This map is based on one of the series produced by
in the early seventeenth century.
The Abbey of St. Mary
St. Mary's became the wealthiest and most influential Benedictine house
in northern England. Its origins can be traced back to a gift by Count Alan
of Brittany, prior to 1086, of St. Olave's Church and some nearby land to
monks displaced from Whitby and Lastingham. William Rufus enlarged the site
in 1088 and construction of the abbey began the following year. As can
be seen from Speed's map, the abbey precinct grew to cover a sizable
area on the west side of the city: when
walled in stone in 1334
(except for the wall on the Ouse side, set back from the river's edge, which was
completed in 1354) about 12 acres of land were enclosed; the main gate
faced away from the city, onto Marygate Speed shows the large gatehouse,
which accommodated the abbey court, although the monastic church which
stood in the centre of the precinct has disappeared. Rufus'
charter to the abbey granted the monks and their tenants exemption from
the jurisdiction of external authorities, thus creating an enclave
beyond the control of city or shire authorities and setting the stage for
rivalry, disputes and bitterness.
Further information and photo
Holy Trinity priory
The priory occupied a site of roughly 7 acres at the southern end of the
city. It is believed to have been the successor to a pre-Conquest house
of canons which had dwindled to almost nothing. The re-foundation in 1089
was the work of Ralph Paynell and took the form of an alien priory of
Benedictines, subject to the French abby of Marmoutier; many of the
properties with which Paynell endowed it had belonged to the earlier house
of canons. As a alien priory, it was looked on with suspicion during the
Hundred Years War and charges of harbouring spies and sending supplies
to the enemy were flung at it. There were occasionally disturbances aimed
at it. Nonetheless it survived the suppression of alien priories in the
early 15th century and successfully petitioned for naturalization in
1426, thereafter having the effective status of an abbey, free from any
foreign jurisdiction. During the reign of Henry VI it took over
responsibility for the hospital of St. Nicholas in the suburbs. It was
dissolved in 1538.
The dedication of the cathedral was to St. Peter.
Information and photo
A Norman motte-and-bailey
ortification on the site of the present
Clifford's Tower (named, in the late 16th century, possibly after someone
hanged there or possibly for one of the castellans), built in 1068,
rebuilt on an enlarged motte after being destroyed in the
anti-Jewish riot of 1190, blown down
in a gale in 1228, and gradually rebuilt in stone between about
1245 and 1270. The outer wall of the castle perimeter enclosed
not only the motte-and-bailey but halls and other buildings. Damming
of the Foss created an additional defence on the outer perimeter,
in the form of a lake. Uses of the castle included:
The castle was a separate jurisdiction ("liberty") from the city,
although the precise boundaries of that jurisdiction were a matter
of dispute between the city authorities and Yorkshire's sheriff.
- as a fortress (although after 1190 it never experienced a siege);
- for housing the courts and departments of the royal government, when
that was based in York for periods during the campaigns against the Scots
in the early 14th century;
- as the location where circuit and county courts were convened;
- as the base for shrieval administration;
- as the county gaol.
Information and photos
A "common hall" is heard of by 1256, although its location was not
identified. It is only speculation whether this might have been
the hansehouse (i.e. gild hall) whose existence is inferred from a
charter of 1154, in which the archbishop granted the burgesses of Beverley
the same privileges as York. The connection of a community building
with the present Guildhall site is evidenced only from 1378. This hall
was capable of hosting large civic assemblies, and is presumed to be the
predecessor of the
which represents a 15th-century renovation and enlargement.
In 1445 there was an agreement between the city authorities
and St. Christopher's Gild to share the costs of such a
project; the gild's recompense was a gift of city-owned land nearby, on
which it built a chapel and maison dieu, and the right to use the
Guildhall during the 10 days surrounding the festival of St. James.
Construction was underway during the 1446/47 fiscal year and sufficiently
advanced to allow a council meeting to be held there in 1459. The great
hall was the building's main feature, and was the location of mayoral
elections and discussion of important business which required the presence
of community representatives; a chamber at the west end was used
for the council to meet in private. The present Guildhall is a
reconstruction necessitated by damage to the original during the Second
The Thursday Market was the principal site for the retailing of foodstuffs;
retailing could begin there at 5.00 a.m. in summer, 7.00 a.m. in winter.
