history of York is the history of England"
an in-depth view of York's history, visit the
of York website. This site,
initiated by the York Museums Trust, has a wealth of information
about York, rich history, presented in an attractive and enjoyable
to this page
Norman and medieval York
The Age of Decline
The Civil War and the seige of York
Georgian York - social capital of the North
The Railway Age to the present day
Roman invasion of York in AD43, Britain from the Humber to the
Firth of Forth was ruled by a confederation of Celtic tribes
known as the Brigantes. In AD71, the Roman Govenor of Britain,
Quintus Petillius Cerialis invaded "Brigantia" and set up a camp
which, after the Ninth Legion had subdued the Brigantes, became
a permanent fortress. This was called "Eboracum", and it was
on the junction of the Rivers Ouse and Foss - where modern York
At the height of Roman power, the fortress enclosed 50 acres
and housed a garrison of 6000 soldiers. A civilian town grew
up and "Eboracum" became
one of the leading cities of the Roman empire.
Over 300 years
of Roman occupation of York ended about AD400 when Roman legions
were withdrawn to serve in Gaul. In the 5th century, the Germanic
tribes of the Anglo Saxons invaded the country. Despite the legendary
recapture of York from the invaders by King Arthur, York became "Eoforwic",
the centre of the independent kingdom of Northumbria, ruled by mighty
One such warlord was Edwin, who reintroduced Christianity to Northumbria. He
married a Christian princess from the South, who brought a priest called Paulinus
to York. Paulinus babtised Edwin and many of his subjects on Easter Day 627
in a timber church. This was the first cathedral of the present York Minster,
and Paulinus later became the first bishop of York.
By the eighth century "Eoforwic" dominated this part of Britain. But Northumbria
was in decline, and in 866 was overrun by "Ivar the Boneless" and his hordes
of Danish Vikings.
Ivar the Boneless
took advantage of Northumbria being in the middle of a civil war
and the Vikings captured York on 1st November 866. The Viking King
Halfdan shared out the Northumbrian lands from this capital, now
renamed "Jorvik". The Viking warriors settled down to a more peaceful
farming existence, and "Jorvik" became a major river port, part of
the extensive Viking trading routes throughout northern Europe. The
city walls were extended and new streets laid out.
The last Viking ruler of York, Eric Bloodaxe, was driven from the city on 954
by King Eadred of Wessex, who united Northumbria with the southern kingdom.
In the years 1056-66 York changed hands following local rebellion, Norweigian
invasion and finally the defeat of the Norwegian army at Stamford Bridge (about
8 miles from York). The victor at Stamford Bridge, King Harold II of England
fell three weeks later before the Norman invasion of William the Conqueror
at the Battle of Hastings.
AND MEDIEVAL YORK
William came to
York in 1069 to subdue Northern rebellion. He built two wooden castles
on top of earth mounds. The castles have long since gone, but the
mounds can be seen today. The Domesday Book census of 1086 showed
that half of York was owned by the King, and the other half by influential
Normans. York prospered, and the rebuilding of the Minster was begun.
Over the next 300 years York grew to become the second largest city in the
country and was the northern capital of England. The stone walls and gates
were built during this time. But York's prosperity was not to last. During
the 1400s, the population was declining, and the all-important wool industry
was moving elsewhere, and the citizens were soon to take up arms in the Wars
of the Roses.
AGE OF DECLINE
Although the Wars
of the Roses (1453 - 1487) did not have a great impact on York, their
aftermath did. King Edward IV never forgave York for its Lancastrian
sympathies, and ruled the city harshly. There were also severe epidemics,
the decline of the wool industry and the shift of much trade away
from York to London. Worse was yet to come. In 1533, Henry VIII renounced
the Church of Rome, made himself the head of the Church of England
and, in 1536, began the Dissolution of the Monasteries. York, as
a major religious centre, suffered greatly. All the monasteries and
friaries were suppressed. Half the houses in York, formerly owned
by the churches, were seized by the Crown and sold to royal officials
and London merchants. However, Henry did strengthen the old Council
in the Northern Parts, basing it in York (at King's Manor) and thus
helped York to regain its title as the second city in England.
CIVIL WAR AND THE SEIGE OF YORK
During th 45 year
reign of Elizabeth I, the Council of the North was further strengthened
and York began to revive. This continued under James I as York increasingly
became a social capital for the gentry of the North. The boom continued
even while Charles I was King. When Parliament abolished the Northern
Council, Charles set up court in the King's Manor, installed the
Royal Mint nearby and kept his printing press at St William's College.
By the time that Charles left York in 1642, the Parliamentary opposition had
gathered strength. Civil war erupted and in April 1644 a Parliamentary army
of 40,000 began the seige of York. This was lifted in June when Charles' nephew,
Prince Rupert, arrived with 14,500 troops. The Parliamentarians were chased
to Marston Moor, six miles from York, but unfortunately for Rupert, they turned
on his army and he was defeated. The seige of York was renewed, and the city
surrendered on 15th July 1644. Many buildings were destroyed, but further damage
was avoided by the Parliamentarian general Sir Thomas Fairfax (a local man),
who prevented his troops from pillaging York's magnificent churches.
YORK - SOCIAL CAPITAL OF THE NORTH
After the removal
of the Royal Garrison from York in 1688, the city was gradually dominated
by the local aristocracy and gentry. Trade and manufacturing were
in decline, but York's role as the social and cultural centre for
wealthy northerners was on the rise.
Many elegant new town houses were built, along with public buildings such as
the Assembly Rooms, Assize Courts and numerous hospitals. A new Racecourse
was built, York's first newspaper, The York Mercury was printed in 1719
and the coach service to London was improved. What had been a four day journey
was reduced to 20 hours by the 1830s. And then came the railways...
RAILWAY AGE TO THE PRESENT DAY
The railway came
to York in 1839, brought by an entrepreneur called George Hudson.
Ten years later, when Hudson's dubious dealings had disgraced him,
York was a major railway centre, and by the beginning of the 20th
century, the railway employed over 5,500 people.
The railway also helped to expand manufacturing industry, and resulted in the
expansion of Rowntree's Cocoa Works and Terry's Confectionery Works. In Victorian
times, York witnesed a rapid rise in new church construction, as well as the
building of numerous banks, offices, schools and colleges.
A major project in more recent years was the building of the new University
of York, opened in 1963 and which today has a Science Park, a model which
others have followed. Although traditional manufacturing has declined, new
industries have sprung up on the City's growing industrial sites. Tourism,
of course, is a major income earner for the City and its people.