1901 the Dean and Chapter of York Minster acknowledged that the growth of York necessitated better routes. They agreed to allow a new road to be built, to link ancient narrow Goodramgate with the newly widened Duncombe Place, although the new road, Deangate, passed close to the Minster’s South Transept and main door.
As the twentieth century progressed, vehicular traffic increased dramatically and the law of unforeseen consequences took effect. At its peak over 2,000 vehicles were passing each hour within six metres of the building. The vibration and emissions caused untold damage to the structure, whilst the noise of heavy lorries and motorcycles made the Minster’s daily services intolerable.
The Civic Trust began a campaign in the 1960s to have the road closed to vehicular traffic. Other streets in York were pedestrianised and finally in August 1991, with the help of The Press, the Dean and Chapter of York Minster and North Yorkshire County Council (who were at the time the Highway Authority), the milestone of closure was finally reached. Lord Esher, whose report had formed a blueprint for the conservation of York, was invited to lunch with the Dean and Civic Trust chairman in the middle of the road! However, he was not able to come and British Telecom laid on a special temporary telephone line to the lunch table for a chat.
The Heritage Lottery Fund recently supported an imaginative redesign of the space in front of the South Transept to form a piazza, removing the resemblance to the old road. The entrance to the Minster was excavated in 2012 to allow for an accessible new design.