Our next visit in York was to the shrine of St Margaret Clitherow, which was in what had been her house in the Shambles in the late 16th century when she was married to a wealthy butcher. At that time it was against the law in England to be a Catholic, but Margaret refused to give up her faith and was imprisoned three times for not attending her local parish church on Sundays. She also hid priests in her house and for this she was executed in 1586 by being crushed under a door with heavy stones piled on top.
Although we’d all heard the story before, it still made us feel very sad and, after a few quiet minutes, we were glad to step out into the street again and return to the present day. We began to cheer up, however, when Mum’s friend showed us the new stationery shop Papersque which had recently opened in the Shambles, because – as everyone knows – writers can never have too many notebooks, even if they never actually write anything in them. Mum chose this beautiful one, decorated with peacocks’ feathers.
But there were also many more to choose from, including some shaped like letters of the alphabet. I wanted a W for Wilf so I could make notes for my blog in it, but unfortunately they were bigger than me and so I didn’t get one.
We then went back into King’s Square where the Gallopers had just closed down for the night and the horses were being tucked up in green covers to keep them warm and dry. As it was only about five o’clock, however, it was much too early for us to be thinking of going to bed and so we walked into Goodramgate to take another look at Holy Trinity church through the gate leading into the churchyard.
To one side of this gate are the oldest houses in York, dating from 1316. Known as Our Lady’s Row, they are now shops and a Chinese restaurant, but Mum can remember when one of them was a really nice tea-shop where she and her friend used to go for cinnamon toast as a late afternoon treat whenever they visited York. The cups, saucers and plates were all mismatched but made of fine china and the doorways were so low that even Mum had to duck her head to get through, but the atmosphere was lovely and she was sorry when it closed.
While Mum was concentrating on photographing Our Lady’s Row, I suddenly spied a man wearing a smart red robe and carrying a bell in one hand and a tricorn hat in the other, going in to one of the little shops. We realised he must be the Town Crier, also known as the Bellman, who had recently been appointed to announce important news in York in the traditional way, by ringing his bell and shouting “Oyez! Oyez!” (which Mum says comes from the French word meaning “Listen up!”) to get everyone’s attention. We waited until he came out of the shop, then asked if we could take his photo and, as you can see, he posed very nicely for us. We also found out that his name is Ben Fry and his other job is presenting The Breakfast Show on Minster FM. I asked Mum if she thought he’d announce my arrival next time I went to York and she said he might if my blog got to be really famous…
Further along Goodramgate we saw that a Cat Cafe was about to open, which we all thought was a lovely idea as we all like cats, but we also thought that we probably wouldn’t go there as (1) we wouldn’t want to leave and (2) we’d want to bring all the cats home with us.
We also saw this plaque on a wall in a little passageway between two shops and thought it was fabulous, though we weren’t sure what kangaroos had to do with York…
From Goodramgate, we walked into College Road and sat for a while on a grassy area between St William’s College, built in 1465 for a community of chantry priests who were paid in advance for saying prayers for the dead, and the great East Window of York Minster.
Then we walked past the stone masons’ yard, where old stonework from the minster is skilfully restored and new stonework created.
Our next stop was by the statue of Constantine the Great, who had come to Britain in 305 with his father Constantius who was a Roman emperor. When Constantius died in York the following year, Constantine’s soldiers declared him as the new emperor, a position he kept until his death. Among his many deeds, he passed an edict in 313 allowing the practice of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and by the following year York had its first bishop. Constantine wasn’t a modest man, however, and, having made a new capital for his empire, he called it Constantinople, though we now know it as Istanbul.
After that, there was just time for a photo of the West Window of the minster with its famous “Heart of Yorkshire” feature in the stone tracery.
Then it was on to the train and back home. On the way, we saw a very pretty sun dog (which Mum said is really called a parhelion and is caused by the sunlight refracting through ice crystals in the atmosphere. She knows a lot of strange stuff does my mum – I think it’s because she used to be a librarian!).
Then this beautiful sunset brought a perfect end to a lovely day.
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