YORK: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1750.
"YORK, a city, and county of itself, on the r. Ouse, at the point where the 3 Ridings meet, is 150 cm. 192 mm. from London. 'Tis the see of an Abp. and its chief magistrate has, like that of London, the style of Ld.-mayor, which no other city in Great Britain has besides. 'Tis so ancient, that the exact time of its building is not evident; but certain it is, that the emperor Severus kept his court and died here, and that from hence his ashes were carried in a golden urn to Rome; that Constantine the Great here received the last breath of his father Constantius Chlorus; and that it was a Roman colony, through which passed no less than 3 military-ways, and that it was the garrison of the 6th and 9th legions. When it was first erected into a metropolitan see, it had 12 Bpks. subject to it, and all Scotland; but now it has only 4, viz. Durham, Carlisle, Chester, and the Isle of Man. It suffere'd very much in the Danish ravages; but on the establishment of the Normans it revived. In the R. of K. Stephen its cathedral, with several mons. was burnt down by an accidental fire, and was not begun to be rebuilt till the R. of Edward I. after which it was finished in the grand and beautiful manner it now appears, by the Piercys, the Vavasors, &c. and of several of the Abps. particularly Thoresby, a cardinal, who, in 1361, laid the first stone of the new choir, remarkable for its fine carvings. This cathedral, or minster, as 'tis oftner called here, which is dedicated to St. Peter, built in the Gothick taste, and by some thought to be the finest in all England, was much extolled by pope Pius II. for its wonderful magnificence and workmanship. The choir has 31 stalls round it, with pillars, all of one piece of alabaster. The chapter-house, a truly Gothick structure, has no pillars to support the roof, which rests upon one pin, placed in the center. 'Tis an octogon, with windows of painted glass. There is a merry story of some nuns, engraved in alabaster, above the floor. On the front of the choir are the statues of all the monarchs of England, from the Conq. to Hen. VI. The E. window of the cathedral has the historical passages of the Bible, and other most curious figures, exquisitely painted, in 117 partitions. There is one called the marigold-window, from its glass being stained of that colour, and a large one reaching almost from the bottom to the top, consisting of 5 lights, erected, they say, at the charge of 5 maiden sisters. The painting represents embroidery. Here is a deep peal of 12 bells, of which the tenor weighs 59 C. A library was given to this Ch. in the last century, by the widow of Dr. Matthews Abp. of York, who was daughter of Bp. Barlow, daughter-in-law to Matthew Parker Abp. of Canterbury, and sister to 4 other Bps. About the time of rebuilding this cathedral, the citizens began to fortify themselves with new walls and towers. In the R. of Rich. I. here was a horrid massacre of the Jews. K. Henry III. had two interviews here with Alexander II. K. of Scotland, A treaty of peace was afterwards concluded here bet. them, and his son, Alex. III. was married here to K. Henry's daughter, lady Margaret; at which wedding there was so grand a feast, that the Abp. contritributed 600 fat oxen, which were all spent in the first service. Rich. II. made it a Co. incorporate. Rich. III. began to raise a new castle. Pts. were held here in the R. of Edw. I. and II. and, by command of the latter, their acts here were first called statutes. K. Edward III. staid here a little while, in his match against the Scots and after the battle of Hallidon-Hill, he came hither again to hold a Pt. K. Hen. IV. came hither to enquire after and punish the adherents of the seditious Earl of Northumberland. K. Edward IV. who had the duchy of York for his patrimony, no sooner returned to England, after having fled beyond sea on his being deposed by the Earl of Warwick, but he came hither, and was admitted, with sixteen of his chief followers, into the city, on a belief founded on his assurance, that he only came to claim his patrimony; but he soon formed a garrison here, went to London, and recovered the crown from Henry VI. K. Henry VIII. after the suppression of a rebellion in this Co. came hither, and was received by the Abp. of York, with 300 priests, and the Ld.-mayor, who all made their submission on their knees, and presented him with 700 l. K. James I. resided here one while, as did K. Charles I. often, in the beginning of the civil wars, to avoid the insults he met with in the S. and the better to suppress the insurrections in the N. The Earl of Stafford, his president for the N. also resided in it; and near the cathedral the late Ld. Irwin had a house, formerly the Abp's. palace, but now converted into a dancing-room and a play-house. This city, which was a liberty independent of either of the Ridings, has jurisdiction over 36 villages and hamlets on the W. side of the Ouse, called the Liberty of Austy. 'Tis divided into 4 wards, has 28 ps. and is walled. 'Twas made a mayor T. by Rich. I. K. Rich. II. changed that title to a Ld.-mayor, and appointed 2 sheriffs; besides which, here are a recorder, 12 ald. who are justices of the peace, 24 assistants, a T.