Plaque between 41 and 43 Stonegate
Stonegate has always been one of the major streets of York. It runs south-west from the junction with High and Low Petergate or via principalis, towards the River Ouse and the old Roman bridge, along the line of the via praetoria of the Roman fortress. The via praetoria linked the main fortress gate – under St Helen’s Square – to the headquarters building – under the Minster. Tourist guides justifiably walk groups along its attractive length, which was restricted to pedestrians in 1974. The name is recorded around 1118-9 and is from Old Norse stein (stone street) possibly because it was paved in stone or because stone to build the Norman Cathedral was hauled along it. Stone could be unloaded from boats at the end of Common Lane, now hidden next to the Guildhall.
The upper part of the street lay in the Liberty of St Peter and many properties belonged to the church or housed trades dependent on ecclesiastical patronage. Goldsmiths worked here from the 15th century and there is even earlier evidence for glass-painters. Perhaps for this reason, Stonegate is one of the very few York streets named in C.J. Sansom’s popular historical novel involving Matthew Shardlake, Sovereign (2007), set in 1541 when Henry VIII visited York and involving the murder of a glazier.
Besides many medieval timber-framed houses – some now clad with brick – Stonegate contains an extreme rarity: a 12th-century stone house behind Nos 48-50 whose remains were discovered in 1939 and named the “Norman House”. Among the many fine houses a rather hidden one is at No.23, the York Medical Society Rooms. This extensive building of many periods, whose internal garden may recall the rear of many medieval burgages, has been acquired by York Conservation Trust and, therefore, will be expertly conserved. The Trust also owns Nos.12, 14, 14a and 16 Stonegate.
A major landmark of Stonegate is Mulberry Hall whose name puzzles many people. There are records of Mulbraihalle, a baronial hall in York in the property of Nigel d’Aubigny (d.1129) and his son Roger de Mowbray (d.1188). Roger de Mowbray’s personal seal bore the French inscription de Mulbrai. The hall belonging to the family was recorded by name in 1276 as the aulam qui dicitur Mulberi, when it was owned by York Minster. That reference is to the site of Nos.35a-39 Stonegate and extended as far back as Grape Lane; it is possible that the modern site Mulberry Hall (Nos.17-19 Stonegate) had also belonged to d’Aubigny.
For an introduction to the Streets of York, read here.
‘Houses: Stonegate’, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 5, Central (London, 1981), pp220-235. British History Online, www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/york/vol5/pp220-235 [accessed 6 September 2018].
Nikolaus Pevsner and David Neave, The Buildings of England, Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (London, 1995)
Sarah Rees Jones, York, The Making of a City 1068-1350 (Oxford, 2013)
© Margaret Scott
Photos for the Civic Trust by Rachel Semlyen