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History and Haunting of York

Updated on April 1, 2014

History of York

The first real mention of what was to become York was during Roman times, when it was known as Eboracum. There is evidence of Mesolithic peoples in the area dating back to 8000-7000BC and by the time the Romans arrived, it was occupied by a tribe called the Brigantes. They initially got on okay with the Romans but then trouble broke out and eventually the Roman 9th Legion was sent north to conquer them.

The official founding of the city is dated to 71AD after the 9th Legion had conquered the Brigantes and built a wooden fortress on the flat area by the River Ouse. They later rebuilt the fort in stone and it covered around 50 acres of land, with 6000 soldiers living there. The remains of the fort are beneath the foundations of York Minster, as some of the original walls were uncovered when the undercroft was excavated.

Roman York had some prestigious visitors including the Emperors Hadrian, Septimus Severus and Constantius I who held court there during campaigns. Severus declared York the capital of Britannia Inferior province and granted it privileges of a colonia, or city. Constantius actually died while in York in 306AD and his son Constantine the Great was proclaimed his successor by the troops in the city.

York Minster


Post-Roman Times

After the Romans left, York fell into decline. It was settled once more by the Angles around the 5th century but areas were flooded. By the 7th century, reclamation of flooded areas was initiated by King Edwin of Northumbria, who made York his main city. The first Minster church was constructed for the baptism of Edwin in 627 and his successor Oswald saw this remade in stone.

The Vikings arrived in York in the 860's and soon made it a major port in their trading network. The last ruler of an independent York was Eric Bloodaxe who was expelled from the city in 954 by King Eldred as he unified England.

Two years after the Norman Conquest of 1066, York rebelled against its new overlords. William the Conqueror himself came to put down the rebellion and added two wooden fortresses on either side of the River Ouse, which can still be seen. He also ravaged the town, damaging the first Minster church. However the Normans decided to build a new one and by the 12th century, York was beginning to prosper. In 1190, York Castle was the site of a massacre of Jewish inhabitants where anywhere from 150 to 500 were massacred.

York, North Yorkshire

York, North Yorkshire:
York, UK

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York Castle


Trading Centre

King John granted the city its first charter in 1212 for trading rights across the country and with Europe. This saw the import of wine from France, cloth, canvas, oats from the Low Countries, timbers and fur from the Baltic states. It also saw the exporting of grain to Gascony and the Low Countries. This period also saw the city become a major cloth manufacturer. Its status was further enhanced when Edward I used it as his base for his campaigns into Scotland.

Tudor times saw some decline and the Dissolution of the Monasteries saw the end of the many monastic houses across the city including the hospitals of St Nicholas and St Leonard, the largest such institute in the north of the country.

Guy Fawkes was born and educated in the city, famous for his part in the Gunpowder Plot to destroy the Houses of Parliament in London.

In 1644 the city was besieged by Parliamentarians in the Civil War and many medieval buildings which were outside the walls were destroyed. The arrival of Prince Rupert and 15,000 men saw the end of the siege and they pursued the Parliamentarians. However the Prince and his forces were beaten at the Battle of Marsden Moor. The siege resumed and saw the city surrender to Sir Thomas Fairfax on 15th July.

York View from the Minster


Tourist Guide to York

Modern Times

The railway came to York courtesy of railway promoter George Hudson in 1839. This led to the growth in engineering and by the turn of the 20th century, the railways was the headquarters and works of the North Eastern Railway, which employed more than 5500 people in the city.

Another development brought by the railways was the founded on Rowntree’s Cocoa Works in 1862 by Henry Isaac Rowntree and his brother Joseph. Terry’s of York was another chocolate manufacturer and large employer.

The centre of the city was designated a conservation area in 1968 due to its many historic assets and these were added to with the creation of the National Railway Museum in 1975 and the Jorvik Viking Centre in 1984. The University of York also opened in 1963 in the city.

Coppergate Shopping Centre



Black Swan

The Black Swan is a pub on Peasholme Green and is said to be one of the oldest in the city, dating from the 16th century. The pub has a room on the second level which has been a meeting place for secret societies across the years and has strange figures and demons imprinted on the varnished panels in the room. There are also references to a tunnel leading from the pub to St Cuthbert’s church but no evidence has been found apart from a cupboard with stairs leading downwards to a blank wall.

- Staff have often reporting seeing a woman in a white flowing dress with long blonde hair and a faint glow who walks past the bottom of the stairs.

- Another visitor is a Victorian gentlemen who walks up a wooden staircase, fidgeting as if impatiently waiting for someone. A staff member once followed him, thinking him a visitor, only to have him vanish when he reached the top of the staircase.

Coppergate Shopping Centre

According to a report in The Guardian on 26th October 2011, the shopping centre was built over the remains of a Viking fort and that an archaeological dig nearby has disturbed the fort’s spirits. Shops doors were pulled off their hinges and staff at the Marks & Spencer’s shop reports goods being moved around at night when no-one was there.

