Mansion House is the beautiful red-coloured house located at St Helen's Square. It certainly is an eye-catcher!
It is the official residence of York's Lord Mayor and was built from 1725 to 1732 for exactly that purpose. The style is Early Georgian.
The interior is said to be equally fine and exquisite, and there is a collection of silver and furniture, so I would have liked to see it. The tourist brochure as well as the website of the Mansion House say that there are tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays each at 11.00am, 12.30pm and 02.00pm, but I went there twice and there was no tour at all - the house was closed and there was no one to be seen. I then went to the guildhall and asked about it and staff there let me see the hall, but knew nothing at all about tours of the Mansion House.
If I go to York again and time seems feasible for such a tour, I will send an email beforehand and enquire. I would really like to see it, as the photos shown on the website look so beautiful.
Adress: St Helen's Square
Directions: City centre
My guesthouse was located in Clifton, so everyday I walked along Bootham in order to get to the city centre, and back in the evening. This walk was quite nice and so it was not a problem.
Clifton is a nice and quiet suburb with some pretty old buildings, so it was a good place to stay. It is the location of St Peter's School, a boarding school that was founded in the year 627 by St Paulinus, the Archbishop of York. It is the third-oldest school in the UK!
The main building is wonderful 19th century building and it all looks as English as can be, it reminded me so much of Oxford or some of the BBC films I have seen. Unfortunately it was hard to get a good pictures because it is hidden by lots of trees, and I did not want to look like a paparazzi. You can see my try in picture 2.
Another place to notice in Clifton is the Methodist Church, a rather gloomy building that is about a hundred years old (picture 3).
Walking further, there is a little pub called the "Old Grey Mare" (picture 4) that became quite crowded every evening (I never stopped there, however), and then there is Clifton Green, a grassy area (picture 5). It is not really a park, but it makes the place a little calmer and greener.
Bootham is the long road that runs here all the way from Bootham Bar, and I liked that street very much. Going in the direction of the city, you have great views of the Minster's towers, and going in either direction, you can enjoy the Georgian architecture of many of the houses. They are not as pretty as I have seen elsewhere, but I still liked it very much. I can certainly recommend these areas if you are looking for accommodation, and I saw quite a lot of guesthouses and B&Bs.
I have also created a travelogue about Bootham and Clifton, please click here if you would like to see it.
This Roman Bath was nothing like the baths I have visited in Bath, Caerleon or Xanten, but I still enjoyed my visit. The site is located in the basement of a pub of the same name, and was accidentally discovered during a renovation in the 1930s. Only the caldarium and another small bath have been excavated, so it is quite a smallish museum. Apart from these sites, there is a small exhibition of artifacts found here, such as the tile in my main picture - a Roman walked over it when it had not hardened yet, and you can see the marks of the sandal!
Apart from this, the museum is totally crammed with other things connected to the Romans - costumes for children, replicas, and a lot of information signs. All this looks very amateurish and not very organized, so some things were confusing, but I did not mind - you can see that it was done on minimal funds, and the entrance fee is so small that you should not expect more.
Admission fee: Adults £2,50, concession £2,00, children £1,50, family £6,50 - included in the York's Hidden Secrets Pass!
Opening times: I could not find anything, so I assume the museum is open most of the time when the pub is open
Adress: 9 Saint Sampson's Square
Directions: In the city centre
King's Manor is a historical building located next to the Art Gallery, at Exhibition Square. The building was constructed in the Middle Ages, but it was totally renovated and enlarged during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Orignally it was the Abbot's House of St Mary's Abbey, but in those years it became a governmental building. When the Stuarts came to power, they regularly used the building when they travelled from Edinburgh to London and vice versa, but from the 17th century on it declined and was rented out as apartment blocks. This only changed in the late 1900s, when it became a school. And this is what it is still used for today, as it is now part of the University of York, housing Archaeology, Medieval Studies and Eighteenth Century Studies.
It is an old and fascinating building with such a grand history, but it is easily overlooked, the entrance to the courtyard is hiding in one corner of the square. It is worth a look, though!
