Discover the History of York
History of York
"The History of York is the history of England." King George VI
York is one of England’s finest and most beautiful historic cities. The Romans knew it as Eboracum. To the Saxons it was Eoforwick. The Vikings, who came as invaders but stayed on in settlements, called it Jorvik. York’s more recent history has also characterised the city. There’s the iconic York Minster and architecture from medieval times, its magnificent Georgian town houses and its Victorian railway station.As you explore York you will discover that every aspect of York’s modern life is inextricably linked with its past. Within its ancient, encircling walls, York’s medieval streets and buildings are beautifully preserved in the historic heart of the city. Shambles is a must-visit, as one of the most recognised historic streets in England, often referred to as the best-preserved medieval street in Europe.
While archaeological evidence suggests that settlements around York date back to the Mesolithic period, the city as we now know it began with the Romans in 71 AD, when 5000 men from the ninth legion marched from Lincoln to set up camp and conquer York. Not only did the Romans create York, they lived and ruled in it for the next three centuries, turning it into a city of global importance. Only 2% of Roman remains have been rediscovered in York, so some of Roman city still remains a secret. The longest stretch of surviving Roman Fortress wall is in the Museum Gardens, including the Multangular Tower. Although the Roman Empire eventually faded, their legacy lives on. The armies of ancient Rome will march on York again this summer at the Eboracum Roman Festival, the remains of York’s Roman bathhouse can be explored on St Sampson’s Square and The Yorkshire Museum is home to some of Britain’s most significant Roman treasures.
The Viking invasion of York took place on November 1st 866AD and was led by Ivar The Boneless who along with King Halfden renamed the city Jorvik. The Vikings who settled in York were mainly a peaceful bunch despite what we read about their bloody campaigns. They farmed the land and were great craftsmen, traders, artists, engineers and ship builders. Over the one hundred years that York was under Viking rule the city prospered greatly. Today the Viking heritage is still celebrated in the city, through the Scandinavian name for a road, ‘Gata’, which appears in street names such as Stonegate and Petergate to the world-famous JORVIK Viking Centre which takes visitors on an unforgettable journey back in time to relive everyday Viking life. It’s even evident through The Little Vikings who offer recommendations for families in the city. We can certainly thank the Vikings in part for the beautiful legacy they have left in the city.
The Medieval period is an important era in York’s history, as many of the city’s landmark buildings that make up the city skyline were built within this era. The city walls were rebuilt and strengthened, and old wooden Viking buildings were reconstructed in stone. Four new fortified gates, or "bars", were built to regulate traffic through the walls and the stone keep of York Castle (today known as Clifford’s Tower) was reinforced. The city’s growing prosperity in trade and commerce is reflected in the imposing Merchant Adventurers' Hall and the Guildhall. Learn more about the medieval history of the city at the Yorkshire Museum’s display showcasing their permanent collection of the region’s greatest surviving treasures. The exhibition ‘Medieval York: Capital of the North’ explores how York became England’s second city and how its fortunes rose and fell with its ties to the Crown and the Church.