York is a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire; it lies within the Vale of York, a flat area of fertile arable land bordered by the Pennines, the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Wolds; the original city was built at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss on a terminal moraine left by the last Ice Age; in the Middle Ages, it grew as a major wool trading centre and became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained; the city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events throughout much of its two millennia of existence.
The city was founded by the Romans in 71 AD, under the name of Eboracum; it became in turn the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior and of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jorvik; during Roman times, the land surrounding the rivers Ouse and Foss was very marshy, making the site easier to defend; the word 'York' comes from the Latin name for the city, variously rendered as Eboracum, Eburacum or Eburaci; the first mention of York by this name is dated to c. 95 to 104 AD as an address on a wooden stylus tablet from the Roman fortress of Vindolanda in Northumberland.
The toponymy of Eboracum is uncertain because the language of the pre-Roman indigenous population of the area was never recorded; these people are thought to have spoken a Celtic language, related to modern Welsh; therefore, it is thought that Eboracum is derived from the Brythonic word Eborakon, that is a combination of eburos "yew-tree" (cf. Old Irish ibar "yew-tree", Welsh efwr "alder buckthorn", Breton evor "alder buckthorn") and suffix *-ako(n) "place" (cf. Welsh -og) meaning either "place of the yew trees" (cf. efrog in Welsh, eabhrac in Irish Gaelic and eabhraig in Scottish Gaelic, by which names the city is known in those languages) or perhaps "field of Eboras".
The name 'Eboracum' was turned into 'Eoforwic' by the Anglians in the 7th century; this was probably by conflation of 'ebor' with a Germanic root *eburaz (boar); by the 7th century the Old English for boar had become 'eofor', and Eboracum 'Eoforwic'; the 'wic' simply signified 'place'; when the Danish army conquered the city in 866, the name became rendered as 'Jórvík'; Jórvík was gradually reduced to York in the centuries following the Norman Conquest, moving from the Middle English Yerk in the 14th century through to Yourke in the 16th century and then Yarke in the 17th century; the form York was first recorded in the 13th century.
Many present day names of companies and places in York, such as Ebor taxis and the Ebor race meeting, refer to the Roman name; the Archbishop of York also uses Ebor as his surname in his signature.
Archaeological evidence suggests that the Mesolithic people settled in the region of York between 8000 and 7000 BC, although it is not known whether these settlements were permanent or temporary, but by the time of the Roman conquest of Britain, the area was occupied by a Celtic tribe known as the Brigantes; the Brigantian tribal area initially became a Roman client state, but, later its leaders became more hostile to Rome; as a result the Roman Ninth Legion was sent north of the Humber into Brigantian territory.
The city itself was founded in 71 AD, when the Ninth Legion conquered the Brigantes and constructed a wooden military fortress on flat ground above the River Ouse close to its confluence with the River Foss; the fortress, which was later rebuilt in stone, covered an area of 50 acres and was inhabited by 6,000 soldiers; the site of the Roman fortress lies under the foundations of York and excavations in the Minster's undercroft have revealed some of the original walls.
The Emperors Hadrian, Septimius Severus and Constantius I all held court in York during their various campaigns; during his stay, the Emperor Severus proclaimed York capital of the province of Britannia Inferior and it is likely that it was he who granted York the privileges of a colonia or city; Constantius I died in 306 AD during his stay in York and his son Constantine the Great was proclaimed Emperor by the troops based in the fortress.
The Roman colonia and fortress are located on high ground (York Castle is on the right hand side of the river, opposite the abandoned motte of Baile Hill), but York wasn't and is victim to periodic flooding from the rivers Ouse and Foss and by 400 it lay abandoned; York declined in the post Roman era and was taken over and settled by the Anglo Saxons in the 5th century; though, reclamation of the flooded parts of the town were not initiated until some time in the 7th century under King Edwin of Northumbria, when York became his chief city; the first Minster church was built in York for the baptism of Edwin in 627; Edwin ordered that this small wooden church should be rebuilt in stone, however, he was killed in 633 and the task of completing the stone Minster fell to his successor Oswald.
In the following century Alcuin of York came to the cathedral school of York; he had a long career as a teacher and scholar, first at the school at York now known as St Peter's School, York, which was founded in 627 AD and later as Charlemagne's leading advisor on ecclesiastical and educational affairs.
