TRAVEL NORTH - 41: LOOK AROUND YORK, Tread In The Footsteps of Constantine and Eirik 'Blood-axe'

Right... which way shall we go, where to start?

History began with 'Eboracum', 1st Century Roman York

This statue of Constantine 'the Great' stands proudly beside the cathedral, also known as the Minster
This statue of Constantine 'the Great' stands proudly beside the cathedral, also known as the Minster | Source
This 22 foot high column was found below the cathedral in 1969. It was one of a series in a colonnade of the great hall in the Roman military headquarters building
This 22 foot high column was found below the cathedral in 1969. It was one of a series in a colonnade of the great hall in the Roman military headquarters building | Source

Let's start with the Romans in 1st Century 'Britannia Major'

As a colonia, a legionary fortress and regional hub, Eboracum was established early in the 7th decade, AD, around thirty years after the Romans began their colonisation of Britannia in earnest.

The fortress was garrisoned by the legio IX Hispana. On their withdrawal came the legio VI VIctrix, who remained here probably until the Romans left early in the 5th Century. Originally of timber.construction, the fortress was built in the 'vee' of the Ouse and the Foss, and rebuilt in stone around the end of that century. The cathedral (or Minster) foundations were excavated for reinforcement, only to reveal remains of their headquarters building. A trading settlement sprang up west across the Ouse, to grow in status as a colonia and regional centre of Britannia Inferior early in the 3rd Century.

Eboracum retained its status as the northern capital in the 4th Century when a bishop attended the Council of Arles in 314 AD. What little is known of the city is that there were large public buildings including baths, private quarters decorated with mosaics that told of the prosperity of this regional centre. Inscriptions and burials offer information on a broad range of beliefs aside from Christianity. Inscriptions also point to trade links with Rouen, Bourges and Bordeaux in Gaul.

Both the fortress and the colonia appear to have been deserted by Romans by the early 5th Century . Now a special mention of

Constantine (AD 274-337, reigned 306-337), the first Christian Roman emperor dubbed 'the Great' in recognition of his achievements. He was born at Naissus (now Nis), son of Constantius by Helena.

In 305 Constantius succeeded as Augustus, or senior emperor of the Western Empire. Constantius would not reign long, however. Constantine left the court of the Eastern emperor Galerius to be by his father's deathbed in Eboracum a year later, The army proclaimed him Augustus illegally on his father's death. After ruling from Eboracum for Six years he defeated Maxentius close to Rome.

Homing in on York

Eboracum's role as regional centre of the empire went into steep decline when the Romans left to shore up the heart of their empire.

We next see the city emerge as Eoferwic in AD 627 when Oswald, the first Christian king of Northanhymbra was baptised here, and a bishopric was founded. The city became the spiritual heart of an archbishopric a hundred and eight years later. By the 9th Century Eoferwic was a thriving river port amid a web of tributary rivers that fed into the Hymbra (the Humber). Periodically Eoferwic found itself the capital of a united Northumbria and an isolated Deira, between Bernicia to the north and Mercia to the south. Until the Danes came in the 9th Century, that is. Then it was all change again...

Viking Age York - JORVIK

An artist's impression of a walkway in Viking Age York - Jorvik
An artist's impression of a walkway in Viking Age York - Jorvik | Source
Dwellings reconstructed in the Jorvik Viking Centre on Coppergate - to the rear of the Castle Museum
Dwellings reconstructed in the Jorvik Viking Centre on Coppergate - to the rear of the Castle Museum | Source

A visit to York is not complete without a visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre on Coppergate. See how Eoferwic metamorphosed into Jorvik, travel back through time and listen to the talk in Old Norse amongst the inhabitants, smell the smells, listen to the shouts of tradesmen and playing children. Coppergate was flooded by the Normans in 1068 after their first timber castle was burnt down in an uprising. The second timber castle - even moated - was burnt down in 1069 when the North rose again against the Normans, this time with the help of the Danes under King Svein Estrithsson's younger brother Jarl Osbeorn.

Eoferwic becomes Jorvik and the crossroads of a new trading empire

In AD 866 the Danes seized Eoferwic. Ivar 'the Boneless', Sigurd 'Snake Eye', Bjorn 'Ironside', Halvdan and Ubbi, the sons of Ragnar 'Lothbrok' ('Leather Breeks') landed in Northanhymbra to avenge the death of their father at the hands of King Aella in Baebbanburh (Bamburh, Aella's fortified town near the North Sea coast).

