Haslehust


Blackie & Son Limited
16/18 William IV Street,
Charing Cross, London, W.C.2

17 Stanhope Street, Glasgow

Blackie & Son (India) Limited
103/5 Fort Street, Bombay

Blackie & Son (Canada) Limited


Each book contains Twelve Reproductions of Watercolour Paintings by E. W. Haslehust, R.B.A.

Heart of London.
Cornish Riviera.
Windsor Castle.
The New Forest.
Hampton Court.
English Lakes.
The Thames.
Bath and Wells.
Peak District.
In London’s Byways.
Rambles in Greater London.
Through London’s Highways.
Warwick and Leamington.
Norwich and the Broads.


Loch Lomond.   
The Scott Country.
Shores of Fife.

Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow


The Water-Gates, Lendal BridgeFrontispiece     
Micklegate Bar5
Bootham Bar12
Fishergate Postern from the Walls16
The Shambles21
Norman Porch, St. Lawrence’s Tower28
York Minster33
York from the City Walls37
Entrance to the Banqueting Hall, King’s Manor44
York from the Ouse48
College Street, St. William’s College and Chapter House53
Ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey60
Plan of York Cathedral46





As each town has its characteristic features and peculiar advantages, we may ask what it is that constitutes the special attraction exerted by the city of York, not only upon those, who with more or less of appreciation dwell within its limits but upon its visitors. It would seem that if there is one thing which can be done at York better almost than anywhere else in the kingdom, that thing is the realisation of history. It is in this, above all, that the charm lies.

A walled-in city offers great attractions to the student of history, who is desirous of understanding mediaeval ways and methods, for although documents and quaint pictures may give a fair idea, it is the walls, gates, churches, and houses that lend the necessary vividness and reality. Other once-fortified cities have destroyed their walls as being useless, and those at York have from time to time barely escaped destruction.

The stranger, as he walks out of the railway station, is agreeably surprised to find these ancient fortifications immediately presented to his gaze. This surprise view enchants the lover of the picturesque, he is captivated by the beauty of the scene; and York adds another to her numerous admirers. The creamy-grey embattled walls, set on a grassy mound, command attention. The imagination is aroused, the spectator pictures the moat filled with water and mentally recalls the archers, clad in armour and leather jerkins, passing behind the parapet of the elevated walls.

Within the walls, and well seen from the rampart walk, are red-tiled roofs intermingled with more modern slated buildings. Amidst these rise prominently, here and there, the spires and towers of the churches, notably the broad pre-Conquest tower of St. Mary, Bishophill Junior; the tower of St. Michael’s, Ousegate, from which the Curfew is rung nightly, and the graceful octagonal tower of All Saints, Pavement, which, in the days when York was surrounded by forests, held a lamp to direct pilgrims through the pathways to the city.

York is a city of churches. In the mediaeval days there were forty-one parish churches, of which thirty were within the walls and eleven without. There were also seventeen chapels, sixteen hospitals, and nine monasteries. Twenty-two of the ancient churches exist.

We may well imagine that the Castle Keep, known as Clifford’s Tower, still keeps watch and ward over the city: opposite stands the mound of the other castle—the old Baile—which the Conqueror built in order to terrify the men of York. The triple-towered minster of St. Peter rises high above all else, and is best seen from the stretch of walls from Bootham to Monk Bar. The walk along the walls is one of the great attractions of York.

The old entrance to York from the south was Micklegate Bar. It has suffered much mutilation, for formerly it had a fore-court or barbican, which was removed in spite of protests. Sir Walter Scott, it is said, declared he would gladly walk from Edinburgh to York, if that would induce the Corporation to preserve the barbican. Under the Bar arch most of the English sovereigns and many a noble procession have passed. Formerly, the archbishops made their progresses barefooted through it from St. James’ Chapel, the Mount, on their way to be installed in the Minster. The clergy and religious bodies led the way, followed by mitred bishops, abbots, the nobility, and civic authorities; whilst torch-, censer-, banner-, and cross-bearers preceded the prelate, over whose head was held a canopy. The Bar was rebuilt during the reign of Edward III, the Norman arch being incorporated in the new structure. The side piers rise into circular turrets, and the whole is surmounted by an embattled parapet with a stone warrior over the centre of the Bar and over each turret. The Bar is adorned with shields which bear the arms of the King and of the City of York. Edward III, in the year 1338, claimed the crown of France and quartered the French lilies with the Plantagenet lions of England. The shield of York is covered with silver, and bears a red cross on which are displayed five golden lions alert and walking. The city was Edward’s base for conducting the war with Scotland. At this period the King and Queen were frequently in York, where from 1328-37 Parliament met seven times.

Whilst King Edward III and the Black Prince were engaged in the war with France, the Scots took advantage of their absence and invaded England. The martial Archbishop Zouche collected an army and marched northwards. He met and defeated the Scots at Neville’s Cross near Durham. The captured Scottish King was brought to York and passed through Micklegate Bar on his way southwards.

York became a royal duchy in 1385 when Richard II created his uncle, Edmund Langley, Duke of York. Shortly afterwards Henry of Lancaster (Henry IV) seized the throne, deposed Richard II, and imprisoned him in Pontefract Castle, where Richard was afterwards murdered. Plots were hatched against Henry, for example in 1403 the Percies rebelled but were defeated at Shrewsbury. Hotspur was slain, and his head sent to York and placed on Micklegate Bar. The Earl of Northumberland was summoned to meet Henry IV at York, and as he came in sight of the Bar underwent the terrible ordeal of seeing his son’s head which had been exposed thereon. The Earl was arrested but was subsequently pardoned. Hotspur’s widow besought the king for the head and body of her husband. The king granted her request, and issued a writ as follows:—

“The King to the mayor and sheriffs of the City of York, greeting. Whereas, of our special grace, we have granted to our cousin Elizabeth, who was the wife of Henry de Percy, chevalier, the head and quarters of the same Henry to be buried, we command you that the head aforesaid you deliver to the same Elizabeth to be buried according to our grant aforesaid. Witness the King at Cirencester the third day of November.”

The bereaved lady collected the remains from Shrewsbury, London, Chester, Newcastle, and York and had them interred in York Minster.

Lord Scrope being detected with others in a plot against Henry V, was arrested and condemned. His head was placed on Micklegate Bar.

Richard, third Duke of York, was, through his mother, the representative of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, third son of Edward III, whilst King Henry V was descended from the fourth son. In the next reign Richard, Duke of York, claimed the throne.

At the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, the citizens of York favoured the House of Lancaster. The Duke of York was slain at the battle of Wakefield in 1460. His head, which his enemies had in mockery covered with a paper crown, was brought to York and stuck on a pole over Micklegate Bar, his face looking towards the city. In the play of Henry VI, Queen Margaret exclaims:—

“Off with his head and set it on York gates;
So York may overlook the town of York”.

The Earl of Salisbury and other notable prisoners were put to death and their heads fixed on poles near that of their leader. Edward succeeded his father as fourth Duke of York, and the year following, after the second battle of St. Albans, was, through the instrumentality of the King-maker, proclaimed King. On Palm Sunday as he was coming to York, he met at Towton the forces of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou, and defeated them. Next day, Edward IV set out for York and, nearing the city, he was confronted with the ghastly sight of his father’s head on Micklegate Bar.

“And, after many scorns, many foul taunts,
They took his head, and on the gates of York
They set the same; and where it doth remain,
The saddest spectacle that e’er I view’d.”

In his indignation, the King ordered the Earls of Devon and Wiltshire and three other prisoners to immediate execution, in order that their heads might replace his father’s.

“From off the gates of York fetch down the head,
Your father’s head, which Clifford placed there;
Instead thereof, let this supply the room;
Measure for measure must be answered.”

