Here are more PDFs of York walks accumulated by the Trust.  Click on the title not the icon.




















The York area is great for walking – from the extraordinary heritage of the city centre, with its many fascinating buildings, old streets and unique ambience, through the wonderful open spaces of the largely preserved medieval Strays, to the outer villages with their green belt surroundings and excellent pubs.  And the walking is easy.

Over many years, walks have been created in York to help people discover and enjoy the city.  Unfortunately, many of the publications describing them have a short lifespan and they soon disappear.

We have pulled together over 75 such walks that have been published, ranging from a short stroll in the footsteps of King Richard III in the city centre, to longer walks across the Strays and in York’s surrounding countryside.  We have reproduced only those for which we have been able to obtain permission, and on the condition that they are freely available to Trust members and the wider public.

This list of published walks is only a beginning.  As new walks come to light, we hope to include them to the benefit of everyone.  Do let us know if you create a new walk!  The email address is
We are delighted that the Rowntree Society has just published a booklet of five new walks around the Rowntree family’s and company’s world.  You’ll find those below.

We hope you enjoy the walks, learn about York, have fun and keep fit!

Liz Smith and Ron Cooke
February 2017














Here are five Rowntree walks, with thanks to the Rowntree Society. (click on the title not the icon)






‘Get To Know Your York’

FREE WALKING TOURS by York Civic Trust Do you care about York and its past, present & future? Visit our […]

48/50 Stonegate Y01 6AS

Demolition work in 1939 behind Nos.48 and 50 Stonegate revealed two walls of York’s oldest house. It is unusual for minor domestic architecture from the 12th century to survive, particularly in city centres. Timber-framed houses from this period have been either completely replaced or substantially altered over the centuries; a handful of houses built from stone have proved more enduring.

The remaining two walls, built from dressed magnesian limestone, are viewed from what was originally the inside of the house. Set back around 14m from the shopfronts on Stonegate, the house comprised an undercroft used for storage and, above this, a first-floor hall lit by windows in the south-west wall. One of these windows, with two arched lights divided by a shaft with moulded base and water-leaf capital, survives relatively intact. Window glass was first developed by the Romans for use in important public buildings and prestigious villas. It remained a luxury in the medieval period and the Norman House windows had only timber shutters. A rebate for shutters can be seen on the inside of the window and one hinge survives. Excavations in 1939 found that the floor of the undercroft was approximately one metre below the current level of the courtyard and the foundations of three central columns were discovered. These supported the timber floor of the upper hall. A setback in the masonry indicates the original position of the first floor. There was also evidence of the base of a garderobe, a medieval toilet. This was a closet off the main hall on the first floor, corbelled out from the main wall. Waste would drop to the level of the undercroft into a cess pit.

Jewish community in York

No records of the house survive prior to 1376 so the early tenants of the house are unknown. Only the wealthiest citizens could afford to build in stone. York was experiencing an economic boom in the 12th and 13th centuries and amongst the richest men in England at that time were Jewish financiers. The remaining Norman stone urban houses in England are sometimes associated with Jewish owners as they had the necessary wealth and also required security from possible anti-Semitic attacks or robbery. There are two Norman houses on Steep Hill in Lincoln, one formerly called Aaron the Jew’s House – now known as the Norman House – and the Jew’s House. The surviving window in the York house is almost identical to one in the Norman House in Lincoln so it is likely that the two dwellings were constructed at the same time.

The Jewish communities in York and Lincoln were closely linked. Aaron of Lincoln was a Jewish financier specialising in lending money for the building of abbeys and monasteries and was said to be the wealthiest man in England, richer than the King himself. He had a national network of agents including Benedict and Joceus in York. On Aaron’s death in 1186, Benedict and Joceus became the leading money lenders in England. The 12th-century historian and chronicler William of Newburgh, a canon of the Augustinian priory at Bridlington, wrote, ‘with profuse expense they [Benedict and Joceus] had built houses of the largest extent in the midst of the city, which might be compared to royal palaces and there they lived in abundance and luxury almost regal, like two princes of their own people’.

Clifford’s Tower massacre

Clifford’s Tower, all that remains of the Norman castle

The two men would pay a severe price for this ostentatious flaunting of wealth. William of Newburgh recounts that, in 1189, the two Jews travelled to London to attend the coronation of Richard I. Resentment to the imposition of taxes to fund the Crusades had been growing and there was opposition to the presence of Jews at the coronation. The situation came to a head at the coronation ceremony and anti-Semitic riots broke out in the streets of London. Benedict was wounded and died of his injuries whilst fleeing back to York. Due to their importance to the economy of England, Jews benefited from royal protection and when Richard I left for France in December 1189, he ordered that they should be left in peace.