In March, 867 in a belated show of unity, Aella the king of Beornica (Bernicia) fought side by side with the repudiated king Osberht to take Eoferwic from the Danes but lost, even though they broke into the burh. Both kings were slain, Aella (it is said) in a ritual execution known as the 'Blod Erne' or 'Blood Eagle'.

Until the following century Eoferwic, now Jorvik was in the hands of various puppet kings before Dublin Danish king Sigtrygg - or Sihtric - 'Caech' ('Squinty') took the city after being ousted by the Gaels. Aethelstan took the city in 927 after Sigtrygg wedded his sister and took baptism. Sigtrygg was slain by his own men for giving in too easily. Nevertheless under the Danes Jorvik's trade boomed. A little later in the century the Norse king Eirik Haraldsson 'Blood-axe' was invited to rule in 948. His first period of reign was brief, interrupted by Sigtrygg's son Olaf, who believed he should succeed his father, and Aethelstan's nephew King Eadred who sought to rein in the Danes' power. Eirik resumed his reign in 952, to reign until 954 when he was outmanoeuvred and killed on Stainmore by Osulf of Bamburgh. Osulf was rewarded by Eadred with the rank of Ealdorman of Northanhymbra (predecessor to the rank of earl introduced by Knut in 1016, derived from 'jarl').

Jorvik became Eoferwic again, although only to its Anglian inhabitants. The majority were still of Danish-Norse ancestry.

Prosperity lasted until the late 1060's, when William I felt he had to build two timber castles either side of the river in 1068 after a revolt across the North. They were burnt down later that year and rebuilt In timber. The Normans destroyed much of the city near the river when they sought to clear the area around their castle in the 'V' of the Ouse and the Foss, and a wide moat left much of the area around Coppergate submerged. In 1069 another revolt led to the burning of both castles and William moved on the city from where he had rested in Lincoln. The castles were rebuilt in stone this time, amid a city largely ruined by fire - including the cathedral. He held a 'crown-wearing' amid the ruins of the city to show he was still in power, had much of the surrounding land razed, homes burnt, beasts run off or killed and crops burnt to stubble. The North would not recover for over a century.

Nevertheless the city was the fourth wealthiest in England by the 12th Century, the only blot on its record being the massacre of Jews in 1190 at the site of the present Clifford's Tower (close to the present-day Castle Museum), when they fled here during a riot. A brief history describes the unfortunate episode at the foot of the long flight of stone steps..

The city was briefly given powers of self-government in the mid-13th Century. Between 1298 and 1337 York was temporarily given the status of capital city during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Boom time came again in 1360-1460 with cloth-making and trade making it the second city of England after London. A slow decline set in after 1460 despite Richard III's close links with York.

A rise in prosperity came again with the King's Council of the North being established here between 1561-1641

Later Mediaeval York

St Mary Bishophill Junior, not far from Micklegate. This is where King Harold's wayward brother Tostig is said to have been buried after the Battle of Stamford Bridge, 25th September, 1066. I think otherwise.
St Mary Bishophill Junior, not far from Micklegate. This is where King Harold's wayward brother Tostig is said to have been buried after the Battle of Stamford Bridge, 25th September, 1066. I think otherwise. | Source
The later Monk Bar stands where Monk Gate intersects the city wall on its eastern side
The later Monk Bar stands where Monk Gate intersects the city wall on its eastern side | Source
Another later Mediaeval structure, Bootham Bar was the bulwark the Scots came across when they tried to take the city several times
Another later Mediaeval structure, Bootham Bar was the bulwark the Scots came across when they tried to take the city several times | Source
Replacing an earlier wooden keep, Clifford's Tower overlooks the river to the west, lies close to the present York Castle Museum and Coppergate
Replacing an earlier wooden keep, Clifford's Tower overlooks the river to the west, lies close to the present York Castle Museum and Coppergate | Source
The western front of the cathedral seen from the beer garden of Ye Old Starre Inn on nearby Stonegate
The western front of the cathedral seen from the beer garden of Ye Old Starre Inn on nearby Stonegate | Source
West front of the cathedral on Deangate, . Building began originally in AD 637. The earlier cathedral burnt down in 1068 when a fire to clear buildings from around the Norman castle got out of hand. This edifice was finally consecrated AD 1472
West front of the cathedral on Deangate, . Building began originally in AD 637. The earlier cathedral burnt down in 1068 when a fire to clear buildings from around the Norman castle got out of hand. This edifice was finally consecrated AD 1472 | Source
"Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York -" Shakespeare managed to demonise Richard III, whose power base centred on York, and his wish was to be entombed here...
"Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York -" Shakespeare managed to demonise Richard III, whose power base centred on York, and his wish was to be entombed here... | Source