During the great Civil War, the city was besieged by the Parliamentarian forces, and after a blockade of six weeks the Royalists attempted two sorties, both of which were failures. The besieged waited patiently for relief from the bold but erratic Prince Rupert, on whose approach the Parliamentarians retired towards Marston Moor. The Royalist troops passed through Micklegate Bar to meet their foes. In the ensuing battle the Royal forces were completely routed and retreated to York, followed by the Parliamentarians, who, however, were compelled to stay outside Micklegate Bar. The siege was renewed. Subsequently, Sir Thomas Glenham, governor of York, having made good terms, surrendered the city to Lord Fairfax, and the Royalist garrison passed out through Micklegate Bar with colours flying.

The last occasion on which Micklegate Bar was used for the exhibition of rebel heads was during the Jacobite rising of 1745. After the battle of Culloden there were set on this “Traitor’s Gate” two heads which remained for about seven years, when the heads were surreptitiously removed. The culprit was found, and at the Assizes sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, ordered to pay five pounds and to find sureties for his good behaviour for two years.

Bootham Bar protected the road from the north, and owing to continual disputes between Scotland and England, it was always strongly guarded. Whilst King Stephen was engaged in the south of England, the Scots thought it a favourable opportunity to invade England, not taking into account the generalship of the Archbishop. The prelate summoned the barons to York. An army was mustered and after passing through Bootham Bar, met and completely routed the Scots at the battle of the Standard, near Northallerton. In a raid, however, about two centuries later, the



position was reversed: the Scots had penetrated into England as far as York, and after gaining much booty retreated. The Archbishop and the Mayor hastily gathered an undisciplined army, which passed through the Bar and overtook the Scots at Myton. This time the city forces were completely routed, the Mayor and many of the clergy who had joined were slain.

In later times a Scot was obliged to announce his arrival at the Bar by using the rapper, and if he entered the city without the permission of the warder or Lord Mayor, he was liable to arrest and imprisonment. This Bar retains its portcullis or drop-gate in its entirety, the pointed ends of which and the wicket are seen within the archway. The upper part of the portcullis is to be seen in the chamber above.

Monk Bar, the entrance to the city from Scarborough, was built in the reign of Edward III. It is the most complete and imposing of the Bars, and, although shorn of its barbican, it remains the finest example of an English city gatehouse. Over the archway are crosslets to two stories which are enclosed by a pointed arch springing from the base of the turrets and supporting an embattled balcony, access to which is obtained from either turret. The balcony is adorned with the shield of Edward III, and on each spandril is a shield bearing the arms of the city of York. The gateway is vaulted and above are two stories of vaulted chambers, in the upper of which is the horizontal windlass for raising or lowering the portcullis. This is the only bar that retains its original city front, which has, however, been slightly modified by the insertion of mullioned windows. The first floor over the gateway is contained within an arched recess. A doorway leads to a narrow platform, from which the constable could announce to the citizens important news from the northern world outside or the herald could thence read proclamations. Through this Bar passed King Charles I attended by his knights and soldiers and a great concourse to a meeting on Heworth Moor. The meeting was called by the King, whose disputes with his Parliament had reached a crisis. The King, in his overconfidence, rejected the petition presented to him by Parliament and the Civil War broke out.

Walmgate Bar is the entrance to the city from Hull. It retains its barbican, portcullis, and its inner oak gates including the wicket. Henry V with Queen Katherine passed through this Bar on their way to visit the shrine of St. John of Beverley, and in honour of the event the arms of the King are emblazoned on the Bar. Later, when Edward IV had been temporarily deposed in favour of Henry VI, he, after a sojourn on the Continent, returned to England and landed at Ravenspurn, a site now submerged, and, gathering a force around him, marched to York, only to find the gates of Walmgate Bar closed against him.

“What then remains, we being thus arrived
From Ravenspurn haven before the gates of York
But that we enter, as into our dukedom.”

He demanded to be admitted as Duke of York, and on acknowledging Henry of Lancaster as king, he and his followers were permitted to enter. This scene is described in the play of Henry VI, Part III, Act IV, Scene VII. Henry VIII with Queen Catherine Howard on their visit to York entered the city by this Bar.

The city front is in striking contrast to the exterior elevation and consists of a timber and plaster dwelling built in front of the Bar on columns, and apparently erected in the time of Queen Elizabeth. The Bar suffered severely during the siege of York, owing to its proximity to Garrow Hill, which was secured by the Parliamentarians during the great Civil War for their batteries, which kept up a destructive fire on the Bar. The barbican was repaired four years after the surrender of the city, for over the arch is a shield with the city arms and the date 1648.

Fishergate Bar was the entrance to the city from Selby, and the walls from this Bar to Fishergate Tower commanded the narrow approach to the castle. The Bar consists of a round arch between two wide buttresses, each with passage through. Adjoining the eastern buttress was a rectangular guardroom. The arch is of two orders, continued to the ground with rounded groove for a portcullis. Over the arch is a panel containing the city arms and an inscription. An insurrection broke out in 1489 amongst the peasantry in Yorkshire. At Topcliffe the rebels murdered the Earl of Northumberland and then invested York, burning the gates of Fishergate Bar. The rebels were eventually defeated and one of the leaders beheaded at York. Fishergate Tower is provided with a garderobe, and when built adjoined a wide water area. Adjoining, on the land side, was a postern under a pointed archway, which has the jambs grooved evidently to accommodate a portcullis.

York Castle was constructed originally by William the Conqueror, who built between the two rivers a mound, and set on it a wooden watch-tower, surrounded with a bailey-court. In order to keep the castle and other ditches full of water, the Normans placed a dam across the River Foss, which was thus considerably widened, and formed into an efficient defence where it adjoined the city.

In the rising against the Jews at the coronation



of Richard I, Benedict of York was fatally injured. The anti-Semitic feeling spread to York, the house of Benedict was plundered and his widow and family murdered. This atrocious act naturally alarmed the Jews in York, who gathered their treasures and rushed to the castle for safety. The governor had to leave them for a while, and when he wished to reenter, the panic-stricken Jews refused him admission. An assault on the fortress was ordered. The Jews, finding themselves unable to hold the citadel, set fire to the wooden erections, and killed themselves.

The tower was rebuilt, and in the middle of the thirteenth century the mound was enlarged and the wooden watch-tower gave place to the stone keep. The castle area was walled in during the Edwardian period, the principal entrance with its flanking towers—now removed—faced Castle Mills Bridge. The keep has a quatrefoil plan. Corbelled-out turrets fill three angles, whilst the fourth is occupied by a rectangular gateway with the chapel above. The royal arms and those of Clifford were placed above the entrance during the seventeenth century; and the keep became known as Clifford’s Tower. The keep owes the ruined condition of its interior to a fire which broke out while it was used as a powder magazine.

The military architecture of York, whilst giving an idea of strength and power to the city, adds greatly to its picturesqueness. The line of embattled walls is agreeably broken by buttresses and mural towers, whilst the stately gatehouses set along the line of fortification give a sense of dignity, at the same time reflecting the sturdy independence of the men of York.

The streets are generally termed “gates”, the gatehouses “bars”, and the city walls “bar walls”. Such names as Blossom Street, Nunnery Lane, and Bridge Street are only modern substitutes for Ploxamgate, Baggergate, and Briggate. The “gates” of York often confuse visitors. A revising barrister once excused himself for being late in court by saying that he had lost his way and at last found himself in “Bootham-gate-street!” The street referred to is simply named Bootham. The streets are narrow and wind in all directions. “What narrow streets!” exclaimed Sidney Smith to one of the city tradesmen. “There is scarcely room for two carriages to pass.” “Not room!” was the indignant reply. “There’s plenty of room, sir, and two inches to spare.”

The city is pleasantly situated on slightly elevated ground in the midst of a plain. Through it flows the Ouse, which is crossed by three bridges. The central one—Ouse Bridge—is of stone and consists of three elliptical arches. The other two are of iron and have quatrefoil parapets. A view of Lendal Bridge shows the old water towers. The bridge is of a single span, and on the apex of the arch the Queen-mother, Alexandra, is depicted as an angel, holding the shield of St. George. Other shields, on the parapet, bear the arms of Plantagenet England, the See of York, and the White Rose. On either side charming views present themselves. On the left by the side of the river is the Esplanade, backed by St. Mary’s Abbey Close, in which are the ruins of the Abbey Church. Towards the right is a beautiful view of the city. Rising from the riverside are the stone buildings of the Post Office, Council Chamber, and the ancient Guildhall, while beyond are seen the towers and spires of the city churches. Skeldergate Bridge consists of central and side arches, and has its parapet adorned with the Lily of France and the Sun of York.