The market was supervised by a warden and by the fifteenth century that
officer was farming revenues due the city
from the market (e.g. stallage). The warden had to police city regulations
regarding trading, such as the prohibitions against regrating and selling
goods in private places.
In 1421 John Brathwayt's widow Mary gave £13.6s.8d towards the
construction of a new stone cross in the Thursday Market, as a work of
charity for the benefit of the souls of herself and her late husband.
She was very explicit that the money could only be applied to that purpose.
Information and photos.
Parts of this butcher's market were also known as Haymongergate and
Nedlergate during the Middle Ages.
Information and photo
St. Leonard's Hospital
Tradition has it that the hospital's origins lay in the canons'
responsibility for the welfare of the poor servants of the cathedral, to
which King Athelstan gave support in 936 by requiring every plough operating
in the diocese of York to contribute 20 sheaves of corn as alms towards
this effort. A small hospital was then built on royal land west of the
cathedral and given the same dedication as the cathedral. In 1246 an
inquisition jury attributed the foundation to the Conqueror and identified
the recipients of hospitality as the poor, sick and infirm who had no
homes but slept in the streets at night. The next generation credited
Rufus with the foundation. William Rufus' actual role seems instead to
have been to move the hospital a little further west. Stephen constructed
on the growing site a church dedicated to St. Leonard, and the hospital was
henceforth known by that name.
From later evidence it appears that the
charitable functions of the hospital were to distribute daily alms at its
gates to 30 poor people, give alms to prisoners in the city and to
leper houses, and maintain 206 sick poor folk within the hospital until
they had convalesced sufficiently to be able to return to work. The
hospital was staffed by 13 brethren and 8 sisters (who had special
responsibility for tending to the sick and poor) pursuing a quasi-monastic
lifestyle, involving chastity and renunciation of worldly goods; those
with an aptitude for learning were placed in theological schools in York.
Beds in the hospital might be endowed by private benefaction, with
benefactors (or their heirs) nominating persons to be maintained by the
hospital. In the building housing the infirmary, whose
still survives as a ruin, the lower floor was
allocated to nursing exposed infants and looking after orphans and poor
children; it was required that the chimney here function well, to avoid
the children being harmed by smoke.
The extensive lands accumulated by the hospital were carefully cultivated
and their crops, along with the sheaf-alms, sold to finance the hospital's
work. However, this income proved increasingly insufficient to support
needs despite master and brethren being exhorted to avoid unnecessary
expenses and forbidden to sell or pledge
books, chalices, or vestments from the church and the number of
residents had declined by the early 14th century. By the end of the
century, due partly to mismanagement by the masters of the hospital,
as well as delinquency on the part of many in paying the sheaf-alms, the
hospital was in rough shape. Fire had destroyed the church's bell-tower,
and the roofs of the infirmary and dormitory badly needed repair, as did
other buildings of the hospital, its manors, and the rentable properties
it owned in town. The foundation alms had been pilfered and church
ornaments and vestments pawned to pay the hospital's debts, while the
masters' personal household had run up high expenses. The hospital's debt
was £543. Despite this, the hospital managed to survive until the
The hospital precinct, which occupied a site of 4 acres with one gateway
opening onto the road to the east and another accessing a lane running
south to St. Leonard's Landing on the river, was one of the special
"liberties" within the city; it was and home not only to monks but also to
laymen who might have trade privileges without the accompanying civic or gild
obligations. This was inevitably resented by the citizens and the brethren
of the hospital at times found themselves unpopular. In 1482 the cappers
gild ordered that none of its members contract out work to anyone in
St. Leonards' (or other liberties), because the gild had no authority to
resolve any problems that might arise between master and worker.
The location of the hospital grounds against part of the city walls meant
that it was responsible for upkeep of that part of the walls, another
likely bone of contention.
Tower at the south-west corner of the precinct was part
of the original Roman defences and marks the south-west corner of the
This was one of the major highways within the city, an important street
connecting the Minster with the heart of the city; civic processions to
the Minster would follow that route. Many of the houses in Stonegate
belonged to the church. They included shops where theological or
school books were sold, as well as shops of goldsmiths (who also did a
lot of business with the church). The origin and meaning of the name
are debated. It seems doubtful that it could have any bearing on a paved
Roman road, which would have largely disappeared by the time when the
Viking "gate" was applied. Possibly it was associated with a stone
entrance to the Roman city, situated at the bottom of Stonegate, which is
more likely to have survived to the 10th century.
