After leaving York Museum Gardens, Ike, Helen & Traff reached the third of the main Bars, Bootham Bar.
Here you can go in the room above the archway for free (in the others these rooms are museums or cafes) so Ike could have a close look at the portcullis and peer through an arrow slit. Although this one is obviously a Victorian addition as it looks into the city instead of out – the original builders wouldn’t have been expecting attacks from the York side of the Bar!
This part of the wall faces many beautiful gardens and a plaque near Grays Court commemorating Edwin Gray for restoring the walls to the city. In fact, Mr Gray liked having a picturesque ruin at the bottom of his garden and was not at all keen on the council restoring them and adding a path so that anyone could stare in. He initially threatened to sue for trespass if they touched ‘his’ walls. Somehow a deal was eventually reached and coincidentally (?) he was made Lord Mayor a few years later.
At Monk Bar, Ike had a closer look for things you might miss – ‘murder holes’ through which things could be dropped on anyone attacking the portcullis and a ‘mason’s mark’. Each mason would have his own design so that the master mason could check who had shaped the blocks and decide if their quality was good enough.
Almost all the original Roman walls are either gone or buried beneath the medieval ramparts but archaeologists have excavated a Roman tower of the original fortifications.
The last point of interest was the Red Tower. This marks one end of the wall around the river Foss which was made into a great lake here in 1068 called the King’s Fishpool and stayed for more than 700 years. It is the only part of the walls made of brick. Around 1500 the city was trying to save money as stone and masons were expensive, but bricks could be made cheaply from local clay. The tilers’ guild started work but were constantly harassed and sabotaged by the masons’ guild and eventually a tiler was murdered. Although the Master Mason of the Minster was arrested, he was never convicted and the tilers finished the Red Tower but never took on more work on the walls.
When Ike was back where he started Helen pointed out a cat sat on Walmgate Bar. This is a clue to Ike’s next York adventure!
If you would to know about the walls, the Friends of York Walls have an excellent website including all the information you need for your own self guided walk.
Information on the Tower Two project.
Many thanks to Helen & Traff for this excellent Ike Adventure. I’m really looking forward to the next one.