In the streets old timber and plaster dwellings, with their overhanging stories and high-peaked red-tiled gables, are here and there hemmed in by modern buildings. Timber houses, however, are becoming scarcer, and quite recently a number of such dwellings have been demolished. A few carved brackets which carry overhanging stories remain in Stonegate and Fossgate, and two from Davygate have been re-erected in Trinity Lane. The Shambles, of which a view is given, is the only street that preserves its narrow mediaeval character. From the uppermost of its overhanging stories you might shake hands with your neighbour across the street. This and Little Shambles are the delight of artists. The end of one house has been shorn of the lath and plaster work and shows how such timber houses were constructed. The antiquity of the houses in High Petergate, and the mediaeval narrowness of the street, enable one looking towards Bootham Bar to realize the former appearance of the approach to a gatehouse from within the city. The approaches to the other Bars have been widened and their aspect changed. A characteristic of York is the frequent occurrence at street corners of an ancient church surrounded by its burial-ground.

“Each in its little plot of holy ground,
How beautiful they stand,
These old grey churches of our native land.”

The business of the city was in the hands of its freemen. Their privileges were great. Only a freeman could trade in the city, and his sons might become free on attaining their majority. He had also the right of voting for the city’s representatives in Parliament. The freedom of the city was granted to outsiders who served an apprenticeship of seven years to a freeman, or by purchase or gift. No one was admitted to the freedom without taking an oath



before the Lord Mayor, and the freeman was sworn to present to the Lord Mayor any unfranchised man who attempted to trade within the city and to take charge of his goods. Each trade had its own guild ruled by the Master, Wardens, and Searchers. Two of these trading companies are still in existence, the Merchant Adventurers and the Merchant Taylors. The hall of the former guild is in Fossgate. Over the entrance is their arms and motto Dieu nous donne bonne adventure. Steps lead from the courtyard to the hall with its three gables, the barge boards of which are carved with the leaves and fruit of the vine. The hall is a timber and plaster building and consists of two rooms which have panelled dados and open roofs. Each room is 60 feet long and 25 feet wide. The walls of the courtroom are adorned with paintings of past governors as well as a full-length portrait of George the First. The chapel stairs are approached by a large trapdoor in the floor. Service is held there on Charter Day (26 March). Of the old standards for weights and measures, there is left a brass yard measure. The scales are of the date 1790. An oval tobacco-or snuffbox belonged to the ancient company of “Linnen Weavers”. On the anniversary of the execution of Charles I, the Merchant Adventurers in compliance with the will of Jane Stainton attend service in All Saints’ Church. Pavement, to be reminded of their latter end.

The Merchant Taylors’ Hall, a brick building, is in Aldwark. In the smaller room is an inscription setting forth that:—“This Company has beene dignified in the yeare 1679, by haveing on their Fraternity eight kings, eleven dukes, thirty earles, and forty-four lords.” On St. John the Baptist’s Day the Merchant Taylors attend service at All Saints’ Church, Pavement, in accordance with the will of John Straker, who died in 1667.

St. Anthony’s Hall, on Peaseholme Green, accommodated those of the city guilds which had no hall of their own. The hall, on the upper floor, 81 feet long and 58 feet wide, was divided into a nave (28 feet wide) and aisles, and was 40 feet high. It possesses a fine timber roof with embattled wall plate. The arched principals spring from corbels depicting angels with shields. Two oak tables remain. One carved “This table done at the cost of the sadlers”. The other “This done at the charges of the joyners and carpenters and masons”. In 1705 St. Anthony’s Hall was converted into the Blue Coat School.

On the opposite side of the street, a gabled house, now the Black Swan, was occupied by the family of Bowes, a member of which, William, was twice Lord Mayor of York. His descendant, Sir Martin Bowes, born in the house, became Lord Mayor of London. Sir Martin presented a sword four feet long with a hilt of silver gilt to his native city. The blade is engraved “for a remembrance to the Mayor and Communaltie of this said honorable Citie”. The sheath was originally covered with crimson velvet garnished with stones and pearls.

The various craft guilds took part in the Mysteries and Miracles, which were rudimentary dramas, founded on Bible history or on the stories of the lives of the saints. Each of the fifty-four crafts produced a separate pageant. The plays took place on Corpus Christi Day, which fell the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and were enacted on movable stages which could be wheeled from place to place. The performances, which were carried on simultaneously in a dozen different stations in the city, enjoyed a great popularity, and this was one of the reasons for building the Guildhall, that a commodious theatre was needed for these productions.

During the sixteenth century plays were performed in the Guildhall by itinerant companies of players, who attached themselves either to the sovereign or to some prominent nobleman. The stately hall is divided into nave and aisles by two rows of octagonal oak pillars which support timber arches carrying a low-pitched roof. The windows are filled with modern painted glass depicting events in the history of York. The room behind, with its panelling concealing staircases, is that in which two hundred thousand pounds were paid to the Scottish army for handing over Charles I to the English Parliament.

The towers and spires of the churches add much to the charm of the city. Though the churches are small, they are full of interesting objects. The earliest work is the tower of St. Mary, Bishophill Junior, which exhibits all the features of pre-Conquest architecture. St. Mary’s, Castlegate, possesses an extremely interesting stone of the eleventh century, recording that, “This Minster was set up by Eferaud and Grim and Æse in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and St. Mary and St. Martin and St. Cuthbert and All Saints and was consecrated in the year——”

The old church of St. Lawrence, with the exception of the tower, has been taken down and a new church erected on an adjoining site. Sir John Vanbrugh, the dramatist and architect of Blenheim and Castle Howard, was married in the old church. The doorway to the nave has been preserved and rebuilt as the tower doorway. This beautiful example of Norman work forms the subject of one of the pictures. The tower is now the only relic of the eight churches which formerly stood within the area of the present parish. During the siege of York in the seventeenth century, this churchyard formed the base of the Parliamentarian attack on Walmgate Bar, three thousand men being engaged. As a consequence, the church was demolished, but subsequently rebuilt. The quaint parish stocks are within the churchyard gates.

The three Norman doorways of York are all curiously enough in the Walmgate district. The nave of St. Denis was taken down in 1798; the aisled choir and a modern tower now form the church. The old Norman doorway to the nave was rebuilt with square pilasters instead of shafts and forms the new entrance. In the north aisle was buried Henry, Earl of Northumberland, who fell at Towton. Percy’s Inn, an old palace of the Earls of Northumberland, stood opposite the church. The finest Norman doorway is that at St. Margaret’s Church. The arch is of four orders, adorned with the signs of the Zodiac. The piers have a double chevron and carved imposts, whilst the shafts have carved caps. The gable is surmounted with a crucifix.

Most of the churches were rebuilt or extended during the fifteenth century. Many are famous for mediaeval painted glass. All Saints, North Street, has some early fourteenth-century glass. Amongst later work is a window illustrating the poem The Prick of Conscience by Richard Rolle of Hampole. It depicts the last fifteen days of the world, and under each panel are two lines of the poem. Another window depicts the “Corporal Acts of Mercy”. At St. John’s are portrayed events in the life of the Baptist, while at St. Michael’s, Spurriergate, the “Nine Choirs of Angels” are represented. In St. Martin’s, Coney Street, the west window, painted in 1447, illustrates the life of St. Martin. The clerestory contains fine figures of the four Doctors of the church, the four Evangelists, and Saints Barbara, Catherine, Wilfrid, and Denis. The east window at Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, is dated 1470. The five lights contain figures of St. George, the Baptist, the Holy Trinity which is represented as Our Father in Pity, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Christopher, with subject panels below. In another window is depicted St. Olaf.

