The Old York and The New York
York, England May 25-26, 1999
Between Sherwood Forest and the city of York we had to travel through the populated Midlands of England. This got somewhat glum for us, partly because every-time we stopped to ask if we could plug in our laptop we got turned down, and partly because the scenery seemed bleak. Almost every time we looked out the window we'd see one of these power plants. (At one point we saw three of them at once.)
Then we got to York at about 6:00 and all the shops were shuttered closed. Every parking lot we saw had 6 foot barriers that our Green Wonder Van couldn't sneak under. The movie theatre was playing shows we didn't care about at times we couldn't see. All in all we got to feeling down. We decided to get pizza at Villa Italia on Micklegate and that's when things started looking up. First off the Italian waiter was nice to us. Then as we checked out we started asking a bunch of touristy questions ("Where's your accent from?" "Heard you went to New York, how'd you like it?") and got to talking. Two young guys from southern England started giving us guidance on where to check out in the Dales and Scotland. We explained our problem with internet access and they straightaway invited us down to the basement to hook up. Turns out the older of the two brothers, James, is the proprietor and bought the place only two weeks before.
So with our spirits much improved, and a great campsite (as recommended by James and his brother Paul) we spent two days in York doing a bunch of cool things.
You can tell how old something is by how deep it goes. Here on the left you see different layers of wall outside an excavation in York. The signs tell you how old each layer is. The lowest level is Roman. After that comes Anglo Saxon, then Viking, then Norman. Each culture made buildings and additions to the walls around York.
We took a walking tour of York that was more like a two hour stand-up lecture. On the right here you see the lowest level of wall exposed next to some Roman coffins. Notice the small coffins on the left. Did you know they actually dug up the old Roman buried and put their remains in the smaller coffins to make room in the big ones for the newly dead? No wonder York has so many ghosts...
Of course we had to see the great York Minster. (It's the seat for the Archbishop of York, so it could be called a cathedral but the Yorkshire call it 'The Minster.') In the civil war between Parliamentary and Royalist forces, most all the conquered cathedrals had their windows smashed by Puritans aligned with the Parliamentarians. But when York was surrendered, the commander who took it over was a York Man and saved the windows from destruction. Consequently they claim to be the best preserved in England. To the left here is the Eastern Window which was once an important pilgrimage destination. Up near the top is a walkway where special faithful were allowed to walk next to the glass. (Did you know they have to take these things down every one hundred years, melt the lead down and re-apply it? Otherwise the lead becomes corroded and the glass will fall out.)
To the right you see the other extreme of church preservation. Henry VIII had Saint Mary's Abbey destroyed (along with a great many others) as part of his takeover of the church.
One of the visionaries who called York home was Dr. Kirk who founded an extensive collection of folk life items. This entire city street is made of actual store fronts from the eighteenth and nineteenth century. (In the early twentieth century, all this stuff was being torn down to make room for the new industrial way of life. Dr. Kirk would buy it up, store stock and all, so people in our time could see the originals.)
Dr. Kirks collection is the basis for the Folk Life museum in York Castle (an old debtor's prison, the kind Dickens wrote about). So exhibits like this candle shop were installed in old cell blocks with iron doors and padded cells.
On a light note we visited the Richard III museum in Monks Bar (Monks Bar is the northern wall gate -- they name many things here after their Viking names: York comes from Jorvic, streets are called Gates, gates are called Bars, and bars are called Pubs).
Richard was a favorite son of York and lots of people there think he was framed by Henry VII and the Tudors who defeated him. The 'museum' is a tongue-in-cheek treatment of this subject.
In the Monks Bar you can try out the mechanism they used to raise the portcullis.
You can also try out the prison cells and the medieval loo....
We had time to walk about town, enjoying sights of the local merchants in The Shambles. (Another one of those words, originally it meant butcher, but the butcher districts were built to be close in so the sun couldn't warm the meat. Eventually they became so cluttered the word came to have its current meaning.)
Page || Meet
Kathleen & H. Woods || Purchase
Kathleen's Fine Art Photography || H. Woods' Reading Room
Our Favorite Links ||