England, Day Seven – Exploring York and York Minster Cathedral

Thursday, May 23

York was founded in 79 AD by the Romans. Parts of the city wall they built is still standing and we spent some time walking the top of it. The steps to the top,

York City Wall Gatehouse Steps

are in several gatehouses along the way, some of which straddle modern streets.

York City Wall Gatehouse

There was a narrow walkway atop the wall with periodic bays extending outwards.

York City Wall

York City Wall Bay

These were useful to us for dodging the frequent hordes of school children on tours of the wall. (I don’t think that’s why the Romans built them but it’s a great design nonetheless.)

There is lots of sightseeing to be done in York. It is pretty touristy but great fun to explore. The architecture is straight out a fairytale: half-timbered buildings, cobblestone streets, narrow alleys,

York Alleys

and my favorite place name of all, The Shambles, a medieval street and neighborhood with leaning buildings and lots of little shops and cafés.

The Shambles 1 The Shambles 2

We at a proper British lunch at The Flax and Twine, a housewares and vintage shop and café in The Shambles.

The Shambles Flax & Twine Lunch

It had great old sloping floors.

The Shambles Flax & Twine Floor

And the street was so narrow, I was wondering if I should lean out the window and ask the neighbors if they were hungry.

The Shambles Flax & Twine Window

It happened to be market day in York. It was a mix of farmers market, cheap clothing and vintage items and it was fun to stroll around and explore.

York Market Day

After the market, we walked to York Minster and checked out the interior.

York Minster Interior

There was incredible stained glass.

York Minster Stained Glass 2     York Minster Stained Glass

And a huge pipe organ.

York Minster Pipe Organ 2

York Minster Pipe Organ

And an astronomical clock dedicated to RAF and Allied airmen lost in World War Two.

York Minster Astronomical Clock

The plaque below the dial reads, “They went through the air and space without fear and the shining stars marked their shining deeds.”

The explanatory plaque reads,

“THE ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK – A memorial to the men of the Royal Air Forces of the Commonwealth and their Allies who, operating from bases in Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland, gave their lives for us all in the second World War.

WHAT THE ASTRONOMICAL CLOCK SHOWS – The edge of the large convex disc represents the horizon as seen from an aircraft directly over York and flying South. A plan of the Minster and the the City Walls is picked out in gold in the centre. The clock’s “Sun”, represented by a gold disc, rises and sets on the horizon at the actual times of sunrise and sunset throughout the year. It crosses the vertical, South pointing wire at noon. From day to day it’s path along the silver band representing the ecliptic varies so that it rises higher in the summer than in the winter.

The dials at the bottom show, on the right, Greenwich Mean Time and on the left, the sidereal or star time.

The dial on the other side of the clock shows, the North Circumpolar Stars visible from the latitude of York (54’N) circling round the Pole Star.”

York Minster Astronomical Clock Detail

 The Chapter House, a meeting room for a group of clerics who advice the bishop, is an ornate round room connected to the main church by a short tunnel. There is a ribbed arched ceiling,

York Minster Chapter House Ceiling

Even more stained glass

York Minster Chapter House Stained Glass

And interesting grotesques over every seat around the room.

York Minster Chapter House Grotesques 1 York Minster Chapter House Grotesques 2

We wandered around the Minster for a while longer and then walked home. On the way, we passed this modest-looking building.

Auden Birthplace

Which turned out to be the birthplace of W.H. Auden, the only poet I’ve ever liked. What a treat!

Auden Birthplace Plaque

We rested at home for a bit and then headed back out for dinner and another stroll around town.

We stumbled across an interesting piece of history – the remains of a Norman House dated to c. 1180. I love the way it is incorporated into the surrounding buildings.

York Norman House

The plaque reads, “Originally a two storey building of good Normal freestone, it would have had an undercroft of wood supporting the first floor which was probably also of wood. The hall on the first floor was lit by windows, one of which remains and has a shaft with a water leaf capital between the two lights. The windows were rebated at the inside for shutters but were never glazed.”

This is the kind of traveling I’d hoped for – unexpected finds and ancient history. Totally worth the tired feet at the end of the day!


One thought on “England, Day Seven – Exploring York and York Minster Cathedral

  1. Anonymous

    Oh how fun! Just amazing to think of being in a place where you can actually walk on parts that were built in 79 AD. Love the “dodging bays”, and your proper British lunch. Wondering if that pillow in the windowsill is weatherstripping. Really interesting to see the astronomical clock. Will need to look at it in more detail and read more to understand, but I love the concept. And now I’m going to look up W.H. Auden, whose poetry I can’t immediately bring to mind. And the crowning element, the Norman house parts built right in to current buildings. I love that! So glad you had the kind of traveling you’d hoped for.


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