Adress: Exhibition Square
Directions: In the town centre
While walking along Bootham Road, one day I discovered an interesting plaque on the wall of one of the Georgian houses, and stopped to read it. To my surprise, I read that this house was the birthplace of the poet W.H. Auden!
He was born there on the 21st February 1907, but the family moved away one year later, so he did not grow up in York. The house is quite a nice building, though! I also read that he was influenced by the landscape and atmosphere of Yorkshire.
Adress: 54 Bootham
Directions: West of the city centre, on the way to Clifton.
Our Lady's Row is a row of houses in Goodramgate... and oh, it looks to quaint to be true! These small, whitish, ancient-looking houses just fascinated me, and the good thing is that they actually are true! They date back to 1316 and are the oldest row of houses in York, and possibly in all of the UK. The houses are located close to Holy Trinity Church, they were originally build on the churchyard and rented out, the funding going to the church.
Originally, there were eleven bays, each one being one rental unit with one ground floor room and one room above. Seven of these bays are left today. Nowadays, most of them house shops and restaurants.
Can you imagine that these small houses are 700 years old and still standing? Wow!
Directions: In the city centre
When I wandered around the town centre on my first evening I saw two figures of cats attached to houses as a decoration and wondered what this meant - the next day, during our VT meeting, I learned about it: These cats belong to the York Cat Trail.
The custom of attaching cats to houses dates back to the Middle Ages, when this was done to frighten off mice, and also because cats were thought to bring good luck. Today there is the Cat Trail that leads you all around town, where you can try and spot all those cat figures. I think I personally would not do the real trail because there are so many other things in York that I find more interesting, but I still found it funny to spot one of the cats from time to time, usually in an unexpected place!
You can find the leaflet of the trail in the link attached.
Walking from the train station to the town centre, a little further from the way, there is a pretty gate made of wrought iron. One day I walked through the gate, and found myself in a pretty small garden. In the centre, there is a large pillar or column, which is a war memorial.
This garden was created in 1925 and is York's main war memorial, where annual services are held. The official function of the memorial is also shown by the display of York's Coat of Arms above the gate. The memorial is dedicated to the dead of World War One and Two, but it is also a general memorial for peace.
It is amazing how tranquil and peaceful this place is, considering that it is so close to Station Road and the busy train station. There are a few benches where you can have a rest, and it seems that the garden is also a favourite spot of many birds.
Adress: Leeman Road
Directions: Turn left into the gate when you walk from the train station to the town centre -
When walking from the train station to the town centre, you will see a small burial ground close to the street. It is a green lawn with some weathered gravestones, looking very old, and a bit odd in the hustle bustle of this area. There is an information sign explaining what this burial ground is, the inscription says: Cholera Burial Ground - Specially acquired for the burial of some of the 185 victims of a plague of cholera, which lasted from 3rd. Jne to 22nd. October 1832. There are 20 surviving memorial stones, all of sandstone. (see picture 2).
The cholera epidemic of 1831/32 was the first of several to break out in the UK. Actually it was a man from York who finally found out how to fight cholera by separating drinking water and waste water: It was John Snow, who was born in York in 1813. Before that, people had even spread the disease by cleaning all the roads and streets in York, trying to fight it by eliminating dirt, but in fact spreading it through the water they used to clean their town.
As the usual graveyards were not able to take in as many dead, it was necessary to look for additional burial sites which should not be located within the city walls. Thus, this area close to the train station was chosen.
Adress: Station Road
Directions: Close to the train station
Close to the cathedral in an enclosed area covered with greenery, I saw an interesting monument. It looked a little like a small church spire without the church!
When I walked closer, I saw that it was a war memorial. It was erected to commemorate the men from Yorkshire who fell in the Second Boer War. The memorial was built in 1905, just three years after the war had finished.
To me the memorial has a somewhat Gothic appearance, enforced by the statues around the upper part. The statues all stand for different military services.
Adress: Duncombe Place
Directions: Close to the Minster
If you cross the street close to Clifford's Tower and walk on towards the river, there is a small park on the way, called Tower Gardens. It lies right at the food of Skeldergate Bridge. This was York's very first public park.
