12/7/90

YORK  We got to York, the second oldest city in England, at 10:30 and after we had parked the car we walked up into the centre of town. We went to the information centre and got some info on the city then caught a sightseeing bus for a tour around York.

York has a history as long and as chequered as London. It was founded in the year 71AD by the Romans on the banks of the river they named The Ouse, which means The River of Clear Water. After the Romans left in the 5th century the city was occupied by various Barbarian tribes until the invading Vikings took it and renamed it Jorvik from which the name York is derived. The Normans conquered York just three weeks after they defeated Harold’s forces at Hastings and built a castle there soon after, in 1068. The only part of the original castle that remains is Clifford’s Tower.

The city is surrounded by a large wall much of which is still standing and has 4 gates or bars:  Monk Bar (West), Micklegate Bar (South),  Bootham Bar (North) and Walmgate Bar (East). Walmgate contains one of only three remaining intact barbicans in Europe and is the only one in England.

York Minster dominates the city. It is the fifth church to stand on the site, the first being a small wooden oratory where the Northumbrian king Edwin was baptised in 627AD. A stone church followed and this was rebuilt in 670 by King Wilfred. This building was destroyed by the fire in 1069 and the Norman Minster was begun in 1070 by Thomas Beyer, the first Norman Archbishop. This building was also damaged by fire and the present building was begun in 1220. It took 250 years to build and is the largest mediaeval cathedral in Britain. It is 524 feet long and 249 feet across the transept.

York and the towers of York Minster.

After lunch we all split up and I walked the circuit of the city walls then we all met at the foot of Clifford’s Tower. The tower  stands on a grassy mound thrown up by William the Conqueror in 10 days shortly after the Norman Conquest. Henry II received the surrender of William, King of Scots, there in 1175 and in 1190, 500 persecuted Jews committed suicide there.  The present stone tower was begun in 1245 during the reign of Henry III and took 13 years to complete. The tower has a quatrefoil plan (four circles) and is reached by 55 steps leading to a portcullis door. The interior of the tower was destroyed in 1684 when a fire caused a powder magazine to blow up.

 Dick Turpin  was tried and hanged in York in 1738.

Our last visit in York was to the Jorvik Viking Centre where I struck a pewter coin. The two dies used for the coin were unearthed in the Copper Gate excavation which uncovered the Viking remains under York in 1976. One side of the coin shows the St Peters Penny which was first struck under the Viking Kings of York (AD 910-920) and shows a cross, a sword and the hammer of Thor. The other side comes from a penny of the Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan who drove the Vikings out of Northumberland. He proclaimed himself to be “King of all Britain” and reigned from AD927-938.

The coin that I struck that day in York.

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