In 866, Northumbria was in the midst of
internecine struggles when the Vikings raided and captured York; under
Viking rule the city became a major river port, part of the extensive
Viking trading routes throughout northern Europe; the last ruler of
an independent Jórvík, Eric Bloodaxe, was driven from
the city in the year 954 by King Edred in his successful attempt to
complete the unification of England.
The first stone Minster church
was badly damaged by fire in the uprising and the Normans later decided
to build a new Minster on a new site; around the year 1080 Archbishop
Thomas started building a cathedral that in time became the current
Minster; in the 12th century York started to prosper; Clifford's
Tower stands on the site of an horrific massacre of York's Jewish
population in 1190; a large group had taken refuge from a violent mob
in the then wooden tower and rather than perish at the hands of the
mob that awaited them outside, many of the Jews took their own lives,
others died in the flames and those who finally surrendered were murdered.
York became a major cloth manufacturing and trading centre; Edward I further stimulated the city's economy by using the city as a base for his war in Scotland; the city was the location of significant unrest during the so called Peasants' Revolt in 1381; the city acquired an inceasing degree of autonomy from central government including the privileges granted by a charter of Richard II in 1396.
The city underwent a period of economic decline during Tudor times; under Henry VIII, the Dissolution of the Monasteries saw the end of the York's many monastic houses, including several orders of friars, the hospitals of St Nicholas and of St Leonard, the largest such institution in the north of England; this led to the Pilgrimage of Grace, an uprising of northern Catholics in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire who were opposed to religious reform; Henry VIII restored his authority through the establishmnent of the 'Council of the North' in York in the dissolved St Mary's Abbey.
Guy Fawkes who was born and educated in York was a member of a group of Roman Catholic restorationists that planned the Gunpowder Plot; its aim was to displace Protestant rule by blowing up the Houses of Parliament while King James I and the entire Protestant and even most of the Catholic aristocracy and nobility were inside.
In 1644, during the Civil War, the Parliamentarians besieged York and many medieval houses outside the city walls were lost; the barbican at Walmgate Bar was undermined and explosives laid, but, the plot was discovered; on the arrival of Prince Rupert, with an army of 15,000 men, the siege was lifted; the Parliamentarians retreated some 6 miles (10 kilometres) from York with Rupert in pursuit, before turning on his army and soundly defeating it at the Battle of Marston Moor; of Rupert's 15,000 troops, no fewer than 4,000 were killed and 1,500 captured; the siege was renewed and on the 15th July the city surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax.
Following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 and the removal of the garrison from York in 1688, the city was dominated by the local gentry and merchants, although the clergy were still important; competition from the nearby cities of Leeds and Hull, together with silting of the River Ouse, resulted in York losing its pre-eminent position as a trading centre; nevertheless, the city's role as the social and cultural centre for wealthy northerners was on the rise; York's many elegant townhouses, such as the Lord Mayor's Mansion House and Fairfax House, now owned by York Civic Trust, date from this period, as do the Assembly Rooms, the Theatre Royal, and the Racecourse.
George Hudson, a railway entrepreneur, was responsible for bringing the railway to York in 1839 and turning it into a major railway centre; at the turn of the 20th century, the railway accommodated the headquarters and works of the North Eastern Railway, which employed over 5,500 people in York; the railway was also instrumental in the expansion of Rowntree's Cocoa Works; Rowntree's was founded in York in 1862 by Henry Isaac Rowntree, who was joined in 1869 by his brother the philanthropist Joseph Rowntree; Terry's Confectionery Works was also a major employer in the city.
In recent decades, the economy of York
has moved from being dominated by its confectionery and railway related
industries to one that provides services; the University of York and
health services have become major employers, whilst tourism has become
an important element of the local economy; with the emergence of tourism
as a major industry, the historic core of York became one of the city's
major assets and in 1968 it was designated a conservation area; the
existing tourist attractions were supplemented by the establishment
of the National Railway Museum in York in 1975 and the Jorvik Viking
Centre in 1984; the opening of the University of York in 1963 added
to the prosperity of the city and the fast and frequent railway service,
which brings York within two hours journey time of London, has resulted
in a number of companies opening offices in the city.