Information and photos
On, or very near, the site of one of the entrances into the Roman
settlement (it even being possible that some Roman material was
incorporated in the structure), this was the major entrance into the
city from the north. Parts of the structure can be dated back to
the 11th century.
Further information and photo
The most elaborate of the surviving medieval city gates, Monk Bar is also
the highest (four storeys, with the topmost being a 15th century addition).
It was constructed in the early 14th century and was equipped
with portcullis; it had a barbican which was removed in the 19th century.
There is no evidence for a gate here before the 14th century, but perhaps
there was some minor access way through the walls for the monks attached
to the cathedral.
(not seen on this map)
First mentioned in the mid-12th century, when likely a wooden gate
guarding an entrance through earthern fortifications, its lower section
of stone may date to 1215, when a new ditch was dug around the eastern
sector of the city. However, the present structure was largely part of
the initiative to wall the city with stone in the 14th century.
Information and photo ...
photo of inner face
This "bar" was in fact only a small postern gate beside one of the
defensive towers in the wall, which might explain why it receives no
mention in any early city documents. It probably had no superstructure
during the Middle Ages. The present-day tower is an early 16th century
This is generally interpreted as another postern gate, of lesser
significance than the principal bars of the city, although it too was
referred to as a bar in the Middle Ages, and had iron-bound doors.
Nonetheless, it was a public entrance, at the city end of the bridge
to Layerthorpe (which at one time would have been a village independent
of York, until absorbed as the suburbs expanded) and its arch over the
roadway was large enough for wagons to pass underneath; it was a location
for toll collection. By the beginning of the 15th century, there was a
hospital (maison dieu) atop it. When the bridge was built is
uncertain, but possibly not until the beginning of the Late Middle Ages;
it was in existence by 1309, but there is slight evidence that a ford may
have been there earlier.
As the entrance
into the city from the south, this was the most important
of the city gates. Its importance is reflected in the fact that, in a list
of leading townsmen to whom the keys of the various gates were entrusted
for safekeeping in 1380, the keys to Micklegate were kept by the mayor
himself; but this was during a time of political strife in the city, and it
was more commonly sergeants or gatekeepers who kept the keys. It was
usually through Micklegate Bar that kings entered the
city and were there greeted with ceremony by mayor, council, and citizens.
The present structure is three storeys high. The original gate was
built in the early 12th century, the archway still showing Norman
influence; in the 14th century it was heightened to accommodate
a portcullis, and a barbican was added (removed in the 19th century).
"Mickle" means "much" and Micklegate might today be interpreted as High
Street, Micklegate being the major route through the section of the city
on the west side of the Ouse. However, the gate does not lie on the route
of the Roman road that had headed south out of the city, but rather on
what was probably a post-Roman track.
A Roman bridge crossing the Ouse was upstream from the site of the medieval
bridge. There may, however, have been a wooden bridge on or near the
medieval site in the time of the Vikings, connecting the area of Roman
settlement and Scandinavian suburb with an extension of the settlement
across the river. A stone bridge is first referred to in the late 12th
century. Along the river on either side of the bridge, on both sides
but particularly the eastern bank, were the
where ships loaded and unloaded cargoes. A little further east of the
staith at which cargoes of fish were supposed to be unloaded stood
the church of St. Michael, whose Vespers bell marked the close of
activities in the Thursday Market not far off.
It was atop the west end of this bridge, on the north side, that sat a
building housing the city council chamber; the room in which mayor and
council conducted their discussions of civic business was on the upper
floor, while the bureaucratic administration had its desks on the lower
floor; the treasury and the prisons (often called kidcotes) associated
with mayor's and sheriffs' courts were also here, or nearby. A city rental
of 1376 refers to 36 shops and 5 tenements on, or at the end of, Ouse
bridge. They included at least one house "overhanging the river" and the
chapel of St. William, also on the north side at the west end; by
mid-15th century the chapel housed the city clock. Opposite the chapel,
on the south side of the bridge, was a small hospital one of
several in the city called a maison dieu sheltering poor men
and women. It was said to have been founded by the citizens in ancient
times and endowed with lands and rents for the support of the poor and
lepers; many citizens falling on hard times were given a home there, but
neglect and mismanagement had led to its decline. This was the defence
made by a group of citizens accused, in 1305, of illegally forming a
gild a few years earlier; they explained that their fraternity was for
the purpose of refounding the charitable hospital. Public latrines
were, from 1367, situated within a (dry) arch of the bridge near the hospital.
