Yorkshire Musem, Gardens, Etc., York
The county museum is housed in the lovely Museum Gardens and many people overlook it whilst whizzing through York, leaving just enough time for the railway and Castle museums and Jorvik. That's a shame as of course a lot of treasures have been found in England's largest county and are on display here. Both Roman and Viking finds from various excavations have found their way to the museum as have finds from St Mary's Abbey just outside the museum. Exhibits are not only from York but the whole county which is why you also find my personal favourite, the Middleham Jewel, here. This is a huge pendant which was found in the soil outside Middleham Castle and it is thought that Richard III might have worn it since the dating makes sense. The most famous portrait of the king therefore shows him wearing it.
Dissolution of the Monasteries with Henry VIII in charge hit all England, but this is one abbey I am sadder than usual to have lost as it was once the wealthiest monastery in England for more then 400 years so imagine the treasure it would have been today, in the middle of a city! It is still a gem, just in ruins...Built by King William Rufus in 1088 (rings a bell to those of you who have also visited Richmond not far away), Some Benedictine monks settled here after abandoning Lastingham Abbey in Kirkby Moorside and even though disagreement led to monks leaving York too (to found the Cistercian Fountains Abbey outside Ripon, a World Heritage we are grateful for!), the abbey still flourished until 1539 events...St Mary's has a wonderful setting in the middle of Museum Gardens and is the setting for the famous York Mystery Plays every other year. Close to it is St Mary's Hospitium (see picture in the Yorkshire Museum tip) where the foundation is from 1310 and the upper floors a hundred years younger even if the roof is modern. The hospitium was used for guests of the abbey. If you want to see archaeological finds from the abbey ruins, visit Yorkshire Museum (again, see tip).
Okay, while we're on the theme of names, how about we rename the Yorkshire Museum? It should become the "Archeological Museum," or perhaps the "Roman History Center."
Now that we've got that settled, I can say that I enjoyed the "Yorkshire Museum" and the beautiful gardens it is set in. There's an interesting assortment of Roman artefacts from the 300+ year roman occupation. Roman "Eboricum" was a major military and trading center, and was one of the final posts before the "frontier" which separated "civilized" Britain from the barbaric land of the Picts. (Hence the nearby Wall of Hadrian.) The museum here used both static displays and interactive features to tell the roman story. There are a number of those interesting "listening stations" where you can pick up headphones and listen to first-person narratives of a roman soldier, or a British farmer, or a Gallic slave. Emperor Constantine was crowned near here; when I visited in 2006 there was an excellent temporary visit that told his story. (Unfortunately, it occupied space normally given over to Viking and medieval exhibits.)
The gardens are a pretty place for a picnic. You can sit on the grass and eat your sandwich, or simply lie out and absorb the afternoon sun for a moment. The gardens feature the fragmentary remains of the 14th century St. Mary's Abbey: the ruins can help you focus your thoughts on the passage of time and the evanesence of all human things. "Vanity, vanity, all is vanity."
The Yorkshire Museum stands in the grounds of St. Mary's Abbey, just inside the town walls. This was my favourite museum in York and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours here escaping the rain and learning about the history of York.
The museum has impressive exhibits on the early history of York, in particular on Roman York. There is also good coverage of the Viking and the Anglo-Saxon periods, while a separate section shows remains of parts of St. Mary's Abbey. The star exhibit in the collection is the 15th Century Middleham Jewel, found as recently as 1985.
Entry to the museum costs 4 pounds for adults.
The atmospheric ruins of St. Mary's are amongst my favourite sights in York. Located in the gardens of the Yorkshire museum, the ruins are only a small part of a once great medieval abbey, which was built as far back as 1080. The west wing of the Abbey is the most visible part of the ruins while parts of its Chapter House have been incorporated into the nearby museum.
York Art Gallery re-opened in March 2005 following a 445,000 pounds refurbishment project with a new cafe and learning room called The Studio, thanks to generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and many other sponsors and donors.
The gallery's outstanding collection of British and European art spanning the last 600 years is now displayed in new themed areas under the headings of people, places, stories, devotion and morality. I do love that last one.
These themed areas also feature guest contemporary works, including video, photography, ceramics and painting, but one of the things I enjoy about the less well known galleries is they often have things you'd never see elsewhere.
An installation of dyed-black turkey feathers, called Flock, confirms my theory on this. Thinks "They'll be flocking in to see this".
The tower had been buried for centuries but was excavated in 1970. Tragically a trench dug during the excavation collapsed killing one of the archaeologists. The site has now been labelled showing the different archaeological levels - from the bottom the signs read: Roman Bank 1st C to 4th C; Dark Ages Bank 5th C to 10th C; Norman Bank 11th C to 12th C; Medieval Bank 13th C
This tower in the Museum Gardens is part of the Roman City Wall that surrounded the city about 300AD. The bottom 6m is Roman and the higher parts 13th century. I didn't count how many sides the tower has!!! The brick building in the background is York City Library. What an odd spelling for the official name - I would naturally have expected an "i" in the spelling of the word, but no.
Museum Gardens is a wonderful park in York - probably the most beautiful and interesting one actually. Here you will find the ruins of an old abbey, parts of the Roman wall, the west corner of the roman Fortress (Multangular Tower), many nice places for picknicks, the Yorkshire Museum etc etc.
The Hospitium was the guest hall for pilgrims and other visitors to St. Mary's Abbey. It was originally built in 1310 but renovated in modern days. Actually there was bits of scaffolding around it when we were there, too.
This church outside the museum gardens is dedicated to Olaf, patron saint of Norway. Olaf was converted to Christianity whilst in England fighting the Danes. He was king of Norway from 1016 to 1029.
The church used to be a monastery. When it got too small for the monks they used St. Mary's instead. You can see the ruins of St. Mary in the Museum Gardens still. This all took place in the 11th century. In the 15th century the church was rebuilt. Then in the 17th century during the civil war the roof of St. Olave was used as a gun platform in the siege of York. The church was heavily damaged so construction work started another time.
There are many ruins in York - especially in the area of the Yorkshire Museum. The ruins of St. Mary's Abbey - once an influential monastery - it was founded in 1088. The ruins can be found on the grounds of the Yorkshire Museum and Museum Gardens. Only two sides of the abbey remain...but they're still pretty sturdy. Nearby, you can find the Pilgrims' Hospitium, the West Gate and the King's Manor.
Also, Roman ruins can be found near St. Mary's. The picture shows the Multi-angular Tower - constucted around 300 A.D. as part of the Roman walls which protected Old York. On the other side of the tower, there are some old Roman coffins on the ground. More ruins of the Roman wall are around here...it's actually a pretty creepy area...especially at sunset. http://www.britannia.com/tours/york/york21.html
Although many of the exhibits here a geared towards children, the museum contains some excellent displays detailing Roman and Viking times, complete with coins, mosaics, clothings, jewelry, weapons and everyday items. Be sure to wander the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey, just outside the museum, founded in 1088 and dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539.
The Yorkshire Museum and York Abbey ruins are set in 10 acres of gardens in the middle of the city.
The museum offers 2000 years of Yorkshire's fascinating heritage and has some of the finest archeological collections in Europe. The famous Middleham jewel is also on display along with a lot of artifacts belonging to the Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and Medieval times. The York Abbey ruins are also on the same premises and part of the ruins are preserved in the museum building. The York Observatory is also in the garden and houses a very beautiful working telescope of olden times (made by famous telescope maker T. Cooke & Sons).
The Museum Gardens are a lovely place to while away some time and relax.
There are ruins that are visitable as well.