Where A Gate Is Not A Gate

So many pathes, so many turnings seene,
That which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser
In this strange Labyrinth how shall I turne,
Wayes are on all sids while the way I misse
- A Crown of Sonnets Dedicated to Love, Lady Mary Wroth
By the way, you will hear many strange words here. Perhaps the most important thing you should know is that a street is called a gate, while a gate is called a bar.- Sovereign, C. J. Sansom

One of the reasons York is such a charming place is its infrastructure, a collection of streets, squares, bridges and small alleys called snickelways in a native neologism. As with the city's architecture the intrastructure has such an appeal to me because of its wide variety both when it comes to scenery and York's history which is very palpable wherever you turn. A little too often I was tempted to leave my academic labours behind in my apartment and idly stroll the city like the flaneur extraordinaire I aspired to become, bringing my camera and a book of verses with me as my two most frequent companions.
As C. J. Sansom so aptly puts forth, there are some differences in terminology when discussing the infrastructure of York, a point illustrated by this local slogan: When is a gate not a gate? When it is a street in York. The word "gate", like the word "street", is of Norse origin and means exactly the same as its lingual sibling. . The heavy usage of gate most likely stems from the heavy Nordic influence in the latter part of the Anglo-Saxon era, but why this is so predominant compared to the word "street" is beyond my knowledge. Whether this word is found outside York I can't say for sure. On my first trip to Durham I stumbled across a sign with the name Walkergate on it and immediately believed it to mean "street", ignoring the most likely explanation - as a friend pointed out to me recently - namely that the word simply means gate, or "bar" as the Yorkists put it.
They do of course also use the word "street" in York, just as they use numerous other words designating stretches of infrastructure of varying length, but "gate" is by far the most noticeable. Many of the gates are named after trades which were found in that area, such as coppergate and skeldergate, homes of cupmakers and shieldmakers respectively, while others are named after famous persons either of native origin or who played a significant role in the city's history. Examples of the latter can be found in Marygate and St. Saviourgate, named after the Virgin Mary and Christ respectively, who, although they never set foot in York, were of major importance to the city's history and culture, and they remain so today.
This blogpost is dedicated to various streets of York, some of which are major features of the city, while others are less important but nonetheless enjoyable or interesting. Some streets have been left out due to the rather scanty or lacking availability of photographs owing to my own neglect. One street, Stonegate, is excluded because a blogpost has already been bestowed on it. As for the selection below I trust this will entertain and please in its own right.
Bootham is one of the main roads into York, and I walked a stretch of it every day on my way to class or on one of my numerous excursions. Seeing the Minster looming in the distance beyond Bootham Bar was a pleasant sight I never tired of.

This plaque is situated on the wall by White Horse pub which in turn is the neighbour of Jeanette Ray Bookseller, a nice antiquarian bookshop with architecture, gardening and local history as its main themes.

Bootham Bar.
St. Mary's
There is a gentle lady in heaven, who has pity- Inferno, Dante Alighieri (translated by Charles Sisson)
St. Mary's is a little side road to Bootham where Constantine House, my residence for the stay, is situated.

Marygate Lane

Marygate Lane is a little alley connecting St. Mary's and Marygate, and I was oblivious of this shortcut until a friend revealed it to me. I became very fond of the lane since it cuts through a very nice area, typically British, with brickhouses, hedges and ivy-coated walls.
or the gate in a hedge that opens into England- The Prodigal, Derek Walcott
Platonic England grasps its tenantry- Loss and Gain, Geoffrey Hill

 leaves, unraked, tiling the road's margins- The Prodigal, Derek Walcott

Aldwark and vicinity
Aldwark is an area in the eastern part of York, comprised predominantly of apartments of a fairly recent origin. It is in many ways a rather bland and sterile place and I only walked through it once on my way to Monk Bar, which in hindsight was a ridiculous thing to do considering Monk Bar's location. The only item of interest is St. Anthony's Hall, which by the way now contains the Quilt Gallery, but for reasons I'm not quite comfortable with I only photographed the commemorative plaque rather than the hall itself.

Nothing like good ol' British hospitality.
It's an aardvark! Can't you see that, Your Highness? It's a bloody aardvark!- Edmund Blackadder 
 Dundas Street

The name Dundas comes from the Celtic and designates a man who dwells at the south hill or at the hill fort. The reason why I even noticed this name is thanks to Patrick O'Brian's splendid Aubrey and Maturin novel series, where one of Captain Aubrey's closest friends is Heneage Dundas.

Black Horse Passage
Now, as the surging horses of Night grip heaven in darkness,Down from the skies above slips an apparition- The Aeneid, Virgilius (translated by Frederick Ahl)

King's Staith

Staith is a Norse word meaning "landing" or "dock".

York has long been famous for its pork, and indeed the scent of fried pork is a fragrance often felt when meandering the city, so it is only natural that there is a Swinegate, which, interestingly enough, also has a gate with swine on it. This part of the city probably belonged to swinekeepers.
 And the other two little boy pigs, Pigling Bland and Alexander, went to market. We brushed their coats, we curled their tails and washed their little faces, and wished them good bye in the yard.
- The Tale of Pigling Bland, Beatrix Potter
A little snickelway connecting Swinegate with Stonegate, running past, if I remember correctly, Barley Hall Museum.

Davygate is one of the busier streets of York, leading to Parliament Street and St. Sampson's Square. A frequent sight was the long queue of people trying to get a table at Betty's Tearoom, to my big surprise. For a city where so many foodstuffs can be found, purchased and devoured, it is fitting that a street should be named after a lardiner, and of course it is only natural considering the lardiner's position and importance in Medieval times.

Sundry details of Davygate.

Foss River.
Stand still, fear not, I'll show you but this book.- The Honourable Historie of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Robert Greene

Fewster Way
I first thought the word fewster was a variant of the medieval term fewter or fewterer - also surnames, by the way - which refer to greyhoundkeepers, originating from the Latin word vertragus, meaning greyhound. However, after consulting Henry Harrison's Surnames of the United Kingdom I learned that fewster means saddle-tree maker, a trade often mentioned together with saddlers in old plays. Which Fewster this street is named after I don't know.

The Shambles

The Shambles is perhaps the cosiest street of York, having crowbarred itself into the townscape and consisting of a number of delightful shops, such as Chocolate Heaven. There is also the shrine of Margaret Clitherow, a Catholic martyr of the 16th century, which I, in my almost criminal neglect, forgot to visit.


The word "jubber" is an older word for Jew and this is one of the various mementos of the city's Jewish history. Another memento can be found in the name Jewbury, which designates the Jewish burial ground. The most tragic location in the Jewish history is Clifford's tower, a Medieval castle, where a number of Jews were burned to death in 1190 due to a severe surge of animosity following Richard I's Jewish policy, a policy too light to the tastes of anti-semitic Medieval Christians.


The shortest street in York is a favourite motif of local postcard designers.

Soon after that came east from Denmark two hundred ships; wherein were two captains, Cnute Swainson, and Earl Hacco; but they durst not maintain a fight with king William. They went rather to York, and broke into St. Peter's minster, and took therein much treasure, and so went away.- Entry for the year 1075, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Beginning at Bootham Bar and divided into Low and High Petergate, this street can offer an array of pubs, bookshops and purveyors of numerous and various goods. Leading to the Minster, it was the natural way for me to walk when on my way to and from Evensong, or whenever I decided to render the cathedral a visit.

As previously mentioned this was the precinct of the shieldmakers.

York Way

And, as can be seen, there are stretches of road related to York even outside York. This was taken in London and is complete with the compulsory CCTV.