Also near the hospital was the Tollbooth, an earlier base for civic
officials: some financial administration is documented as taking place there,
and it may have been the earliest meeting-space for officials.
Each of the two major bridges within the city had a pair of wardens, city
employees, in charge of it. They were responsible for levying and accounting
for revenues associated with the bridges, such as rents from the properties
built on or in the neighbourhood of the bridges. A tollbooth situated
at the west end of the bridge, near the hospital, was presumably used
for collecting customs and tolls of passage, although there is reference
to a building of that name associated with the hearing of pleas. The
bridge encompassed six arches, but it was probably only the two central
that accommodated vessels plying the river. The city was in
a long contest with St. Mary's Abbey
to ensure ships could move freely along the Ouse. As well, the bridge
wardens were responsible for arranging maintenance work on the bridges
and any civic buildings associated with them, dealt with some expenses
related to the chapels (and the chapels' various chantries, founded by
private citizens) on the bridges.
Such was the burden of all these buildings to the bridge that
frequent repair was necessary, notably in 1307 and 1377, while several
grants of pontage were made by the king in support of repair work in
the early 15th century. In the 16th century the bridge collapsed due
to its deterioration and the weight of the buildings.
The earliest reference to a bridge at the end of Fossgate was ca.1145/48;
doubtless it was made of wood at that time.
Rebuilding in stone
occurred in the early 15th century, although it is not impossible the
structure replaced was also of stone. Like the Ouse bridge, the bridge
over the Foss had numerous shops and other buildings atop it and retail
stalls were also set up on the bridge. The buildings included a chapel
dedicated to St. Anne, whose chaplain received his salary from the city.
The west end of the pond which formed after damming, and served as a royal
fishery, is seen at the right edge of the map, but the larger part of the
pond is not seen in this edited version of Speed's original (which showed
the entire pond). The king's interests in the fishery were represented
by an officer who was probably based at the Foss Bridge. The bridge was
the site of the market in saltwater fish, mentioned as early as 1253;
consequently a number of those living near to the bridge were fishmongers.
Merchant Adventurers' Hall
Some of York's wealthier citizens formed the Gild of Our Lord and the
Blessed Virgin in the 1350s; after obtaining royal approval in 1357,
they had a hall built for themselves in Fossgate, probably completed by
1361, apparently with the intent of founding a hospital there. What
became of this plan and the gild is not certain, but by 1420 the property
was in the hands of the mercers gild (itself dedicated to the Holy
Trinity) which seems never to have been subject to any city regulations,
in contrast to most trades, but instead received a royal charter of
incorporation in 1430. In the 16th century this became the Merchant
Adventurers which, like its more famous London counterpart, played a
major role in controlling foreign trade.
This is one of the most impressive examples of a
(with brick undercroft) to survive today,. The upper floor was the great
hall where gild members met. On the lower level was a charitable
hospital (for pensioners of the gild) and chapel the charter of 1430
having granted the right to hold real estate worth up to £10 annually,
from the revenues of which the gild would support impoverished or needy
members and pay the salary of a chaplain.
The Conqueror had two castles built in York, one in 1068 the other in
1069. Although not all are in agreement, it is generally felt the castle
on the west bank of the Ouse was the younger. It had acquired the epithet
"old" attached to "bailey" by 1268. By 1308 it is found in the hands of
the Archbishop of York, and this transfer may have taken place as early as
ca.1194. What he used it for is uncertain; one suggested use has been a
prison for criminal clerics. In 1423 the city was suing the archbishop
for failing to keep in good repair the section of the city wall that
was part of the Old Baile perimeter; this was one episode in a recurring
argument over who was responsible for defence in that sector of the city.
Finally, possibly in 1464 (but certainly by 1487), the archbishop handed
over the castle to the city. By Speed's time only some of the earthworks,
and the outer defence that was part of the city wall, survived.
The Carmelites established themselves York in the early 1250s, their
first residence in fact being in Bootham (outside the walls). They
acquired ca.1295 a new site in St. Saviour's parish, they moved into this
over the next few years a church was under construction in 1300 and its
cemetary was consecrated in 1304 coming to terms with the parish rector
and St. Saviour's patron (St. Mary's Abbey) concerning tithes, burial rights
and other mutual concerns. About two dozen friars belonged to the house
at this time. In 1314 they obtained two grants from the king. The first
was permission to alienate in mortmain their previous home to the Dean of
York (who used it to found the hospital of St. Mary), while the second
was permission to build a quay on the king's fishpond in the Foss, for
the purpose of transporting necessaries to the friary by water.
