Discover the history in the city of York

29 January 2018

Yorkshire may be the largest county in the UK, but the walled city of York may be one of the most interesting cities. It is steeped in history and has inspired a whole host of authors, artists and poets. It was a hub for political turmoil throughout British History and even produced revolutionaries like Guy Fawkes.

If you are looking for a cultural day trip while staying at your hotel in Scarborough, the city of York offers the perfect foil to the rolling moors and stunning beaches of other parts of Gods County.




York minster at sunset


The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York is more affectionately known as the York Minster. It is home to the Archbishop of York, the second highest appointment in the Church of England.

There has been a church on this site since 627 AD though it has been rebuilt several times after falling into disrepair, being destroyed by a fire as well as being damaged by invasions. The building you see before you today was influenced by the Gothic style of the 12th Century as also seen in Canterbury and is the second largest cathedral of this style in Northern Europe.

Visiting York Minster offers you the ability to step back in time. If you are lucky enough to coordinate your visit with the Resident Festival held at the Old Palace, you can explore the historic collections of silver and manuscripts.




Clifford's Tower


Clifford’s Tower is a striking landmark in the city of York and the largest remaining piece of York Castle. Initially, this mound of earth was the site of a timber tower that was burned down in 1190. The stone tower was built in the 13th century and despite the importance of the city, York Castle was used for administrative purposes as opposed to a royal residence. Though it was used as a prison or storage, it was occasionally the home of the Exchequer and various treasuries as well as keeping an important royal mint secure.

As the lasting example of York Castle, Clifford’s Tower is an important stop on a tour of York’s historical buildings. Lucy from the blog On The Luce recommends stopping at the tower:

“If you have time call in at Clifford’s Tower next door (£5 adults, £4.50 concessions, £3 children 5–15 or free with a York Pass), all that remains of the original castle built by William the Conqueror. It’s especially pretty in spring when the hill around it is covered with hordes of daffodils.”




Barley Hall


A recently uncovered corner of York’s medieval history, Barley Hall is a beautifully restored example of a 14th-century townhouse. Originally hidden behind a modern façade until the 1980’s it was not until it was due to be destroyed that Barley Hall’s true past was uncovered.

The exposed timbers, high ceilings and bright floors are all in keeping with how it would have looked in the 15th century. It is also home to one of the few horn windows in England which was used as a precursor to glass. It is also currently hosting a ‘Power & Glory’ exhibition which is displaying costumes from the popular television drama, Wolf Hall.




Merchant Adventurer's Hall


Another example of York’s beautiful medieval architecture, the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall was built in the 14th Century and was one of the most important buildings in the city. As a guildhall, it would have been the meeting place for a group of merchants or artisans, in this case, it was for those who formed the religious fraternity called Guild of Our Lord Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary. This was later known as ‘The Mistry of Mercers’ by Henry VI and Company of Merchant Adventurers by Queen Elizabeth I.

Visit the Hall and its collection which is a valuable recording of the city of York’s history over the last 500 years. There is also an extensive collection of oil paintings and vernacular furniture. This includes the ‘Evidence Chest’, which is the oldest piece of furniture in the collection dating back to the 14th Century.




The Shambles street


For an idea of what York would have looked like as a medieval city, The Shambles is a perfect example of the higgledy piggledy nature of the streets. As one of the oldest shopping streets in the UK, it was originally called The Great Flesh Shambles due to the number of butcher shops it housed. Although none now remain, it is a great example of what the city would once have looked like. It was also the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in the famous book series Harry Potter.




Fairfax House


For insight into York’s later history, visit one of England’s finest Georgian Townhouses. Fairfax House was built as a permanent winter base for the Fairfax family, it allowed them all the enjoyments that could be had in town during the season while their country seat Gilling Castle, was used extensively in the summer.

John Carr was the architect of this stunning house that was lovingly restored in the 1980’s and is home to a significant collection of furniture, clocks, silver and paintings from the 18th Century.






Some of York’s beautiful buildings are still used for their original purpose and this is true of The Black Swan Inn which dates back to the 15th Century. Before this, a medieval inn stood on the site and it is believed the remains of this old building are beneath the current building. While enjoying a local beverage, indulge in the stories of hauntings that are rife. The Black Swan Inn is reported to have two regular ghosts, one a workman in a bowler hat who is fond of tutting, while the other is a woman in a long white dress.

Stop at The Black Swann Inn for a rest amidst all that history hunting and round off a day in one of the UK’s most historic cities with some fantastic local fare.


Image Credit: Petr Kratochvil , Steve FarehamPaul HarropRodhullandemuNilfanionNilfanion

Get In Touch With Us

    Please see our Privacy Policy. We will not share your details with any Third Parties and only use your details for legitimate interest.

    Subscribe me to your newsletter