However, the king’s command was not heeded and, in March 1190, rioting broke out in King’s Lynn, Norwich, Stamford and Lincoln. In York, Richard de Malbis (Richard Malebisse – mala bestia or “evil beast”), a debtor of Benedict, incited the mob in York and led an assault on the Jew’s house in Spen Lane. Benedict’s family was slaughtered, his treasure stolen, the house set on fire and the loan agreements publicly burned. Led by Joceus, the remaining Jews sought protection in the castle. They were besieged by an angry mob and, on 16 March, fearing capture and forced baptism, they committed mass suicide. It is thought that around 150 Jews died.

When the king learned of the massacre, he sent his chancellor, William de Longchamp, to York to punish the rioters. The Sheriff of Yorkshire was dismissed along with the Constable of the Castle; Richard Malebisse fled to Scotland and his lands were confiscated by the Crown; heavy fines were inflicted on the other ringleaders. By 1240, the Jewish community in York had been re-established and Leo Episcopus and Aaron of York, both residents of the city, were said to be amongst the six richest Jews in England. However, the turbulent history of Jews in England would continue and, in 1290, the entire Jewish population was expelled from the country by Edward I.

Prebends to York Minster

By 1376, the Norman House was the home of the Prebend of Ampleforth, one of the 36 prebends of York Minster. The system of prebends to cathedrals was introduced sometime after 1150. A prebend is a canon of the cathedral supported by revenues from a specific ecclesiastical estate. Income varied and some prebends were extremely wealthy. The manor of Ampleforth was granted to the Archbishop of York in the 11th century and this supported the Prebend of Ampleforth. An Anglo-Danish chief, Ulf, transferred several manors, including Ampleforth, to the Dean and Chapter of York in the 11th century. As a form of transfer deed, he presented the cathedral with a ceremonial drinking horn inscribed with the words “Ulf, a prince in Western Deira, gave this horn with his lands”. A rare survival from the 11th century, the horn is an elephant tusk carved with Islamic style figures which may originate from workshops in Salerno in Italy. The horn disappeared during the Civil War (1642-51) but was, later, returned to York Minster where it is on display today.

The house continued to be used by clergy attached to York Minster but later development surrounded the house and, by the eighteenth century, the Norman House had mostly disappeared until the two remaining walls were discovered in 1939.


YAYAS, Report,1951–52, pp36–39

“Houses: Stonegate”, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central (London, 1981), pp. 220-235. British History Online – (accessed 12 April 2018).

Jewish Heritage Walk, York Civic Trust,

York Jewish History Trail, (York, 2012)

© Richard Wilcock

photos by Rachel Semlyen

13 Stonegate, York YO1 8AN

No. 13 Stonegate, is a 15th century house with additions of the 16th and 17th centuries. At an unknown date a wooden female figure was attached at ground-floor level to the house on its corner with Little Stonegate. Usually now referred to as a “ship’s figurehead”, close inspection shows that the bare-breasted lady – anatomically endangered by passing traffic – has only one arm and one feathered wing and is much more likely to have come from not the prow but the stern of a sailing ship, probably having been attached to the side of a projecting quarter gallery. This female figure – is she arising from the sea like a mermaid or is she a protecting angel? – dates from the mid- or late seventeenth century, a time when formerly open quarter galleries at the ship’s stern were now being enclosed and had windows added.

It was always thought that women, bare-breasted or not, would bring bad luck if they were aboard a ship, so why use them so often for decoration? Sailors believed that the gods of the sea would be so taken with such images that they would calm the wind and waves and give the ship safe passage. Just why this stern figure was removed we shallprobably never know. It could have been that the ship had merely come to the end of its days or was, perhaps, too large to enter port with the silting up of the River Ouse and was then dismantled. We can only speculate.

Haven for ships

York grew up at the junction of two rivers: the Ouse and the Foss, and thus was readily supplied with transport and communications links to the outside world via the Humber Estuary and the North Sea. The Romans built jetties here, with wharves and warehouses on both rivers. In the eighth century, the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin confirmed York as being built by the Romans ‘to be a merchant-town of land and sea’ and ‘a haven for the ships from distant ports’. A century later, further developments came with the Vikings whose larger ships and skills in navigation opened new routes, allowing York to export its own timber and import goods from as far away as China. Archaeological finds from Viking York include amber and furs from Scandinavia, silk from China and the Middle East, copper alloy pins from Ireland, a cowrie shell from the Red Sea and pottery from Germany.

