York - past
York Travel Blog› entry 1 of 3 › view all entries
The Romans had a garrison in the first century AD. This became Eboracum and a town was erected around the base. It became capital of the Roman province of Lower Britain (northern England.) Later it was probably the place where Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was proclaimed.
In ther next (Anglo-Saxon) phase the town became Eoferwic. It was the capital of King Edwin's Northumbria and was a major centre of learning and of religion. Next it became an important Viking centre under the name of Jorvik.
Like most of northern England it was hammered by William the Conqueror but recovered its importance during the later Norman and Plantaginet periods. In the Wars of the Roses in hte 15th century the City of York did not favour the House of York but was committed to the rival House of Lancaster.
During the Civil War royalist York was besieged by and surrendered to a Parliamentary force.
Over the remainder of its history the city managed to retain considerable importance in spite of its relative decline in economic importance. York grew during the industrial revolution but at nothing like the rate opf Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and others. In its own county it was far outstripped by Leeds and Sheffield. However it has some fine Georgian buildings and played a considerable part in the age of railway expansion.
In religious terms it is extremely important, having one of only two archbishoprics in England.
Apologies to any residents of York who fel short-changed by the brevity of this history but it is mainly for thoe from far away.
Lastly there was an Archbishop of York named Thomas Lamplugh from 1688 t0 1691. 'So what,' you may say. 'Why tell us that.' He will reappear in a later entry '(Distant) family connection.'
One thing York is certainly not and that's a traffic-friendly city. When I worked from Horsforth near Leeds, I used to allow as long by car for getting into the college from the York boundary as for getting to the boundary from my office. Park and ride schemes have done much to minimise the problem but was I glad that on this trip our coach dropped us just outside the old part of the city.
It should have been possible to go along by the River Ouse under the road bridge but none of us had boots or boats suitable - it's horribly vulnerable to floods as well.
'Why go there at all?' you may be wondering.
A good starting point is a street, (The) Shambles, which won a Google competition as Britain's prettiest street and is one of the most visited streets in Europe. It is very narrow and must once have been very smelly as it was the medieval street of butchers' shops.
Then there are the walls of the city, part of which can be walked, and several ancient gates. However if it is bad weather you might prefer to go inside. One remarkable attraction is the Jorvik Centre where you go backwards in a little train into York's past and enjoy the sights, sounds and even the smells of the Viking city. There are two more conventional museums. The Castle Museum is a bit curiously named since the only part left of york's once prestigious castle is Clifford's Tower, now owned by English heritage and visited separately. The Castle Museum is actually largely in the old prison buildings and two of its principal features are the part that shows hoe life was lived in the prison and a reconstructed street. The Yorkshire Museum is the other one.
There are two specialist museums, the smaller of which is devoted to quilting. The larger one is perhaps favourite of all for children but has much to interest adults too. This is the National Railway Museum that has not only historic trains but any number of rail artefacts.
This is short as the next two entries will refer to different aspects of the mister. First let me deal with the terminology.
Minsters and Cathedrals are not synominous. T quote Wiki:
Minster is an honorific title given to particular churches in England, most famously York Minster. The term minster is first found in royal foundation charters of the 7th century; and, although it corresponds to the Latin monasterium or monastery, it then designated any settlement of clergy living a communal life and endowed by charter with the obligation of maintaining the daily office of prayer.
Hence some splendid buildings (such as Beverley Minster) do not qualify as cathedrals. As the seat of one of our two archbishops of the Church of England, York Minster obviously qualifies as a cathedral as well. Not something that matters much to me but you might like to know.
Most people who have been to York Minster will enthuse about the stained glass windows, correctly in my view but see the entry specifically on glaass later. This is the largest cathedral north of the Alps apparently. The architecture varies between Romanesque (a little), Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular, giving great examples of all the Gothic styles.
The entrance ticket gives access to the tower and the undercroft as well, the latter being full of Roman remais in situ. Photography is allowed wxcept in the undercroft. If visiting, on no account miss the superb Chapter House.
Can you have a connection squared - or do I mean a connection doubled? Anyway my connection here, if it exists, depends on two marriages. The latest is my own to Pam, because he was her straight connection - if he was! The other marriage was that of Pam's great-aunt, Ethel Mary Jackson to Alfred Amos Fletcher Lamplugh in 1919. All Pam's family and I think Fletcher Lamplugh himself believed him to be the direct descendant of Thomas Lamplugh, who was Archbishop of York in the 17th century after being Bishop of Exeter.
I admit that when I started my York blog (very recently) I had no thought of any doubt about this. However immediately before starting this entry I looked at Ancestry to check Fletcher's full name and found one of those green leaf things indicating that they had a hint. I followed it up and found a family tree (public) which traces Fletcher's ancestry and seems to suggest that he was not a direct descendant of the aforementioned Thomas! I have written to the list owner to see if he can shed any light on it - could it just have been a delusion of grandure?
I was curious to find his bust at the minster, believing him to be a distant connection. My youngest son had seen it on a visit a year or two ago and i was eventually able to find it. It is included among my photos but I have no idea how to get them related to the right parts of a blog that all takes place on the same day.
First I should stress that this trip is not covered in the ticket for entrance to the Minster but has to be paid separately - also that it is not available all days of the week so check it out on the Minster's site if you are interested. (http://www.yorkminster.org/visiting/what-to-see-and-do/glass-conservation-studio/)
The following is an extract from the Minster's faq page - you might not believe me if I gave these figures myself!
The Minster has one of the best collections of Stained glass in England. There are 128 windows, containing about 2 million individual pieces of glass. The Great East window of York Minster is the single largest area of medieval glass in the world, it is about the same size as a tennis court! A glass painter called John Thornton made it between 1405 and 1408.
Each window is cleaned and restored about every 125 years. When we clean the windows they must be taken completely apart and each piece of glass cleaned one by one. Then the window must be put back together. To clean every window in York Minster would take about 200 years!
The jewel in the crown is perhaps the Great East Window. You can see from my photos that at present a photograph hangs in its place as it is down for repair. Two panels are exhibited horizontally in the Minster and this was where our tour started on the grounds that we would understand the work being done if we saw first what was needed.
Having seen these panels we went on the private part of the tour to what had been a chapel but is now a workshop, where two women were working on some panels. Both women gave short talks on what they were doing at the time and our guide explained the whole process. Obviously the lead that I mentioned was the only way known to restorers of old but it is now possible to make almost invisible joins and perfvect colour matches. One peculiarity of York (apparently well known in cathedral glass circles throughout Europe) is the thickness of the lead.
I was completely ignorant about the work and learned a lot from the tour. Perhaps what impressed me most was the obsession with perfection in pieces which would never be properly seen because of their immense height from the ground. This applies both to the original painters and to the modern restorers.