Of the monastic churches, the nave of the alien Benedictine Priory of the Holy Trinity in Micklegate is still in use, it having been converted into a parish church. Adjoining the Rectory is a half-timbered house, still bearing the inn sign “Jacob’s Well”; it is now the Parish Room. It was in the year 1472 the residence of two of the chantry priests of the Priory Church. After the Dissolution it was purchased by Isabel Ward, the last prioress of the Benedictine Nunnery of Clementhorpe, who lived in it until her death in 1569.

York from the beginning of the fourteenth century to the end of the eighteenth was famous for its church-bell founding. The later founders were Oldfield, Smith, Seller, and Dalton, and many of their bells hang in the turrets and towers throughout the northern counties. St. Mary, Bishophill Junior, possesses two fourteenth-century bells, one is inscribed in Gothic capitals and bears a stamp with a figure of the Baptist. The other inscription is in bold black letter and bears a beautiful stamp of the Annunciation.

York was also renowned for the work of its gold-and silver-smiths. Much of the church plate is York made, and is principally of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It bears the York mark—half fleur de lys and half leopard head. Amongst the makers of church plate were George Mangy, William Busfield, and Marmaduke Best who made the gold loving-cup which belongs to the Corporation.

Scattered over the city are mansions of the Georgian period. These houses are built of red brick in Flemish bond and have stone quoins and doorways. The cellar areas were protected from the rough pavements by beautiful wrought-iron railings, whilst hammered scroll-work brackets supported torch extinguishers and the circle for the oil lamp. The rain-water conductors were of lead of rectangular shape, with spout-heads of elaborate workmanship, which bore heraldic devices, monograms, or dates. The leaden cisterns were similarly treated. The interiors of these houses have panelled walls with dentilled cornices and carved plaster ceilings, pedimented doorways, and chimney-pieces with oil paintings framed in the overmantel.

As the city was lighted by a few oil lamps, and watchmen were scarce, it was necessary for ladies in their sedans to be attended by torch-bearers. In Petergate, Gillygate, and Duncombe Street extinguishers still hang by the side of doors.

A residence for the Lord Mayor was built from the design of the Earl of Burlington, who was also the architect for the Assembly Rooms. The assemblies were originally held in the King’s Manor, but larger premises being required, Sir William Wentworth promoted a company and raised five thousand pounds to build the Assembly Rooms. Lady Wentworth was so proficient at shuttlecock that she broke one of the high windows. During a race week in 1735 there was paid for candles used at the assemblies the sum of thirty-six pounds five shillings.

The Theatre Royal was built by Joseph Baker on the remains of St. Peter’s Hospital. It became famous under the management of Tate Wilkinson, who was patentee of the theatres at York and Hull,



and manager of those at Leeds, Bradford, Doncaster, Wakefield, and Pontefract. These theatres comprised the York circuit. He was a painstaking manager, and was in the habit, when a new piece was being introduced, of viewing it from the gallery. On one occasion, noticing some slovenly acting, he began to hiss vigorously. The “gods”, not being so hypercritical, and not recognizing him, cried, “Turn him out”, and turned out he was from his own theatre. During the Assizes, Races, and the winter, York was the favourite resort of the nobility and gentry of the north; concerts, dances, and card parties at the Assembly Rooms, and plays at the Theatre being the fashionable amusements. John Coleman, a later lessee, is said to have prepared his own playbills, which were couched in grandiose language. In this connection, a story is told to the effect that one morning at rehearsal, he exclaimed to the property man: “Have you all ready for to-night?” “Yes, all except the pedestal.” “The what?” thundered Coleman. “The pedestal,” was repeated. “What is that for?” roared the lessee. The property man took down the playbill and pointed out the words: “On this occasion Mr. Coleman will descend from his pedestal and enact the part of Bob Hawkins.”

The introduction of railways was welcomed by George Hudson, a draper in College Street. He took the foremost position in promoting the construction of a line to York. His name became one of the most prominent in the railway world and he was spoken of as the Railway King. He was thrice Lord Mayor of York and represented Sunderland in Parliament for fourteen years. The railway crisis ended his public career.

York is a garrison town with cavalry and infantry barracks on Fulford Road, and there is a summer camp of 1600 acres at Strensall. Around the city are considerable tracts of land known as strays and belonging to the freemen of the city. The strays contain altogether 743 acres. The Micklegate Strays of Knavesmire, Hob Moor, and Scarcroft have been recently acquired by the Corporation.

York is the assize town for the North and East Ridings. The city itself has been a county from early times, and has a sheriff and an assize of its own. The judges’ lodging is a large brick house in Lendal. The courts are within the castle yard, and the approach of His Majesty’s judges is announced by a fanfare from the high sheriff’s trumpeters.

The city is in the midst of an agricultural district, and on market days one hundred and fifty carriers’ wagons come heavily laden with passengers and produce for the open-air market held in Parliament Street.

For the accommodation of the public there are above two hundred inns and taverns. In the “Black Swan”, Coney Street, is preserved a coaching-bill, of which the following is a copy:—


Begins on Friday the 12th of April 1706.

All that are desirous to pass from London to York, or from York to London, or any other Place on the Road, Let them Repair to the Black Swan in Holbourn in London, and to the Black Swan in Coney Street in York. At both which Places, they may be received in a Stage Coach every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which performs the whole Journey in Four Days (if God Permits). And sets forth at Five in the Morning. And returns from York to Stamford in two days, and from Stamford by Huntington to London in two days more. And the like stages on their return. Allowing each Passenger 14lb. weight, and all above 3d. a pound.


Also this gives Notice that Newcastle Stage Coach sets out from York, every Monday and Friday and from Newcastle every Monday and Friday.”


The Church was the dominant factor in the social life of mediaeval England. Bishops vied with each other in making their cathedrals more and more beautiful. Each person was anxious to do his share in helping on the great work of the Church. Kings used their influence to further building operations, nobles gave materials and money, whilst ecclesiastics worked diligently in the cause and set a good example to the faithful. Funds for the fabric were augmented by the granting of indulgences, penances, and briefs, and by offerings and bequests. A noble would remember his friends by erecting some part of the structure or by gifts of painted windows; a merchant endowed a chantry chapel, the tradesman set up an altar; whilst the less wealthy left a sum of money for a priest to say mass at an already existing altar. Each citizen was personally interested in the edifice.

The first minster at York was built nearly thirteen centuries ago for the baptism of Edwin, King of Northumbria. It was of wood and dedicated to St. Peter, and therein the King was baptized by Bishop Paulinus. Edwin selected his political capital of York to be also the ecclesiastical capital, and



induced Pope Honorius to confirm his selection of Paulinus as Archbishop, and he began the erection of a stone cathedral around the wooden edifice. But before the scheme could be carried out, the King fell in battle, and Paulinus fled for safety to Kent, and it was not until after a century that York became an archbishopric. During the time of Alcuin, schoolmaster at York and the greatest scholar of his age, a new minster was erected, which was destroyed by fire in the revolt of northern England against the Normans.

Thomas, the first Norman Archbishop, set about the erection of a new cathedral. He formed out of the ruins of the old one a choir, and, in front, built a wide tower with transepts and an aisled nave. He introduced the apse to terminate the eastern end of the choir and the transept chapels. Owing to the rebellious tendencies of the men of York, the new tower may have been planned with an idea of defence and as a place of refuge.

In the next century, Roger, who had been Archdeacon of Canterbury and had seen the building of the choir there, was appointed to the See of York. As the small aisleless choir at York did not appeal to him, he replaced it with a large crypt and aisled choir, which would present less contrast with the glorious choir he had left. The crypt consists of five aisles, separated by columns and short massive diapered piers, which are surrounded by small shafts. The doorways were richly sculptured. Part of the exterior northern wall is now enclosed within the present crypt. On the stonework of the Norman crypt are some well-preserved masons’ marks.

The cathedral at York was never attached to a monastery, but was occupied by a body of secular canons, who in the early days led a kind of communal life. It is probably from this circumstance that the cathedral has been generally referred to as the Minster (monasterium).