After the Tudors - to modern times

Stonegate seen from the junction with High and Low Petergate. 'Ye Old Starre Inn' is accessed through a passageway on the right below a banner that spans the street that bears its name
Stonegate seen from the junction with High and Low Petergate. 'Ye Old Starre Inn' is accessed through a passageway on the right below a banner that spans the street that bears its name | Source
This is the birthplace of Guido Foulkes on High Petergate, overlooked by the cathedral's majestic west front - now the Guy Fawkes Hotel.
This is the birthplace of Guido Foulkes on High Petergate, overlooked by the cathedral's majestic west front - now the Guy Fawkes Hotel. | Source
The Saint Martin clock that overhangs Coney Street dates from 1668, attached to the wall of the priory that was destroyed by bombs August Bank Holiday, 1942
The Saint Martin clock that overhangs Coney Street dates from 1668, attached to the wall of the priory that was destroyed by bombs August Bank Holiday, 1942 | Source
'Read all about it', the wall mounted board that briefly describes the clock's history, with a web site address you can look up for more
'Read all about it', the wall mounted board that briefly describes the clock's history, with a web site address you can look up for more | Source
Lendal Bridge, seen here from downriver, bears the arms of Richard III and the City. Its two former gatehouses are now 'bijou' cafes (another word for small)
Lendal Bridge, seen here from downriver, bears the arms of Richard III and the City. Its two former gatehouses are now 'bijou' cafes (another word for small) | Source
The North Eastern Railway's headquarter building just inside the city walls near where the original 1841 station stood, five minutes' walk from Thomas Prosser's 1877 station with its multiple glass arched roof. NER's HQ is now a plush hote
The North Eastern Railway's headquarter building just inside the city walls near where the original 1841 station stood, five minutes' walk from Thomas Prosser's 1877 station with its multiple glass arched roof. NER's HQ is now a plush hote | Source
Tennant class 1001 no. 1275 stands near the turntable in the National Railway Museum, that used to be York North loco shed (50A)
Tennant class 1001 no. 1275 stands near the turntable in the National Railway Museum, that used to be York North loco shed (50A) | Source

York from the 17th Century

Civil War, in particular the Parliamentary siege of 1644, proved difficult for York, although late Stuart and Hanoverian York thrived as a 'social' capital. Fortune faded again in the 19th Century, the coming of the railways notwithstanding.

The first half of the century saw George Hudson, the self-styled 'Railway King' enjoy fame as Lord Mayor of York. He was also the leading light of the York & North Midland Railway in the 1830's - his downfall due to unconventional accountancy methods was some time in the future yet, although he was not without his enemies.

The second half of the century saw York's position as a railway centre consolidated. The newly-formed North Eastern Railway in 1854 incorporated the York & North Midland, the Great North of England and the Leeds Northern railway companies and began to spread its tentacles not only north and south, but across the Pennines and to the coast. The last of its rivals, the Stockton & Darlington Railway was absorbed in 1863, with preferential exchange rates for S&DR shareholders.

Outsiders, the Midland, Lancashire & Yorkshire and London & Northwestern companies enjoyed running rights into York with York South Shed at their disposal (since demolished). The reverse of the railway boom was overcrowding, pinpointed by B S Rowntree (one of the Quaker chocolate making family) in his report.

However, due to its less intensive industrialisation, York has a rich architectural heritage. A burgeoning museum status saw York Castle's new life as a museum, with a Victorian city street laid out and the cell in which Dick Turpin spent his last hours is a magnet for visitors. York North locomotive shed (50A) has seen visitor numbers soar as the National Railway Museum on Leeman Road near the station, with its extension across the road in the Peter Allen Building. Over the river again, via Lendal Bridge, is the Yorkshire Museum with its own unique collection. See the Roman multangular tower in the gardens... There's much more to see. Visit York and see for yourself.