Dean Court

This Hotel stands in the shadow of York Minster and is haunted by the Mad Maid, a cleaner who worked at the neighboring guesthouse, which has now been integrated with the hotel. Room 36 is particularly associated with her, where doors slam and guests have reported feeling as if someone was sitting on their chest as well as items moving around and inexplicable cold spots.

Treasurer's House




Haunted Houses

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The Punchbowl

Officially, the 5th oldest pub in the city, the Punchbowl was the meeting place for the Whigs, the original Liberal party and has been licensed since 1761. It has various spirits in residence including a former landlord who died in a fire, a young prostitute strangled by a man as well as figures seen in the main bar area. Footsteps are heard when no-one is about, utensils move around in an empty kitchen and one upstairs bedroom has many reports of it’s eerie atmosphere.

Snickleway Inn

The Snickleway Inn is another medieval building which has had many different names across its time. It still has many original features including beams and woodwork in the bar. It claims at least five spirits and has been suggested one of the scariest places to visit in the country.

- On the first floor is a young girl who also sits on the stairs watching customers in the bar. The resident cat often curls around the legs of visitors, including the ones no-one can see, such as the little girl. She is believed to have died just outside the pub in an accident involving a horse and cart delivering beer.

- The old gentleman who haunts the bar walks through a wall and across the bar to take a seat before abruptly vanishing. Investigations have confirmed there was once a door in this exact location.

- An Elizabethan man has been sighted behind the bar, possibly a former member of staff. He appears either first thing in the morning or just on closing up time.

- The upstairs ghost has a name; Marmaduke Buckle. He was born in 1697 to a well off family but was crippled. He retreated to the Inn to avoid the persecution of others and hanged himself from a beam. His ghost has been seen looking from the window in the room as well as doors opening and clothing and lights turning on and off.

- Another spirit is known only by the smell of lavender which accompanies their presence. It is also said to possibly be connected to the over 3500 people who died of the plague in York as lavender was used to mask the smell of corpses.

- One medium visited the pub and described the entity in the basement as being a ‘creature of great age and intelligence and surrounded by utter evil’. It has been known to throw stones when people are in the cellar as well as turning off pumps with such force that it is very difficult to turn them back on.

35 Stonegate

35 Stonegate is described as one of the most haunted houses in the country. There have been 14 different ghosts reported by a variety of mediums, psychics and visitors. The land has been inhabited for over 1000 years and the current house dates from 1482. For over 200 years it was the site of The Sign of the Bible, a publishing house.

One of the most famous ghosts is Tom, who appears in the room known as the Séance Room on the second floor. He was described y one medium as a tall man wearing black as well as a hat. A balding monk has been reported in the Lantern Room while a Georgian lady has been seen in the Dining Room.

Treasurer’s House

It is only appropriate for a place with such Roman connections as York to have some Roman ghosts. The Treasurer’s House was the seat of the Treasurers of York Minster from the 12th century until 1546. It was remodelled in the 17th century. In 1953, a man named Harry Martindale was working in the cellars of the house when he heard trumpet calls and saw a soldier’s helmet. This was followed by another 20 troops carrying round shields, lances and short swords. They looked tired and dirty and their lower legs were not visible. It was later discovered than a Roman Road lay 18 inches below the surface of the cellar and that similar sightings had been reported in the 1920's and were reported again in the late 1950's.

Landmarks in York

York Minster, York:
York Minster, Deangate, York YO1 7HH, UK

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Jorvik Viking Centre, York:
JORVIK Viking Centre, Coppergate Shopping Centre, York, North Yorkshire YO1 9WT, UK

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York Castle, York:
York Castle Museum, Eye of York, York YO1 9RY, UK

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Micklegate, York:
Micklegate, York, UK

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Snickleway Inn, York:
The Snickleway Inn, 47 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LS, UK

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Treasurer's House, York:
Treasurer's House, Minster Yard, York YO1 7JL, UK

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Black Swan, York:
Black Swan, Peasholme Green, York YO1 7PR, UK

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    • brutishspoon profile image


      4 years ago from Darlington, England

      Just get the postcodes of the attractions and you should be able to do it. I've done it with my Blackpool Hub if you want to see how it looks

      He was actually born in Stonegate

    • Angela Tempest profile imageAUTHOR

      Angela Tempest 

      4 years ago from Lanchester, Durham, United Kingdom

      That's a good idea, will see if I can. Tried to do it with the Tynemouth piece but just kept hitting the town itself. And no, didn't know what, very interesting, thanks!

    • brutishspoon profile image


      4 years ago from Darlington, England

      Another great Hub that will get readers interested in a great place of historic interest. Why not add a second map showing the locations of the attractions? This would be a great addition to an already excellent Hub.

      Did you know that Fawkes was born in sight of the Minster and was Baptised at St. Michael le Belfrey which is situated next to the Minster.


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