Pilgrimages to shrines of saints became very popular; the Minster, however, was at a great disadvantage in comparison with the other great minsters and cathedrals, for it had no illustrious saint buried within its walls. In Beverley Minster the famed archbishop of York—St. John of Beverley—was buried. Durham Cathedral contained the remains of Cuthbert, the most famous of the saints of northern England. Canterbury possessed the tomb of the most popular of English saints, Thomas à Becket. Westminster Abbey enclosed the remains of the saintly Edward the Confessor. St. Albans prided itself on the relics of the early Saint Alban.

The Archbishop of York and the Chapter of the Cathedral agreed to urge the Pope to place Archbishop William, who was buried in the Minster, on the calendar. William’s career as Archbishop had been a chequered one. He was the son of Count Herbert and a nephew of King Stephen. On the death of Thurstan, the King was anxious that his nephew, who at the time was Treasurer to the Minster, should become Archbishop. The election was forced in such an aggressive manner that the clergy resented such an exercise of Court influence, and against William FitzHerbert were also arrayed the Abbots of Rievaulx and Fountains, the Priors of Guisborough and Kirkham, and the Master of St. Peter’s Hospital at York. Both parties went to Rome to lay their case before Pope Innocent, with the result that William, returning successful to England, was consecrated at Winchester. Two years later a cardinal brought the pallium for William, but before it was delivered, the Pope died, and the cardinal returned to Rome, carrying the insignia back with him. William hurried to Rome, and when he got there the quarrel was reopened, and he now found a bitter opponent in the great St. Bernard. The treatment which Archbishop William received was resented by his friends in York, and they resolved to march to Ripon and attack Murdac, Abbot of Fountains. The attack was so serious that William was deposed, and Murdac made Archbishop. On his death, William was recalled, and he set out for the city of York, but was met on the way by the Dean and the Archdeacon, who had opposed him and now announced their intention of appealing against his election. William, however, reached York and was met by such a large crowd that the timber bridge over the Ouse collapsed. Many were thrown into the river. The Archbishop, who had crossed safely before the accident, heard their screams. He turned round and began to pray that all might be saved. His prayer was granted, and a miracle considered to have been worked. On Trinity Sunday, the Archbishop, officiating in the Minster, was taken suddenly ill and returned to the palace. Within thirty days of his triumphal entry into York, he died of fever. His friends said he had been poisoned. He was buried in the Minster, his sudden death calling forth the sympathy of the populace. Miracles were wrought at his tomb, from which flowed oil. Sick people anointed with the oil became well. A man named Ralph, who had lost the sight of both eyes, after praying and fasting, came to the tomb and recovered his sight. William was placed on the calendar in the year 1227. Indulgences were granted by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of London and Lincoln to those who visited the tomb. Pilgrims came from all parts to the tomb of the saint bringing



offerings, with the result that the Minster authorities were encouraged to begin the erection of a new cathedral. They began with the renewal of the transepts and then proceeded with the erection of the nave and chapter house, and of the Lady Chapel and choir.

York Minster impresses the beholder by its massiveness, and although it consists of buildings of various dates, it gives an impression of unity of design. The earliest portions are the transepts, and there is a great contrast in the composition of the two gable ends. That of the northern from its simplicity seems the earlier. The central part consists of an arcade, above which are five long lancets known as “the Five Sisters”; over are a stringcourse and seven lancets rising to the slope of the gable. The southern transept has a portal set between arcading and lancets, above which is a central window of two lights with a lancet on either side, whilst the gable is filled with a large and beautiful rose window.

The western front is a charming architectural composition. The nave gable-end, with entrance and eight-light window with its flowing tracery, is set between two buttressed and uniformly pinnacled towers, which terminate the aisle ends. The entrance has a moulded arch enriched with delicate sculpture in which the history of Adam and Eve and their sons Cain and Abel is traced. Above the entrance is the figure of an archbishop seated, holding a model of the western front in his hands, and on either side are mailed figures with shields of a Percy and a Vavasour, having blocks of wood and stone which signify the nature of their gifts to the building. The aisles are divided into seven bays by buttresses which have a canopied niche with figure and lofty pinnacles and which support the flying buttresses to the nave roof, giving an effect to the whole composition of great stability and endurance. The choir and Lady Chapel are a continuation of the nave design. They differ only in detail and lack the flying buttresses. The clerestory passage along the Lady Chapel is outside the windows. The walk is enclosed by an open screen, and is separated from the choir clerestory by a small transept with a lofty window. The eastern end contains in the centre a window of nine lights and above a figure of Archbishop Thoresby, holding a model of the Minster. Below the sill are represented busts of Christ and the Apostles, a king, an archbishop, and two princes.

On the northern side is the octagonal chapter house with its five-light windows between angle buttresses. A parapet surrounds the pyramidical roof; a gargoyle depicts a bishop, in a boat, giving his benediction. The vestibule was built after the chapter house, to connect it with the church. The whole of the northern elevation is well seen from the Deanery Gardens. It is difficult to realize that the whole was in ruins in the first half of the last century. The choir was fired by a lunatic in 1829, and the nave was destroyed by fire in 1840 owing to the carelessness of a workman. The central tower, fortunately, proved a barrier to the flames on both occasions by preventing their spreading to the other part of the building.

The Minster is generally entered by the south transept. Spaciousness is the leading feature within. The great dimensions of the transepts with the lofty lantern in the centre and the “Five Sisters” at the northern end, filled in with ancient brownish-green glass, combine to make this the finest internal view. The resemblance of the glass to tapestry has given rise to a tradition that five maiden sisters worked the design in tapestry. This pretty legend forms the subject of a story related by Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby.

The view westward along the nave is a fine one. The eight bays are emphasized by the vaulting shafts which rise directly from the floor, whilst the end is filled with arcading in which is set the entrance and thereover an eight-light window with beautiful flowing tracery. The beauty of the nave owes much to the fourteenth-century glass which fills the aisle and clerestory windows. A most brilliant scene is produced when the sun shines through these windows. The view from the western end embraces the whole length of the Minster: in the centre the tower arches support the lantern and beyond stretches the long vaulted roof over the organ and altar-screen to the east end with its large magnificent window. The view in the choir looking eastward with the canopied stalls, the open traceried altar-screen, backed by the great window, which rises to the lofty vaulting, is one of striking beauty.

The chapter house is octagonal and without a single column to support the vaulting. Each bay, excepting the entrance, consists of six canopied stalls under a lofty window. The glass in the tracery is adorned with shields bearing the arms of King Edward I and of members of his Court. The windows have alternately diapered and subject panels. The subjects are taken from the Bible or from the lives of saints. The carving on the stalls is exquisite and consists of figures, heads, and foliage. The latter is treated “naturally”, as is the diaper on the glass. The ironwork on the doors consists of scrolls cut into leafage and flowers and finished at the top in zoomorphic figures. A Latin verse painted on the wall testifies “As the rose is the flower of flowers, so is this the house of houses”.

There are thirty canons, each having a seat in the choir and chapter house. The dignitaries are the dean, precentor, sub-dean, chancellor, succentor, and the four residentiary canons. Collectively they are known as “The Dean and Chapter of York”. Formerly each canon was provided with an assistant priest, termed a vicar-choral. The original number of thirty-six vicars-choral has been reduced to five. There was also a large number of chantry priests.

The choir entrance is set in the screen, amidst figures of the kings of England from William I to Henry VI. The western end of the choir is occupied by canopied stalls, terminated on the north side by the pulpit, and on the south side by the cathedra of the Archbishop. The high altar formerly stood a bay westward from the glazed screen, being set between the choir transept windows, which depict events in the lives of the two great northern saints, Cuthbert and William. Behind the high altar was a large painted and gilded reredos, with a door at each side, opening to the sacristy, where the bones of St. William were preserved in a portable shrine. The head of the saint was kept in a reliquary of silver gilt covered with jewels.

The Lady Chapel consists of the four eastern bays. Over the altar is the great window—the largest one in the world containing its original glazing. The contract for the glazing is dated 10 December, 1405, and is made between the Dean and Chapter and John Thornton of Coventry, who undertook to portray with his own hand the histories, images, and other things to be painted on it, and to provide glass, lead, and workmen at the expense of the Chapter and to finish it within three years. Thornton was to receive for every week wherein he should work in his art four shillings and each year five pounds, and after the work was completed ten pounds as a reward. The window depicts scenes from the Creation to the death of Absalom and from the Revelation of St. John.