Visit historic Yorkshire, use York as a base and travel around the locality. Castles, abbeys, priories, stately homes, preserved railways (three within an hour's drive, as well as the scenic Settle-Carlisle route). Great pubs, food and drink to sustain you on your travels - whether on foot, bicycle, motor bike, car, bus or train - across the county, along the coast (Bridlington, Robin Hood's Bay, Scarborough, Whitby) across to the Pennines (Skipton, Settle, Ingleton) or over moor and wold, through deep secluded dales or in old market towns such as Thirsk and Northallerton or Stokesley; and cities: Ripon, the oldest cathedral in a city you can walk across in half an hour or less; York, the bustling heart of the county with its shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs - they get in everywhere - and sights; Leeds for a shopping experience and nightlife.

It's a big county, take a guide - take this guide.

The National Railway Museum, Leeman Road

Preserved electric locomotive of the type built for the Sheffield-Manchester Woodhead route closed in the mid 1960's (short-sighted or what?). In the 'roundhouse' near the turntable.
Preserved electric locomotive of the type built for the Sheffield-Manchester Woodhead route closed in the mid 1960's (short-sighted or what?). In the 'roundhouse' near the turntable. | Source
One of the LNER's 'mechanical horses' on show in the Peter Allen building, the former York North Goods Depot
One of the LNER's 'mechanical horses' on show in the Peter Allen building, the former York North Goods Depot | Source
The entrance via the Peter Allen building between the station and loco depot on Leeman Road
The entrance via the Peter Allen building between the station and loco depot on Leeman Road | Source
In the workshop, Flying Scotsman's tender awaits  being reunited with the loco (scheduled spring, 2016)
In the workshop, Flying Scotsman's tender awaits being reunited with the loco (scheduled spring, 2016) | Source
'Blue Spot', British Railways' built fish van based on an LNER design from the late 1940's, with a platform barrow and fish boxes
'Blue Spot', British Railways' built fish van based on an LNER design from the late 1940's, with a platform barrow and fish boxes | Source

Getting there, staying there...

Now I've whetted your appetite and you're raring to get to York, right? OK, here are a few web addresses for accommodation and tourist office information centres. There's a lot of choice, believe me.

Where I stayed last was a hotel called The Lighthorseman on the Fulford Road within a ten minute walk of the wall, the rivers Ouse and Foss and the Castle Museum. Just in case you're fading when you get there, there's a large Wetherspoon's before you get to the Castle. Alternatively there's a long bar at the Lighthorseman if you arrive in the afternoon/evening. Contact Dan Murphy, 01904 624818 or e-mail: danmurphy@btconnect.com. The address is 124 Fulford Road, York, YO10 4BE

Now, for other accommodation you might contact Late Rooms, where I got the above hotel: www.laterooms.com;,

Acer Hotels: www.acerhotelco.uk

Trivago: www.trivago.co.uk/Hotels-for-Tourists

Wow: www.wow.com/York+Tourist+Board

For general tourist enquiries as well as an accommodation guide contact: Yorkshire Tourist Board, 312 Tadcaster Road, York, YO24 1GS

And now for the main web links:

And finally, has this been an introduction to an experience you'd enjoy?

After reading this would you like to visit York and create your own impressions?

See results without voting

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13 comments

LuisEGonzalez profile image

LuisEGonzalez 19 months ago from Miami, Florida

Excellent hub!!! Got to go back and read some more.


Lee Cloak 19 months ago

Great hub, great pictures, great tips and advice, i've never been, i have seen York in many films and on many BBC and C4 documentry's, maybe i'll get to visit some day i'll put it on my list, thanks for sharing, voted up, Lee


UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 19 months ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I regret that I never got to York during my (long ago now) travels. However my Dad lived there as a kid in the thirties, I believe, and always talked of the city's ancient walls and gates. So basically the cathedral took 800 years to complete? That's perseverance. Great article, Alan, and wonderful pictures.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 19 months ago from Olympia, WA

It just doesn't register for me, Alan. You must be speaking about a different world. I mean, I live in the States for God's sake. Our "cool" architecture dates back to the 1950's. :) Our idea of history is the first episode of Oprah. How can I possibly relate to something like this?

Maybe some day, 'eh?


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 19 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Luis, nice to hear from you again. Glad to see you enjoyed reading, take a trip back through.

Lee, I've been to the fair city on the Liffey, ('alive alive-oh!') It's another city the Danes made their home (who knows I might yet see Waterford, Wexford, Limerick and Cork). Time you got yourself on that ferry, lad. Come and have a look for yourself, try the Jorvik Weekend in February.