The precise extent of the friary site is not certain, and expanded over
time (into Holy Cross parish, for example); but part of the boundary was
opposite St. Saviour's (on Hungate) and part on Fossgate, with the initial
frontage probably facing onto Stonebow, a narrow passage connecting
Fossgate and Hungate, although there was by mid-14th century a gateway
onto Fossgate itself. The church itself stood in the northern
section of this precinct. By the close of the century they had acquired
enough adjacent land that they undertook an expansion of their church.
The friary was dissolved in 1538.
The Franciscans, or Friars Minor, came to York ca.1230; their first
custodian had been personally associated with Francis of Assisi. This
house became the head of one of the Franciscan administrative areas into
which the English province was divided. The original site proved too
small and ca.1243 they moved to a permanent location south of the castle,
in the parish of St. Mary Castlegate. The king helped finance the original
construction, although the church was rebuilt at the end of the 13th
century, and the same century saw adjacent properties acquired to expand
The extent of the Franciscan precinct, which was walled (except on the
south-eastern boundary, where the city wall itself served) is clearly
indicated on Speed's map; the road on the west side was named Friargate,
although the precinct did not extend quite as far as that road. The site
ran southwards to the north bank of the Ouse friars and monks liked
to have access to a water supply and there, ca.1290, the friars had
a wall built; since this deflected the current to the south bank and
threatened Skeldergate with flooding, the citizens had to obtain the king's
permission (1305) to build a wall along the south bank as well, using money
from murage. In 1299 the community of friars numbered 52. The importance
of the friary, or perhaps of its proximity to the castle, is reflected
in the fact that Edward II, Edward III and Richard II all lodged there
when visiting York. The friary even had sanctuary privileges. It was
dissolved in 1538.
A city ordinance of 1371 prohibited the dumping of offal into, and the
cleaning of skins in, that part of the Ouse between its bridge and the
friars' property, since water was taken from that part of the river for
brewing and baking. Possibly the friars themselves were complainants,
for in 1380 the king had to order that they not be inconvenienced by
butchers dumping offal in the Ouse or in lanes by the friary. It again
may have been partly for the friars' benefit that there was a postern gate
in the small stretch of city wall below the castle, next to the friary.
In 1226 Henry III instructed some of his justices to consult with the mayor
and leading citizens on a suitable site for the Dominicans. The
recommendation was returned for a chapel of St. Mary Magdalene, with land
behind it, in Kingstoft, on the south bank of the Ouse just within the
city ditch. By the close of the following year, the friars had begun to
wall in this property. They may previously have resided in Goodramgate,
for they turned over a building there to the archbishop. Construction of
the friary was going on until mid-century, and expansion of the precinct
until at least the close of the century, although this was blocked on the
southeastern side because the secular authorities did not want to give up
land (Toft Green) which was needed for holding arrays of arms, trials by
battle, and construction of military engines for defending the city; the
green was also the site of horse and cattle fairs. Friary gateways opened
onto the green and towards the Ouse. The precise boundaries of the
friary are unknown, but at the Dissolution it occupied only 1 acre of land.
This was an important house for the Dominicans; provincial chapters were
often held there during the later 13th and 14th centuries. The number
of friars during the first half of the 14th century fluctuated
between 47 and 60. It may be that the reformer John Wycliffe was one of
their number in the 1350s, for there were acolytes of that name at the
friary. The friary was destroyed by fire ca.1455 and a rebuilding effort
was undertaken, supported by an indulgence proclaimed by the archbishop.
The friary was dissolved in 1538.
According to tradition, the Augustinians relocated from Tickhill to York,
where they bought seven houses as the basis for a friary. Certainly they
had established themselves in York by 1272. Their friary was in the
south-west section of the city on a confined site (about 2 acres) north
of the Ouse; it lay between present-day Lendal Street and the river, bounded
on the west by the lane leading from St. Leonard's to a landing-place on the
riverbank (just east of the present Lendal Bridge) and on the east by the
lane next to the Common Hall. The walled precinct had its main gate
opening onto Lendal Street. In 1300 it housed 35 friars. A catalogue
of its library survives from 1372, listing 646 items. The friary was
dissolved in 1538.