The tomb of Archbishop Scrope is on the north side of the altar in the Lady Chapel. This Archbishop joined the insurrection against Henry IV, and was beheaded in a field on Bishopthorpe Road. Four of the vicars-choral conveyed the body to the Minster and buried it in the chapel of St. Stephen. Scrope was generally regarded as a martyr.

In the vestry is the Horn of Ulphus, formed from an elephant’s tusk, the mouth of which is encircled by a carved band of oriental design. Shortly before the Norman Conquest, Ulph, son of Thorold, lord of a great part of eastern Yorkshire, laid this horn on the altar in token that he bestowed certain lands on the Minster. There are also an ancient coronation chair, the mazer bowl of Archbishop Scrope inscribed: “+Recharde arche beschope Scrope grantis on to alle that drinkis of this cope XLti dayis to pardune”, a silver pastoral staff bearing the arms of Catherine of Braganza, taken by the Earl of Danby from James Smith, Bishop of Callipolis, whilst walking in procession to the Minster to assume the office of vicar-apostolic of the Northern District, to which he had been appointed by the Pope. Adjoining the vestry is the chapel of Archbishop Zouche, which contains a picturesque mediaeval well. Near the entrance to the crypt are two fine quadrant cope chests covered with gracefully curved ironwork.

Amongst the monuments in the Minster is an effigy of Prince William of Hatfield, the second son of Edward III. The others are principally of archbishops. The tomb of Walter de Gray consists of a bearded effigy on a slab under a solid canopy supported by shafts. That of William Greenfield is a table tomb bearing a brass on which he is depicted. Above is a roofed canopy surmounted by a figure of the archbishop. On a table tomb is a recumbent effigy of Archbishop Savage under a panelled, arched canopy. Henry Bowet was buried in a tomb surmounted by a lofty canopy. That of John Dolben, who bore the Royalist standard at Marston Moor, is figured in white marble. The effigy reclines on a high base. Treasurer Haxey’s memorial represents a wasted corpse in a winding sheet, worked in stone; an iron trellis surrounds it, supporting a black marble slab on which minster dues used to be paid. In the north transept is a memorial window to Sir Frank Lockwood, M.P. for York. The inscription below is by Lord Rosebery. In the south transept is a beautiful monument to the late Dean Duncombe. The monument to the wife of Archbishop Matthews records she was first married to a son of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury.

“She was a woman of exemplary wisdom, gravity, piety, bounty, and indeed in other virtues not only above her sex, but the times. One excellent act of her, first derived upon this church, and through it flowing upon the country, deserves to live as long as the church itself. The library of the deceased archbishop, consisting of above three thousand books, she gave it entirely to the public use of this church. A rare example that so great care to advance learning should lodge in a woman’s breast! but it was the less wonder in her because she was kin to so much learning.”

She was the daughter of a bishop, and one of four sisters all of whom married bishops.

The Minster Close is bounded on two sides by the city walls. At Westminster on 18 May, 1285, Edward I granted a

“License for the Dean and Chapter of St. Peter’s, York, to enclose the churchyard and precinct of their church with a stone wall twelve feet high all round, for the prevention of nocturnal incursions of thieves in the streets and lanes in the said precinct,



and of night wanderers committing homicides and other evil there: the said wall to be provided with competent gates and posterns, which are to be left open from dawn till night.”

These walls and three gateways have been destroyed. On the northern side of the close stood the Archbishop’s palace, of which a portion of the fine late Norman arcade exists. The Archbishop’s chapel was built in the early part of the thirteenth century, and has examples both of the round and pointed arch. The chapel and its undercroft are now used as the Minster Library. The prebendal house of Stillington occupied the site of the present Deanery. Eastward is the Treasurer’s house, which Mr. Frank Green has restored for use as his residence. The Prince and Princess of Wales (King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra) and Princess Victoria occupied the Treasurer’s house during their visit to York in 1897. Southwards stood other prebendal houses and the old Deanery. The house which the Prior of Hexham held in virtue of his prebend of Salton afterwards became the home of the chantry priests and was known as St. William’s College. The buildings surround a courtyard, the lower story is of stone, and the upper a projecting half-timbered one. When King Charles fled from London to his beloved city of York, he stayed in Sir Arthur Ingram’s house, formerly the palace, and the King’s son on his arrival was created Duke of York as a compliment to the city. On St. George’s Day, 1642, a meeting of the Knights of the Garter was held in the chapter house. The royal press was established in St. William’s College. The college has been restored, and is now used for the meetings of the Houses of Convocation of the Northern Province.

Plan of York Cathedral 1. South Transept. 2. North Transept. 3. Nave. 4. Chapter House. 5. Abp. Zouche’s Chapel. 6. Lady Chapel. 7. Choir.

1. South Transept.
2. North Transept.
3. Nave.
4. Chapter House.
5. Abp. Zouche’s Chapel.
6. Lady Chapel.
7. Choir.


The charming abbey grounds contain within their precincts historic monuments and relics of the greatest interest. An angle-tower, with a portion of the wall that surrounded Roman York, recalls the struggle of the Brigantes with the armour-clad legionaries. Tacitus recounts how Caractacus, the gallant Silurian chief, after his defeat, sought the protection of Cartismandua, the Queen of the Brigantes, and how basely she betrayed him. The Romans, after their conquest of York, garrisoned the city with the Ninth Legion, and subsequently built a walled-in rectangular fort with angle towers and central gateways. The Emperor Hadrian sent over the Sixth Legion to replace the Ninth at York, and afterwards he came over in person to superintend the building of a wall from the Tyne to the Solway Firth. Ninety years later the Emperor Septimius Severus, with his sons Caracalla and Geta, came to York on his way to repel the Caledonians, who had broken through the Wall. The campaign lasted two years, during which period the Imperial court was placed at York, where Papinianus the great jurist administered the Roman law. The Emperor died at York and his remains were cremated on a hill, thenceforth known as Severus Hill. His ashes were placed in an urn and conveyed by his sons to Rome. About a century later the Emperor Constantius Chlorus came over to quell a rising in the north. He died at York, and his son Constantine was proclaimed his successor. The latter soon afterwards left York to enter on that famous career which has earned him the title of the Great.

The wall enclosing the York fort, built by Roman masons, is four and a half feet thick, consisting of lime-concrete faced on both sides with narrow courses of small ashlar limestone, and having a band of red tiles about the middle of its height. The angle-tower is ten-sided and from the number of its angles is known as the Multangular Tower. The preservation of the wall and tower is owing to the fact that the mediaeval architects adopted the same line for their walls. On the northern side of the tower, however, the mediaeval wall is placed some five feet beyond the Roman one.

Within the Roman tower and wall are the remains of St. Leonard’s, formerly St. Peter’s, Hospital. The hospital was founded by King Athelstan on his return to York from the glorious victory he had achieved at Brunnanburh. He met in the Minster a number of religious people called Coli Dei or Culdees, devoted



to works of charity. The value of their work being greatly hindered for want of funds, Athelstan granted to God, St. Peter, and the Culdees, a piece of crown land on which they might erect a hospital, and for its endowment he granted a thrave of corn from every plough going in the province of York. The land given to the hospital is that on which the Theatre Royal now stands. The hospital belonged to the Minster, and was rebuilt by the first Norman Archbishop, who induced the Conqueror to confirm the gift of thraves of corn, and also to add more land. The cloister or undercroft of the hospital was divided into aisles by short columns and covered with groined vaulting. King Stephen built a church for the hospital on that part of their close adjoining the king’s street. The church was dedicated to St. Leonard, and he also changed the name of the hospital from St. Peter’s to St. Leonard’s. From this time, under royal patronage, the hospital became independent of the Minster. On the banks of the river was a staith appropriated to the hospital.