'Harald', you'd be at home here. Good pubs (one for every day of the year), lots to see and all within the walls - half an hour's walk in any direction. See ya.


aethelthryth profile image

aethelthryth 19 months ago from American Southwest

Been there, was amazed at being able to walk on a wall around most of the town, and at how some of the buildings overhung the streets. Thanks for the pictures, brought back memories. Would love to go back.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 19 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Bill, maybe Aethelthryth would take you and the 'little woman' around the walls. She seems to like the city, along the Fleshammels ('Shambles'), 'Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate' (public flogging site near the Stonebow), and treat yourselves to the York Dungeons. Bit of a gruesome exhibition, and shows how Guy Fawkes' end was achieved, but all good clean fun.

Skal!


lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 19 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Fascinating hub. I love history and enjoyed the details about Roman and Saxon times.

I read a few years ago about excavations in york that showed how multicultural the Empire was when they found the remains of Africans who had lived there as wealthy (or spouses of) merchants.

Loved the hub.

Lawrence


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 19 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Hello lawrence01, glad you liked this little effort of mine. Nice to see Kiwis drop by (Grandad wanted to migrate, being a farmer in the 1930's, but Grandma felt she had too many ties here, otherwise I'd have been a Kiwi as well).

The Saxons didn't get this far up, this being Anglian territory and Anglian Mercia being in the way, although for a short time in Aethelstan's day there were some that went with his army to fight at Brunanburh and Eoferwic/Jorvik, although Aethelstan being raised in Mercia most of his men were from there.

There were men from as far off as Asia Minor in Roman times who went on to serve on Hadrian's Wall - another hundred or so miles north of here - so it's possible Nile Africans recruited in Egypt served with the Roman Armies before being given citizenship and settling down or coming as traders up the Humber and Ouse.

What made York was the Danish/Norse influx after the Great Army in the 9th Century. Have you seen the DANELAW YEARS - 9: Jorvik... page? HUNDING'S WORLD also features Jorvik, being one of two introductions to the HUNDING'S SAGA that moves to Jorvik from beginnings in eastern Jylland (Jutland), and goes on to the east, Holmgard (Novgorod) and Miklagard (Constantinople) in a -so far - 50 episode series.

Enjoy the read.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 18 months ago from England

That Cathedral is amazing! great photos and history alan, I have never been to york, how bad is that? lol! wonderful hub, and its making me want to jump on the train and head out!


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 18 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Trains every half hour, Nell (East Coast and Grand Central), it's easy enough and on average two hours' travel. Some services around 1 hour 50 minutes, stopping only at York on the way to Geordie Land (why aye, man!). I usually stop off on my way back from further north for a few hours, and at least a couple of times a year stay a few nights to look around my old haunts. Try the Lighthorseman on the Fulford Road (leads into the city from the south off the A19, A1(M) &A64 Leeds-Scarborough dual carriageway), I recommend it for service and ease of access to the city. It's not far from the rivers (Ouse and Foss), the city wall is a ten minute walk away and the castle museum is just under fifteen minutes (the cell Dick Turpin 'lodged' in is near the entrance). Lots of cafes and restaurants, shops and sights.


Les Trois Chenes profile image

Les Trois Chenes 4 months ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

What a fantastic, lively hub! There is so much to know and love about York, so many things to do and to see. When I was young we used to roam around the centre, go rowing on the river, lounge in the Museum gardens, and visit churches, museums and houses. I am still finding out new and interesting things about York and your article has flagged up still more things to see.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 4 months ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) Author

Well you made it, LTC (what's your real name?). Nice to see another exile, although I only have to get in the car and head north up the A1.

Back in the 50s Dad, Ma and me used to take a bus from Eston to Middlesbrough, another to Northallerton, another to Ripon and a fourth (West Yorkshire Road Car Co.) to York to visit neighbours of his from Tollerton who'd moved to just north of the city off the Huntington Road (a family called Dillon with two daughters). We could've got there by train in half the time but that was pricey back then (before the days of 'Let the train take the strain'). We went everywhere by bus, and so did I to Scarborough in the 60s with a few exceptions.

I shall be back there in September, and hopefully in mid- February '17 for a few days of the Jorvik Viking Festival. Be nice in spring as well, with the daffys out around the walls (planes use them as a navigation aid 'atwea Leeds-Bra'fforth Airport an' Abrooad').

Keep healthy.

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