Isn’t it great when you are in a spot encircled by a set of experiences and astounding architecture which traces back to ages? Consider traveling back in time with The Time Machine to the Middle Ages… That’s how it feels when you visit York’s Shambles Street. It is located in the heart of York city, England. Shambles is the best-preserved medieval street in Europe. This street has been existing for a very long time, as it is recorded in the Domesday Book which was completed almost 900 years ago. It is the oldest and best-preserved street in Europe. It’s a narrow street lined with largely timber structures dating back to the 13th century. Originally, the street was exclusive to butchers, with each store specializing in a distinct type of meat. Butchers are still located on this street. However, the rest of the street is now occupied with new enterprises. The word ‘shambles’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘flesh shammels’, which refers to the shelves that were a prominent element of open storefronts.
This historic street in York’s city centre has a jumbled-up arrangement with stores and eateries. Many 15th-century structures protrude out above us as we walk down the small lane. The street was compared by many visitors to Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series. There were no hygienic facilities or hygiene laws at the time, as there are today. As a result, getting rid of the guts, offal, and blood was difficult. To solve the situation, the Butchers’ offal and blood were washed away twice a week in a canal formed by raising the pavements on either side of the cobblestone street. Today, the narrow street is brighter and cleaner, with businesses, cafes, and restaurants lining it. Many of these buildings are also hundreds of years old. The local market has a wide range of goods to suit everyone’s needs.
The Shambles Street Background
Shambles Street in the city centre area of York is a place with a long and fascinating past. One of them includes the history of a woman named St Margaret Clitherow, who married a wealthy butcher with premises on the shambles when she was young. Her husband remained protestant and turned a blind eye to his wife’s activities after she converted to Catholicism. In the 1580s, she was arrested for sheltering Catholic priests. She also held regular prayer sessions at her home and kept clerical clothes hidden there. Because she refused to make a plea, she was condemned to death by pressing. In 1970, she was declared a saint. Her house has been turned into a shrine. Many tiny streets in York, such as the Water Lanes, had a similar aspect to the Shambles in the past. The Shambles, on the other hand, is the last survivor, and it has been a tourist attraction since the early twentieth century.
When you stretch your arms out in a few places on Shambles Street, you can touch both sides of the street. The building’s overhanging timber fronts are purposefully shuttered so that the wattle and daub walls beneath them can be protected. They aid in the protection of items maintained in the merchant stalls below from rain and other elements. They also gain extra space for living above ground in their homes or shelters, since the overhung was popular because the tax is only paid for the ground coverage, therefore living above ground doesn’t count. Jettying was a medieval architectural technique in which the upper floors protrude beyond the lower ones, increasing available space without blocking the roadway. Also, it shielded meat from the direct sunlight. The buildings lean into the roadway in such a way that the roofs of two opposing buildings practically meet. It’s as if the neighbours are meeting up from above. The window sills were extra wide. This is due to the fact that the meat was exhibited for sale on the window sill.
After seeing all of the old sights along the street, there are many lovely cafes to take a break and enjoy some time staring out the window at the picturesque shambles. The narrow street is lined with galleries, cafés, and other shops. Shamble Street is now a prominent tourist destination and a premier shopping centre in the city. In an online survey with over 11,000 votes among the shortlisted 51 Historic Streets chosen by expert panelists, Shambles was named Britain’s most picturesque street by Google Street in 2010.
Shambles street has to be on everybody’s travel bucket list. You will feel as if you are travelling back in time when you visit Shambles Street in York; it is as if some writer was busy writing here. It perfectly captures York’s charming, ancient vibe. They have the historical significance that we can only see in books.
SUMO Design (2019). The Shambles: History of York. [online] Historyofyork.org.uk. Available at: http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/themes/medieval/the-shambles
James, D. (2016). The Shambles—York’s Famous Medieval Street. [online] Britain and Britishness. Available at: http://britainandbritishness.com/2016/01/what-shambles-yorks-famous-medieval.html
www.amusingplanet.com. (n.d.). The Shambles, York: The Most Medieval Street in England. [online] Available at: https://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/09/the-shambles-york-most-medieval-street.html