New buildings arose. All that remains of these are a long vaulted gateway having on the north cloisters of the same length, now three aisles but formerly five, two of which are provided with a large fireplace, which has the back formed of thin tiles arranged herring-bonewise. Above were the wards of the infirmary, opening at the east end to the chapel, under which is a vaulted chamber.

The occupants in 1280 numbered nearly 400. In the infirmary were 229 men and women with 2 washerwomen and 7 servants, in the orphanage 23 boys with a woman caretaker. There were 8 chaplains, 11 lay brethren, 3 secular chaplains, and a sub-deacon, 17 sisters, 19 choir boys, and a master of the song school, a schoolmaster, and 67 servants. There was a large distribution of alms at the gate of this king’s almshouse of St. Leonard, and a dinner was given every Sunday for each prisoner in the castle.

The hospital was independent of the Archbishop, and only subject to the king or his deputies. The great Walter Langton, when master in 1294, ordered each chaplain a seat and desk in the cloister. In 1344 there were, amongst others, in the hospital a clerk of the church, a cooper, 3 bakers, 2 brewers, 2 smiths, 3 carters, a miller, a swineherd, 12 boatmen, a ferrywoman, 2 valets, a groom, a cellarer, a clerk of the exchequer, an auditor, and a seneschal. There was plenty of work for all in such a large establishment. There were the master, brethren, and sisters to wait on, the sick and needy to attend to, the destitute to relieve at the gates, whilst a few in their own homes had a corrody in the shape of food or money. The inmates were well provided for; the king’s almsmen received the same fare as the chaplains, namely, a loaf of white bread and a gallon of ale of the better quality, flesh and fish for dinner and supper, also a loaf and a gallon of ale of the second quality. During the year, 565 stones of cheese and 60 stones of butter were consumed. In the year 1469 there were in the hospital the master, 13 brethren, 4 secular priests, 8 sisters, 30 choristers, 2 schoolmasters, 6 servitors, and 206 beadmen. Seventy years later this useful hospital was dissolved, Dr. Thomas Magnus, Archdeacon and a member of the Privy Council being then master. He became parson of Sessay Church where he died eleven years later. He is commemorated by a fine brass engraved with his effigy.

A story tells how once a miracle was wrought in St. Leonard’s Hospital. The hero of the tale, so far from being a saint was very much a sinner. After a not too reputable secular career, he was persuaded to become a religious. The change in his life was more apparent than real, for, it seems, when fair-time came round, he made up his mind to join, as on many a previous occasion, in the festivities of the season. Taking advantage of the after-dinner sleepiness of the porter, and seizing the latter worthy’s keys, Brother Jucundus, for that is the hero’s name, made his exit, contemptuous of discipline.

Whether it was the unusually severe life he had lately been leading, is not known, but it appears that by the evening the brother’s ideas were, as a result of his unwisely frequent potations, in quite a nebulous state.

Meanwhile, attention having been directed to the absence of Jucundus from the monastery, two brothers were deputed with orders to discover his whereabouts and to rescue him. Eventually they conveyed their erring comrade home in a wheelbarrow.

Such a breach of discipline was a most serious offence; indeed, Jucundus was sentenced to be walled up alive. This unpleasant process was actually carried out, and our friend thought that he had looked his last upon the sun.

Mured up thus unkindly, he was soon sobered, and beginning to kick against the walls, was surprised that the stones gave way under the pressure he applied to them. He soon had worked a big enough hole (not, of course, in the wall which Justice had just built in order to immure him) to allow his passage.

He now found himself in the adjoining Abbey of St. Mary, and his only hope of safety lay in his passing as one of the regular inmates of that establishment. He, too, therefore subjected himself to the Rule of Silence, and acquiring in a remarkably short space



the esteem of his new brothers, was appointed cellarer.

Alas! after a year, temptation was too much for him. He made an unworthy use of his office and underwent a second sentence for riotous misconduct. He was carried by the unsuspecting monks to the place where he had been before immured and was left to his fate. He was still under his drunken delusion singing merrily, to be heard by the reverend brothers of St. Leonard’s. The news of Jucundus’s continued existence was carried to his superior, who, recognizing his former subject’s voice, ordered the cell to be opened and knelt in awe before the revivified but still merry Jucundus.

Within and around St. Leonard’s gateway are collected a number of Roman stone coffins which have been found in York. One coffin in particular is of more than usual interest, for it is believed to be connected with a Christian burial. Evidences of Christianity during the Roman occupation of York are rare. A record exists that Eborius, Bishop of York, was present at the Council of Arles in 314. The discovery of this coffin tends to confirm this statement, by showing that there were Christians in York amongst its Roman inhabitants. In this Roman stone coffin were found a glass jug and a disk—which are considered to be the cruet and paten of the viaticum—and a bone tablet carved with a Latin inscription “SOROR AVE VIVAS IN DEO”, which is rendered in English, “Sister, hail, mayest thou live in God”.

After the departure of the Romans, the pagan Anglians drove the Christians out of the district to the westward, and when the Anglians in York had themselves embraced Christianity, they suffered the like from the Danish invaders. Subsequently the Danes embraced Christianity, and adjoining the abbey grounds is the church founded by the conqueror of Macbeth, Jarl Siward, to the Norwegian sainted King Olaf. Siward was Earl of Northumbria and a great warrior. On his deathbed he commanded his attendants to put on him his armour, and thus fully equipped, he died.

Soon after the Norman Conquest, the church of St. Olave, with four acres adjoining, was given by the Earl of Richmond to Stephen of Whitby to found a Benedictine monastery. The site, however, was church property, and the Archbishop only relinquished it when William II gave him an equivalent. King Rufus laid the foundation stone of the abbey church, which was dedicated to St. Mary. The foundations of the eastern part of this church have been laid bare and show the apsidal terminations.

The introduction into England of the Cistercian order, with their stricter rule of conduct, led some of the monks of St. Mary’s to attempt a raising of the standard of discipline in their own monastery. The other monks, however, resented their interference. The reformers, filled with admiration of the accounts they heard of the holy lives led by the inmates of the Cistercian house of Rievaulx, were now anxious to found a colony of that order and communicated their desire to the Abbot of St. Mary’s, who, however, refused to allow them to leave, as it would bring discredit on his abbey. The reformers included the prior, sub-prior, sacrist, almoner, and precentor. The prior consulted the Archbishop, who decided to hold a visitation at the abbey.

Archbishop Thurstan on the day appointed rode to the abbey gatehouse attended by the Archdeacon of York, the Minster Treasurer (afterwards St. William), the Prior of Guisborough, and the Master of St. Leonard’s Hospital. Leaving their horses at the gateway, they walked to the chapter house and were received by the abbot, who protested against anyone entering but the Archbishop and his clerks. The Archbishop remonstrated, but the monks who had filled the chapter house, considering it was a Cistercian attack on their own order, created an uproar by hooting and screaming and prevented the Archbishop being heard; he, however, in a lull shouted, “I place the Abbey under an interdict.” “Interdict it for a hundred years,” exclaimed one of the monks, and then arose the cry of “Catch them!” The Archbishop with his retinue and the thirteen reformers were alarmed and took refuge in the church, and after a time were permitted to leave the abbey.

The Archbishop befriended the outcasts and subsequently gave them a plot of ground, near his manor at Ripon, on which they founded the Cistercian Abbey of Fountains.

Simon of Warwick became Abbot of St. Mary’s in 1259, and placed it in greater security from the attacks by the citizens, between whom and the monks were often quarrels, owing to the privileges claimed by the abbey. The monastery, being just outside the city, was always in danger from raiding expeditions of the Scots, so in the year 1266 the abbot had licence from the king to wall in the abbey close.

Abbot Warwick in 1271 laid the foundation stone of a new church to St. Mary’s Abbey. He began by building at the rear of the Norman church a new aisled choir of nine bays. The Norman edifice was then taken down and replaced by a new aisled nave of eight bays, transepts of three bays with eastern aisles, and lofty tower with spire. The western front has a central doorway set between arcading; the doorway jambs are delicately sculptured with the ivy and its trailing stem. The aisle windows are alternately of two and three lights with geometrical tracery and placed above an arcade—the work is similar to that in the north aisle of the choir at Selby Abbey. One of the views depicts the eastern archway with clerestory of the nave north aisle. The remains of the church show it to have been a magnificent example of the art of the last quarter of the thirteenth century. Excavations have revealed the foundations of the choir and exhibit the full length of the church.