-clerk, sword-bearer, 8 chamberlains, and 72 C.C. who, with the citizens at large, about 1500, elect the members; and the returning officers are the sheriffs. Its members may claim a seat in the house of commons next to the citizens of London, upon what is called the privy-counsellors bench, a privilege exercised by the citizens of London, on the first day of the meeting of every new Pt. It has a strong stone-bridge, of five arches, over the Ouse, (which runs through the city from N. to S. dividing it into 2 parts) whereof the center arch for heighth, breadth, and architecture is reckoned equal to the Rialto at Venice, the diameter being 81 feet, and the height 51. On this bridge are kept the great council-chamber, and that of the records, the exchequer, sheriffs-courts, and the 2 city prisons for debtors and felons, which, with other buildings on it, makes it look like a street. This r. brings vessels of 70 tons to this city from the sea, though at 60 m. distance. Here are 4 gates, and five posterns; and, in 1728, a handsome mansion- house was erected for the Ld.-mayor. The K's. palace, called the Manor-house, which was almost quite demolished in the civil wars, is on the N. side of the Ouse. Its guildhall on the bridge is larger, and in other respects superior to that of London. Near it is the statue of K. Edgar, who rebuilt the city, and St. Anthony's-Hall, where is one room big enough to hold all the inferior tradesmen of the city. The Mt. house, in the street called the Pavement, is a curious piece of architecture, supported by 12 pillars; and there is another, not unlike the exchange at Chester. In the R. of Hen. V. here were 41 p.-Chs. 17 chapels, 16 hos. and 9 abbeys, besides the cathedral; but though there are 28 ps. only 17 of the Chs. are now in use. Of these All-hallows Ch. has the finest steeple of a Gothick building in England, having a beautiful lanthorn on the tower, with very high pinacles. St. Margaret's Ch. has a most extraordinary porch, which is a sumptuous piece of architecture, with our Saviour on the cross at the top of it. The houses are generally of the old timber building, but round the minster there is abundance of fine ones, as the Abp's. palace, and those of the dean and prebendaries; and near it is the assembly-room of the nobility and gentry residing here at the time of the races. The hall, which is 123 feet long, and 40 broad, and rather more in height, communicates with the ball-room. 'Twas built by a subscription of the nobility and gentry of the Co. after a design by the Earl of Burlington, and for its architecture is thought to be the best room in the Km. except the banqueting-house at Whitehall. Here are plays, assemblies, balls, concerts of musick, &c. almost every night. The assemblies chuse governesses every year, who take the subscriptions, and judge who are fit to be admitted; and at the time of an election, horse-match, or assizes, the ladies make as good a figure as at a drawing-room at court. The castle, which stands at the confluence of the Ouse and the Foss, was built by William the Conqueror, but was repaired, or rather rebuilt, in 1701, for the convenience of holding the assizes; and to that end, 'tis converted from a palace to a prison, but by much the finest and pleasantest in England. Here is a handsome chapel, with a good allowance for preacher, besides a gift of a large loaf of fine bread to each of the debtors that attend the sermons. There is no gaol kept neater and cleaner, the very felons being allowed straw on bedsteds raised from the ground; and there is an infirmary, separate from the common prison, where the sick are attended by a surgeon. Here is another infirmary, erected after the manner of those at London, Westminster, &c. which was begun by a subscription in 1738; and here are a ch. scs. one for 60 boys, the other for 20 girls, all both taught and cloathed; from which schools many children have been put out apprentices. This city had the same gift from Sir Tho. White, Ld.-mayor of London, as Bristol and other Ts. where we have mentioned it. A cotton mf. was lately established here, which is brought to very great perfection. There was a great trade here formerly; but it has decayed since the Ref. and the abolition of the court of the president of the N. The plenty and cheapness of provisions here, brings abundance of strangers hither for the conveniency of boarding; and the remains that are still to be seen here, of the ingenuity and grandeur of the old Romans, besides the ruins of abbeys, castles, and Chs. of a later date, attract and detain every traveller, who is inquisitive after antiquities, or curiosities. Among others, there is an arch at Micklegate-Bar, and a multangular tower and wall near a place, called the Mint-Yard, both built in the times of Severus and Constantine; and in other parts of the city there have been found many Roman altars, inscriptions, urns, &c. coins both Roman and Norman; and some Saxon coins are still extant, called Peter-Pence, that have been struck here. This city formerly gave title of D. to the greatest of our nobility, and has been yet more honoured lately, by giving it to the 2d princes of the blood-royal, either sons or brothers of our Monarchs; the last who enjoyed that title being Pr. Ernest, Bp. of Osnabrug and brother to K. George I. The Mts. here are on T. Th. F. and S. the Fairs May 12, June 29, Aug. 1 and 10, Oct. 18, Novem. 2, and every other Th. for horses and sheep. In the Abp's register and prerogative office, there are ecclesiastical records 93 years older than any at Lambeth, or Canterbury. But the greatest piece of antiquity the Ch. of York can shew, is a famous drinking-horn, as it is called, though made of an elephant's tooth, bel. to Ulphus (particularly mentioned in Camden) who, foreseeing that after his death a quarrel would certainly happen about his estate bet. his eldest and his youngest sons, came to this city with the said horn; and filling it with wine, and kneeling before the altar, bestowed all his lands upon God and St. Peter. When it was imagined this horn was quite lost, it happened to be recovered by Sir Tho. Fairfax, and restored by his successor.
[Transcribed by Mel Lockie © from
Stephen Whatley's England's Gazetteer, 1750]