Pavement is perhaps the oldest “organised” open space in York and was at the heart of the Anglo-Scandinavian commercial area. Roman and Anglo-Scandinavian deposits of great preservation and depth have been excavated. All Saints and St Crux Churches, at each end of Pavement, both feature in the Domesday records. An early name was Marketshire, the market district, and the street was formerly the site of one of York’s two main markets. Property charters refer, however, to Ousegate (Usagata) since the street continues to the River Ouse, with the Old French or Middle English term “pavement” not used till the early 14th century, possibly indicating one of York’s earliest paved streets. An elaborate market cross was erected in 1671 and demolished in 1813. The south-west end was transformed by the cutting of Parliament Street in 1836 and Piccadilly – for electric trams – in 1912. The northern end was opened by the demolition of St Crux in 1887 but transformed by the construction of the Stonebow in the 1950s.
The paving was probably maintained by the corporation; in 1497 a payment of 12d was levied on each iron-bound wain or cart coming to Pavement which ‘of new is made’ and, in 1578, it was agreed that the corporation and parishioners should share the upkeep of the roadways on either side of All Saints Church in view of the wear and tear on market days. It is likely that from medieval times the market days in Pavement – as in Thursday Market, now St Sampson’s Square – were Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. In 1500 it was ordered that butter, cheese, eggs, pigs, poultry and other victuals should be sold in Thursday Market and not in Pavement, but the reverse was later required. A similar range of goods was being sold in Pavement in 1784 and 1829; positions were allotted for the sale of vegetables, rabbits, poultry, wildfowl, eggs, butter, roasting pigs, corn, sieves and baskets, wooden ware, shoes and leather goods. Cloth was also occasionally sold.
Pavement as an ancient marketplace was also the scene of public gatherings, proclamations and punishments. Thomas Percy, 7th Earl of Northumberland, was executed on scaffolding in Pavement in 1572 for having rebelled against Elizabeth I as part of a Catholic uprising. On the scaffold, he publicly declared his willingness to die as a Roman Catholic and it is thought that Margaret Clitherow, a young wife living around the corner in the Shambles, may have heard him and been inspired herself to adopt the “Old Church”.
The Herbert House
One of York’s most photographed and picturesque timber-framed houses is prominent in Pavement, a sad reminder of the quality of many lost buildings in the street. The Herbert House was probably built about 1620 by John Jaques, replacing the house of the Herbert family, despite the metal plate reading ‘Sir Thomas Herbert, Bar., born in this house in 1606’ which is now fixed at the west end of the main building. The street elevation has been the subject of much restoration, first in the late 19th century and then in 1926. The Golden Fleece Inn at No.16 Pavement was first mentioned in 1503 but is largely rebuilt.
Pavement appears to modern eyes to be a normal-width street but it was always wider than most in York due to its market function. In the past, city streets were narrow pedestrian streets, just wide enough for goods to be carried on a cart, a mule or on a porter’s back. They became broad enough for a horse and carriage in the 18th century, a tram in the 19th century or a motor car, bus or lorry in the 20th century. Even grand houses had a narrow street, well exemplified in Pavement by Lady Peckett’s Yard. The yard runs south-east from Pavement and is connected to Fossgate by a lane at right angles. The preserved three-storey house at the bottom of Lady Peckett’s Yard, No.11, was built in the mid-16th century and was lived in by a Lord Mayor of York in 1701 – his wife was Lady Peckitt. The present name was first used in the 18th century and originally referred to the open space into which the lanes led. Their earlier names may have been Bacus gail, the north-west to south-east lane, and Trichour gail leading to Fossgate, first recorded in 1312 and 1301 respectively and meaning Bakehouse and Cheat’s Lane.
‘Guilds, markets and fairs’, Victoria History of the County of York: the City of York, ed. P.M. Tillott (London, 1961). British History Online, www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/yorks/city-of-york/pp481-491 [accessed 3 September 2018]
‘Houses: Newgate-Peter Lane’, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central (London, 1981), pp170-180. British History Online, www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/york/vol5/pp170-180 [accessed 6 September 2018]
D.M. Palliser, Oxford Historical Monuments, Tudor York (Oxford, 1979)
Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (London, 1995)
© Margaret Scott