York is prone to flooding from the River Ouse and has an extensive, and fairly effective, network of flood defences; these include walls along the Ouse and a liftable barrier across the River Foss where it joins the Ouse at the 'Blue Bridge'; in October and November 2000 York experienced the worst flooding in 375 years with over 300 homes being flooded; much land in and around the city is on flood plains and has always been too flood prone for development other than agriculture; the ings are flood meadows along the River Ouse, while the strays are open common grassland in various locations around the city.
York's location on the River Ouse and in the centre of the Vale of York means that it has always had a significant position in the nation's transport system; the city grew up as a river port at the confluence of the River Ouse and the River Foss; the Ouse was originally a tidal river, accessible to sea-going ships of the time; today both of these rivers remain navigable, although the Foss is only navigable for a short distance above the confluence; a lock at Naburn on the Ouse to the south of York means that the river in York is no longer tidal; up until the end of the 20th century, the Ouse was used by barges to carry freight between York and the port of Hull; the last significant traffic was the supply of newsprint to the local newspaper's Foss side print works, which continued until 1997; today navigation is almost exclusively leisure oriented.
York has been a major railway centre since the first line arrived in 1839 at the beginning of the railway age; for many years the city hosted the headquarters and works of the North Eastern Railway and York railway station is a principal stop on the East Coast Main Line from London to Newcastle and Edinburgh; the National Railway Museum is situated just beyond the station and is home to a vast range of transport material and the largest collection of railway locomotives in the world; included in this collection are the world's fastest steam locomotive LNER 4468 Mallard and the world famous 4472 Flying Scotsman.
York's economy is based on the service industry, which include public sector employment, health, education, finance, information technology (IT) and tourism, which has become an important element of the local economy, with the city offering a wealth of historic attractions, of which York Minster is the most prominent, as well as a variety of cultural activities, in 2009, York was the 7th most visited city by UK residents and the 13th most visited by overseas visitors.
York has 32 active Anglican churches and is the home to the Archbishop of York and the Mother Church, York Minster and administrative centre of the Diocese of York; it is in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough, has eight Roman Catholic churches and a number of different Catholic religious orders; York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe and stands at the city's centre.
York's centre is enclosed by the city's medieval walls, which are a popular walk; these defences are the most complete in England; they have the only walls set on high ramparts and they retain all their principal gateways; they incorporate part of the walls of the Roman fortress and some Norman and medieval work, as well as 19th and 20th century renovations; the entire circuit is approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometres) and encloses an area of 263 acres; the north east section includes a part where walls never existed, because the Norman moat of York Castle, formed by damming the River Foss, also created a lake which acted as a city defence; this lake was later called the King's Fishpond, as the rights to fish belonged to the Crown; York Castle is a complex of buildings ranging from the medieval Clifford's Tower to the 20th century entrance to the York Castle Museum, which was formerly a prison.
A feature of central York is the Snickelways, narrow pedestrian routes, many of which led towards the former market places in Pavement and St Sampson's Square; the Shambles is a narrow medieval street, lined with shops, boutiques and tea rooms; most of these premises were once butchers' shops and the hooks from which carcasses were hung and the shelves on which meat was laid out can still be seen outside some of them.
The Shambles also contains the Shrine of Margaret Clitherow, although it is not located in the house where she lived; Goodramgate has many medieval houses including the early 14th century Lady Row built to finance a Chantry, at the edge of the churchyard of Holy Trinity church.
The Theatre Royal, which was established in 1744, produces an annual pantomime which attracts loyal audiences from around the country to see its veteran star, Berwick Kaler; the Grand Opera House and Joseph Rowntree Theatre also offer a variety of productions.
York has an annual Festival of Food and Drink, which has been held in the city since 1997; the aim of the festival is to spotlight food culture in York and North Yorkshire by promoting local food production; the Festival generates up to 150,000 visitors over 10 days, from all over the country; one of the notable local products is York ham, a type of cured ham, which is a mild flavoured ham that has delicate pink meat and does not need further cooking before eating; it is traditionally served with Madeira Sauce; it is a lightly smoked, dry-cured ham, which is saltier but milder in flavour than other European dry-cured hams; folklore has it that the oak construction for York Minster provided the sawdust for smoking the ham; Robert Burrow Atkinson's butchery shop, in Blossom Street, is the birthplace of the original “York Ham” and the reason why the premises became famous.
Famous People: Guy Fawkes.