York continued as an important trading port after the 11th century Norman Conquest and by the 14th century the city was England’s richest city after London and the Merchant Adventurers its richest guild. York’s merchants exported wool, grain and cloth to Northern Europe and continued to import luxury items from overseas such as olive oil, figs and raisins from Spain. By the late-16th century, however, larger sea-going ships could no longer navigate York’s rivers partly due to their greater size and partly due to the increasing build-up of sediment in the Ouse. Only smaller, lighter boats could now reach York and, as a result, Selby and Hull began to assume much of York’s trading importance. As the wool trade of the West Riding increased, the shorter land route to these ports became preferable, as did the later canal route via the Rivers Aire and Calder. The Corporation of York was under pressure to act and, after much debate, Naburn Lock was finally built in 1757 and the river Foss canalized, but the river trade failed to revive.

Now the River Ouse is primarily used for pleasure and recreation. It is one of the key attractions in York’s tourist trade with leisure cruisers, canoes and rowing boats plying the routes once used by the city’s trading ships. Many of the wharves and jetties have gone giving place to restaurants, cafés and pubs and paved riverside walks provide a welcome escape from the bustle of the city.

Master woodcarver and stonemason Dick Reid OBE restored the figure on behalf of the York Civic Trust in 1978.


L.G. Carr Laughton, Old Ship Figure-heads and Sterns (originally published in 1925, reprinted New York, 2011)

Baron F. Duckham, The Yorkshire Ouse, The History of a River Navigation (Newton Abbot, 1967)

Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave: The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (London, 1995)

‘Houses: Stonegate’, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central (London, 1981), pp.220-235. British History Online


© Dinah Tyszka


by York Civic Trust

(for potential new YCT members)

Friday 21 June 2019
From 9.00am—4.00pm

St Crux Hall, The Shambles, York

This is an opportunity for people interested in York – its present, past and future – to learn about the history of York, as well as a chance to chat with volunteers and learn about the events, activities and membership benefits of York Civic Trust, whilst supporting us by purchasing refreshments, homemade cakes and sandwiches.

Visit our displays at St Crux Hall to book on a walk and chat to York Civic Trust volunteers.

The 2019 walk schedule can be downloaded Get To Know Your Your Walk Details leaflet.

There is no pre-booking for these walks except on the day at St Crux Hall.
As walks will be limited to manageable numbers, please arrive early to avoid possible disappointment.

Help us to promote this event by downloading the 2019 A4 Get To Know Your York poster.

Get To Know Your Your Walk Details leaflet or collect a leaflet detailing walk times and descriptions at the Reception area of Fairfax House, Castlegate, York, YO1 9RN.

We hope you enjoy the walks and marquee displays, and are tempted to become a member of the York Civic Trust

The purpose of the weekend is to give the opportunity for members of the public to discover more about York Civic Trust and the heritage of the city of York through guided walking tours.  Priority will be given to non-members of YCT.

Plaque in Library Square, Museum Street, YO1 7DS

The Association of Voluntary Guides to the City of York (AVG) was formed in 1951 as a part of the city’s contribution to the celebration of the Festival of Britain. Although the main site of the Festival was in London, at a site on the South Bank, the festival was a nationwide affair with exhibitions in many towns and cities throughout Britain. The City of York Council’s librarian suggested the idea of using knowledgeable citizens to show both the people of York and visitors around their historic city. This idea was quickly supported by the council and a public meeting called to promote the idea. A group was formed at the very first meeting and a walking tour devised.

The plaque is to the left York Library’s entrance in Library Square

Over the years, as more and more tourists began to arrive, so more and more walks were planned, until now there are between 80 and 90 voluntary guides, mostly retired people, with a detailed knowledge of the city. In 2017 the Association guided 13,300 visitors to the city around their tour which has remained virtually unaltered since 1951. The AVG trains its own guides following a five-day course culminating in an oral exam. There are tours of the city every day of the year except Christmas Day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, with a third on summer evenings. They all leave from outside York Art Gallery in Exhibition Square, last two to two and a half hours and are free of charge. The standard tour starts from Exhibition Square and ends in the Shambles, looking on the way at Roman fortifications, St Mary’s Abbey, King’s Manor, Bootham and Monk Bars, the Treasurer’s House and St William’s College. The AVG tours do not include the Minster which has its own guides.

For more information visit

Our sincere thanks to Barrie Ferguson, Secretary of AVG, for information about the voluntary guides.

Photos by Rachel Semlyen

© Dinah Tyszka

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