Friday 28 December 2018

York city walls

Since Roman times, York has been defended by walls of one form or another. To this day, substantial portions of the walls remain and York has more miles of intact wall than any other city in England. The original walls were built around 71 AD, when the Romans erected a fort occupying about 50 acres near the banks of the river Ouse. 

The rectangle of walls was built as part of the fort's defences.

The Danes occupied the city in 867. By this time the Roman defences were in poor repair, and the Danes demolished all the towers save the Multangular Tower and restored the walls. The majority of the remaining walls, which encircle the whole of the medieval city, date from the 12th to the 14th century, with some reconstruction carried out in the 19th century and later.

The walls are punctuated by four main gatehouses, or 'bars', - Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar. These restricted traffic in medieval times, and were used to extract tolls, as well as being defensive positions in times of war.

We walked part of the wall from Bootham Bar (pictured above) to the New Tower, then back to Monkbar - that's about a third of the remaining wall.

The walls between Bootham Bar and Monkbar enclose an area of the city called the Minster Close. In medieval times this area had its own laws, courts and prison and was known as The Liberty of St Peter. It contained the Archbishop's Palace and Cathedral and was governed not by the city but by the Dean and Chapter of York Minster.

Although much of Bootham Bar was built in the 14th and 19th centuries, it also has some of the oldest surviving stonework, dating to the 11th century. It was named in the 12th century as barram de Bootham, meaning bar at the booths, after the nearby market booths.

Up the steps we went

into this small chamber

and started our walk on the wall.

We could see the Minster covered in mist

Some of the battlements have benches

with narrow gaps for the launch of arrows

a full view of the Minster

when we rounded a corner

an interesting modernist house with its terrace garden

and we then arrived at Monk Bar, the four-storey gatehouse that is the tallest and most elaborate of the four, built in the early 14th century. It was intended as a self-contained fort, and each floor is capable of being defended separately.

Today, Monk Bar houses a museum called the Richard III Experience and retains its portcullis in working order.

We walked down the stairs

had a look at Monk Bar from the street, wandered around that part of the city

but then decided to continue walking  along the end of that section of the wall

and came across this intriguing plaque on the ground. We later found out that Jewbury, which is both a road and an area, is where York's original Jewish quarter was located, and the word itself means just this, 'Jewish Quarter'. Jewbury is to the north east of the city, just outside of the city walls. Although previously a residential area and site of the County Hospital, the land is now primarily used as a supermarket and car park.

Despite the attack on the Jews at York Castle in 1190 when the number of Jews in the city declined sharply both through death in the attack and through others fleeing the city in the mid-1920s, over 200 Jews lived in the city, although they were expelled nationally in 1290.

At this stage we were able to get a good view of the wall

continued on our way

and were able to get a good view of the Merchant Taylors' Hall

one side of which is timbered.

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