The Birthday treat… almost a mystery!

Recently I mentioned that my interest in ancient buildings, ruins and places had been renewed. The reintroduction to my English heritage was reiterated recently when my daughter Sophie asked for a mystery day out for her birthday treat.

I chose to take her to YORK, formerly known as Eboracum and once the capital of Roman England. The city was founded during the reign of Emperor Vespaspian in the year 71AD!

My intention was to keep the destination a secret for as long as possible. Unfortunately, when she jokingly asked before we’d even left the school car park, if I was going to start taking photographs here and now, I answered without thought “No I’ll wait until we get to York!” So the surprise was spoiled. However, when I asked where she’d like to visit in York she answered with the two places I’d lined up for her.

Sophie’s interests are history, art and music, so the choice of two museums and a general sight-seeing walkabout was a good one for her.

After parking the car on the outskirts of York we took the ‘Park and Ride’ bus with its very friendly bus driver into the city centre and alighted at our first call of the day, the Yorkshire Museum. First we stopped to take a close look at what was left of St Leonard’s hospital, in the grounds of the museum.  SONY DSC



St Leonard’s Hospital

After leaving St Leonard’s we came across the remains of the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey. The Yorkshire Museum is built upon the remainder of this site.

St Mary’s Abbey was first built in 1088.

The ruins we see today are all that remain of one of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England.

“Its story ties together two of the most important events in English history: it was begun by William the Conqueror to reinforce his hold on the north after 1066 and ended by Henry the Eighth as a consequence of his Reformation of the church.

The abbey estate occupied the entire site of the Museum Gardens and the abbot was one of the most powerful clergymen of his day, on a par with the Archbishop of York. In medieval York, the abbey sat opposite and mirrored the Minster: two great buildings dedicated to worship.

The monks would spend their days working in abbey administration, copying books, trading with merchants, providing food and supplies for the monastery, managing the abbey’s estates and helping the poor.” (yorkmuseumgardens


Ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey

We walked through the small gateway seen above and into the Fern garden which leads into the grounds of the Yorkshire Museum.



The Ruins of St. Mary’s within the museum grounds

The Yorkshire Museum dating from the 1820s houses four main collections.

Biology, Astronomy, Geology and Archaeology, including a large collection of extinct animals and over 112,500 specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils.


The archaeology collection has close to a million objects that date from around 500,000 BC to the 20th century. Most of the objects from the Roman, Anglo Scandinavian and Medieval periods are from the York and Yorkshire area.  (Yorkshire

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Unfortunately, we missed out on seeing the Viking and Medieval displays because they weren’t due to open until the following day!

Later after the leaving the museum we spent an enjoyable hour or so wandering around some of the quaint old streets and shops.

The two photos below are of ‘The Shambles’, The oldest street in England which dates from 900AD. The word ‘shambles’, meaning a muddle is derived from an early word for slaughterhouse. The Shambles was originally a street of butcher shops and houses, many of which had a slaughterhouse at the back of the premises. Walking down this street, soaking up and infusing the atmosphere is a treat not to be missed

The overhanging upper floors of the houses in The Shambles served a  practical purpose.  the buildings were built this way to protect the hanging meat from the sun and rain. They also served to give more living space to the upper domestic  quarters.

Some of the tiny shops are fascinating to look around, many specialising in unusual goods.

The cobbled channel between the pavements was used to dispose of waste, waste that was often domestic and thrown from windows. This would have eventually washed away down the slope towards Fossgate. Can you imagine the stench?


The Shambles showing the inner cobbled channel



The Shambles York


No prizes for guessing what this shop specialises in!

Another impressive ancient street is Stonegate, dating from 1118 and seen here with a glimpse of the  York Minster  in the background. Stonegate was built upon the Roman road Via Praetoria,  today Via Praetoria lies hidden six feet below the pavement.


Stonegate York

Stonegate is full of interesting shops,  specialising in chocolate,  hand-made soap, books,   jewellery, teddy bears and a Peter Rabbit shop. My particular favourite  is the German Christmas shop. (More photos in the York Photo video)


One of the many dispays in the German Christmas shop

Our lunch  was enjoyed at the Roman Bath Inn, built on the site of the Roman baths and where  a museum can be found in the basement. On this occasion we ran out of time to visit the museum but will definitely include during our next visit to York in a few weeks.

Our final visit of the day was to the Castle Museum  which is Britain’s most famous Folk museum. It was started by a local country doctor who managed to save household objects from the rubbish tips. Eventually his collection was taken to the old female prison which in 1938 opened as the Castle Museum. The museum has now spread into the ‘Debtor’s prison next door where the infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was held.


1950’s Living Room


1930’s kitchen


1980/90’s kitchen

The museum also boasts a Victorian street, Kirkgate, but our photos here were a little dark.


The cell that held Highwayman Dick Turpin immediately before he was hanged

Spotted crossing the road outside the Castle Museum was this delightful family.

My next article about York will include more of its history plus a visit to the Vikings at The Jorvik centre and a tour of the magnificent York Minster.

Other Photos from our York visit can be found in the photo video here.

Article Linked to the daily Word-prompt ‘Infuse’   

13 thoughts on “The Birthday treat… almost a mystery!

  1. A great day out – and you seem to have dodged the crowds, which is pretty clever. Other People is the thing that can spoil a trip there, especially in summer – said she, judgmentally 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. gc

      A wonderful pictorial travelogue Sue which places your reader right beside you and experiencing the sights and emotions as you obviously felt discovering your roots.

      Thank you dear for sharing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Author Interview – RobRoy McCandless – TEARS OF HEAVEN (Urban Fantasy) | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

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