The ruins of the vestibule and entrance to the chapter house are beautiful examples of the richly ornamented late Norman work.

The walls of the abbey close remain. The principal, and for a long time the only entrance, was that of Mary Gate. There is a fine arch and on either side of the gateway is an arcade with stone seats. The vaulted roof and the courtroom above for the Liberty of St. Mary have disappeared. The gatehouse adjoins and is now a private dwelling. John Phillips, the eminent geologist, resided in it for some years. On the opposite side are the ruins of the Chapel of Our Lady at the Gate; the edifice was of two stories, with the chapel on the first floor which was reached by a stone stair.

The Bootham entrance was made in order to shorten the distance from the abbot’s house to the Minster, and in expectation of a visit of Henry VII, on his return from Scotland. The Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, was the guest of the Lord Abbot of St. Mary’s for two days on her journey to the north to be the bride of James IV of Scotland. The Princess, accompanied by five hundred lords and ladies, was met at Tadcaster Bridge by the Sheriffs in crimson gowns, attended by one hundred persons on horseback, who conducted her royal highness towards the city. At Micklegate Bar, the Princess was received by the Lord Mayor and Corporation, who welcomed her to the city. On the following day the Lord Mayor and Corporation waited upon the Princess, and presented her with a silver gilt cup containing one hundred angels of gold for which she heartily thanked them. The next day the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen escorted the Princess as far as Magdalene Hospital in Bootham. The Lord Mayor made a long oration in taking his leave, to which the Princess replied, “My Lord Mayor, your brethren, and all the whole city of York. I shall evermore endeavour to love you and this city all the days of my life.”

The Bootham entrance to St. Mary’s Abbey consists of an archway with porter’s lodge now used as a shop. From here the abbey walls continue behind the houses to the circular tower at the end of Marygate. The tower contained the records of many of the suppressed northern monasteries. During the siege of York in the time of the Great Civil War, one Sunday the Parliamentarians having laid a mine, blew up the tower and entered the grounds. The Royalists sent out a body of men by the Watergate and up Marygate to the ruined tower. Those inside were thus caught and were compelled to surrender. The tower was afterwards rebuilt, but on a smaller scale. From the tower the abbey walls stretch to the gatehouse and from there continue to the river, where they terminate in a circular tower, which is seen in the view taken across the river from near the railway bridge.

The river front had its water gate and walls. The water gate led to the “hospitium”, a two-storied building, the lower part of stone and the upper of timber and plaster. The hospitium adjoined the gateway, on the other side was the gatehouse, of which little remains.

In the lower room of the hospitium is stored much sculptured work from the abbey. Amongst the large bosses are represented the Holy Lamb, surrounded by maple leaves; the Virgin amidst the vine, and a monk playing an early violin. There are ten statues which formerly adorned the abbey church, each one is five feet eight inches high, and amongst others Moses and the Baptist are represented. There are also two “cresset” stones, the holes of which were filled with grease and provided with wicks to form the night lights for the monks.

In the same room are a number of Roman objects which have been discovered in York. A tesselated pavement, depicting the head of Medusa surrounded by emblems of the four seasons, was found near Micklegate Bar. One of the most ancient of Roman inscriptions in Britain is the inscribed tablet of the time of Trajan, which was found in King’s Square. An altar was found under one of the piers in the church of St. Denis. Amongst other Roman objects are stone coffins, tiled tombs, and a sculptured eagle.

Of mediaeval objects are moulded stones from the demolished church of St. Crux, an effigy in chain armour of Sir John de Vescy, a defaced effigy of a knight which passed as a statue of Mother Shipton, the famous Yorkshire prophetess, and a tablet inscribed “Here stood the image of York”, referring to Ebraucus, the founder of York, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth.

The upper room is chiefly devoted to pottery, glass, and the smaller Roman objects found in York. There are seven hundred and fifty perfect vessels. Of particular interest to many and kept in a glass case is the hair of a Roman lady—taken out of a lead coffin enclosed in a stone one. The hair retains its auburn colour, is coiled and secured by two jet pins.



The other conventual buildings have been destroyed, the Museum stands on a portion of them. In the basement is a fireplace in situ, and in another part are three octagonal pillars which have been removed a little from their original position. The mortar of the abbey infirmary is placed in the Museum entrance; it was cast in 1308 by William of Towthorpe, one of the monks. It is a beautiful example of the art of the bellfounder, the design consisting of two rows of quatrefoils between an inscription.

The Museum contains some Roman sculptures, including one to Mithras, an inscribed stone coffin of Julia Fortunata, and a fine statue. On the walls are three tapestry maps of central England. These are the first specimens of tapestry weaving in this country and were executed in 1579. In a wall case are fetters from York Castle, consisting of those worn by Nevison and Dick Turpin, the famous highwaymen.

The Abbot of St. Mary’s together with the Abbot of Selby were the only two mitred abbots north of the Trent, and by virtue of their rank they were summoned as Lords of Parliament. The Lord Abbot of St. Mary’s had, near York, country residences at Overton, Deighton, and Beningbrough, and a London house near St. Paul’s Wharf.

The abbey after its surrender was retained in the possession of the Crown. The church became a quarry for anyone who required building stone; engravings show that in the seventeenth century both sides of the nave with the Triforium were standing. In the eighteenth century the abbey ruins supplied the stone for the repairing of various buildings. The whole of the structure was gradually being cleared away, and to hurry on the work of destruction, a limekiln was erected. Fortunately, in 1827, the Yorkshire Philosophical Society obtained a grant of the ruins and land.

Through the nave north doorway is seen the tomb of William Etty, Royal Academician, who was a native of York and to whom a statue has recently been erected in front of the City Art Gallery.

The abbot’s house, although much altered, is that occupied by the Wilberforce School for the Blind. After the Dissolution, it was called the King’s Manor and made the residence of the Lord President of the North. On the site of the monastic chapter house, a palace was built and occupied by Henry VIII and his Queen, Catherine Howard, when they visited York. The palace was afterwards disused and became a ruin. The basement, known as the “King’s Cellar”, remains and now forms the substructure of a recent building. During the reign of Elizabeth additions were made “to the Queen’s Majesty’s house” by the successive Lords Presidents, the Earls of Sussex and Huntingdon. One apartment contains a large fireplace with pilasters which have bases, raised panels and caps, and an arch adorned with sculptured panels. The plaster frieze has the crest of the Hastings, Earls of Huntingdon—a coronet over the garter, within which is a bull’s head between the letters H.H., the royal Tudor badge—an open pomegranate between two dragons—and the bear and ragged staff—the badge of the Dudleys, the Countess being the sister of Robert Dudley, the Queen’s favourite. In the reign of James I other additions were made, including a new entrance. In the pilaster base on either side are the letters I.R. under a crown. A view is given of the stairs and doorway, with the Royal Arms above, which led to the Banquetting Hall added by the great Earl of Strafford (then Viscount Wentworth). He placed his own armorial bearings over the doorway on the west side of the courtyard, and although there was nothing unusual in such an act, it formed one of the charges against him at his trial, he having placed his own arms on one of the king’s palaces. Later, King Charles I took up his abode here for a month, and the Royal arms were placed over the entrance.

The School for the Blind, with its two courtyards surrounded by mullioned windows and quaint doorways with heraldic devices, forms an extremely picturesque brick and stone building. A pretty view is that obtained from the abbey grounds. It shows the Elizabethan additions, one a stone building with gabled end and a series of stone dormers; the other, a later building on a stone base is of brick with brick pilasters, cornices, and gables, the whole making an especially fit subject for the artist in water colours.

Three of the Abbots of St. Mary’s became bishops: Thomas of Spofforth went to Hereford, William Wells to Rochester, and William Sever to Carlisle and Durham. Bishop Sever was buried in the choir of St. Mary’s Abbey church. His tombstone was discovered during recent excavations.