The park is not very big, but it is the ideal place for a relaxing break during an exploration of the city walls, as you need to walk through the park to walk the section between Old Baille and Clifford's Tower. It is also the starting point of the New Walk.
There are several benches and seats, a nice fountain, and it is just a tranquil and green spot.
Adress: Close to Tower Street
Directions: At Skeldergate Bridge
Walking along St Leonard's Place, to the train station in the mornings, I always passed by a pretty white building that has a scripture calling it "De Grey Rooms". Doing some research, I found out that the building was built in 1841/42 and financed by public subscription. The architect was George Townsend Stuart who also was the major architect of York Railway Station. Thus, the De Grey Rooms were connected to the railway as well, and used for many company meetings. The building was named after Thomas Philip de Grey, the 2nd Earl de Grey who was the colonel-commandant of the Yorkshire Hussar Regiment. It had a military use as well, and many events and meetings of the Hussars took place there, especially during their annual mess. After this, dances and balls were organized there, especially during World War Two.
For some time, the building was home to the Tourist Information, which has now moved to a different building close by. The De Grey Rooms were purchased by the Civic Trust in 2005 and then leased to the Royal Theatre. Now, it is once again a venue for events, and is used by the theatre for events, performances and rehearsals.
I like this pretty building very much and always enjoyed looking at it when walking along St Leondard's Place.
Adress: St Leonard's Place
Directions: Next to the Theatre Royal
York's Guildhall was constructed in 1445, replacing an earlier one that had been built in the 13th century. The entrance to the hall is not that easy to find - it is located behind the Mansion House, and you need to go around several corners until you are there. The lady at reception seemed to be quite surprised to see a visitor, and could not quite believe I really wanted to see the hall, but she was very friendly and after speaking to some colleagues, even provided me with an old information leaflet. I personally was surprised to see that not many people seem to visit the hall, as it is certainly worth a look!
I first saw the building from the boat when we did our boat trip during our VT meeting, and from the river it looked like an impressive building (picture 1). Up close from the other side, approaching the entrance, it looked very old and historical (picture 2). When I entered the hall, I got that feeling of historicity, being in an old place that has seen many events and people over the centuries...
Unfortunately, a bomb hit the Guildhall in 1942, but the exterior remained as it was, and the interior was fully restored in the 1950s (picture 3). There are several interesting features to see, my favourite thing were the roof bosses showing some colourful figures and animals, such as the two male figures in picture 5. Other interesting things are the colourful windows showing scenes from life in York, several plaques and memorials, and York's Coat of Arms (Picture 4).
Opening times: May to October Monday to Friday 09.00am to 05.00pm, Saturday 10.00am to 05.00pm, Sunday 02.00pm to 05.00pm - November to April: Monday to Friday 09.00 to 05.00pm
Adress: Coney Street
Direcions: Entrance behind Mansion House, Helen's Square
St Michael le Belfry is a small church next to the Minster. It is easily overlooked, as it looks so plain and small compared to the huge and magnificent cathedral, but it is worth a visit! It is the largest parish church in the city. Guy Fawkes was baptized here in 1570.
There has been a church at this spot already in the early Middle Ages, but it was first just a chapel belonging to the Minster. The name probably refers to an early bell-tower. Later, St Michael became a church in its own right for the people living in this area of York, and in the 16th century, it was renovated in Tudor gothic style. Since then, only a bell-tower was added in the 19th century, nothing else of the architecture was changed. Some of the stained glass is still original from 1330.
Of course there were some changed in the interior, mainly the addition of galleries to seat more people, and the creation of memorials and plaques.
The interior is very particular in style and different to most other churches I had seen so far, which made it an interesting place to visit.
Adress: Minster Yard
Directions: Next to the Minster, not the Dean's Park side, but the other side
York's Magistrates' Court is a Victorian building in Clifford Street, close to Clifford's Tower. The building was constructed in 1891/92 and is grade II listed. I walked past it quite often during my stay in York and always thought that it looked very impressive and important. The distinct clock tower can also be seen from far away.
This is still a working court! Unfortunately I could not find out more about the history of the building.
Adress: The Law Courts, Clifford Street
Directions: Close to Clifford's Tower