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Title: York
Author: Benson, George
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "York" ***

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                      Described by George Benson
                      Pictured by E. W. Haslehust


                         BLACKIE & SON LIMITED
                          LONDON AND GLASGOW

_16/18 William IV Street,
Charing Cross, London, W.C.2_
_17 Stanhope Street, Glasgow_

_103/5 Fort Street, Bombay_


                           BEAUTIFUL ENGLAND

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.

                          BEAUTIFUL SCOTLAND

                             Loch Lomond.
                          The Scott Country.
                            Shores of Fife.

      _Printed in Great Britain by Blackie & Son, Ltd., Glasgow_



The Water-Gates, Lendal Bridge                      _Frontispiece_

Micklegate Bar                                                         5

Bootham Bar                                                           12

Fishergate Postern from the Walls                                     16

The Shambles                                                          21

Norman Porch, St. Lawrence’s Tower                                    28

York Minster                                                          33

York from the City Walls                                              37

Entrance to the Banqueting Hall, King’s Manor                         44

York from the Ouse                                                    48

College Street, St. William’s College and Chapter House               53

Ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey                                             60

Plan of York Cathedral                                                46

[Illustration: MICKLEGATE BAR]

[Illustration: YORK]


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

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

[Illustration: BOOTHAM BAR]

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

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

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

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

[Illustration: THE SHAMBLES]

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

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

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

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 3_d._ a pound.

                { BENJAMIN KINGMAN.
  Performed By  { HENRY HARRISON.
                { WALTER BAYNES.

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


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

[Illustration: YORK MINSTER]

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

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

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


     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.

[Illustration: 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.]


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

[Illustration: YORK FROM THE OUSE]

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

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

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

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.

[Illustration: RUINS OF ST. MARY’S ABBEY]

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

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.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "York" ***

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