‘The respectable classes in this city can have no conception of the condition of certain localities.
Medical men could inform the sceptical of other localities presenting scenes equally disgusting and disgraceful; they can tell of the fetid swarms who crowd the low lodging houses of Long Close Lane, Walmgate, the Water Lanes…’
~ York Gazette
Although the history surrounding the area of Walmgate can be discovered within the Roman and Viking eras – the street of ‘Walbegate’ which first appears in the year 1080 has enjoyed a rich and controversial past.
With its portcullis, oak doors, stone archway and defensive barbican, the street of Walmgate is also home to the City of York’s most complete and iconic gate – the 12th Century Walmgate Bar and which would in 1644 become the focus for the Siege of York.
As one of the most important streets in York, the history of Walmgate has been dominated by an impressive number of churches, including St Margaret’s and St Denys, housing the rich and powerful, cattle fairs and sea fish markets, an almshouse and chantry school, slaughterhouses and a huge number of pubs!
By the 1840s, Walmgate also became the magnet for the many Irish immigrants who left Ireland during the potato famine and overcrowding and poverty quickly became rife.
With a labyrinth of passageways from Walmgate to the many brothels hidden away in the tiny streets and yards of the Hungate area and along with its proclivities for drink, disease and destitution – Walmgate was considered to have the most notorious reputation by the late Victorian era.
However, with the passing of time and the clearance of the slums – Walmgate now enjoys a reputation for an impressive number of delightful shops, unique architecture, including the Bowes Morrell House and the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall.
There is also a Regency bridge to saunter across and an array of restaurants to tempt both appetite and purse AND let’s not forget the intriguing legend of the ‘Green Jenny’ who haunts the passageways of an old coaching inn!
For those of a curious and hardy temperament – why not come along and listen to the Lady Brigante one Wednesday evening as she shares with you the tales of those ordinary folk including the story of the desperate young mother, the wealthy ornithologist, the tragedy of a reputation shattered and a strange posioning.
And ALL lost to history – until now!
However, for those of a sensitive nature who are averse to real stories of tears, heartache and tragedy – a walk through Walmgate with the Lady B on a Wednesday evening may NOT be to your taste.
waking the dead of walmgate
Rendezvous: The Phoenix Inn. George Street. York. YO1 9PT
Car Park: Peel Street Car Park. Peel Street. York YO1 9PZ