The hamlet of St Marygate


Before we wander off away from the Bootham area, where we’ve spent the the last few pages, I must mention this detail I noticed on the corner of Bootham and Marygate. A new sign marking the ‘HAMLET of st MARYGATE’.

Which is interesting in itself. Well, it is if you find local details like signage interesting. And though an interest in such things used to lead to you being told to ‘get a life’, it’s quite trendy now to care about these things. So presumably I can share without shame this photo I took in 2006 of the earlier sign, which said something slightly different. It was very faded, but it’s just about clear on this digitally enhanced image that the old sign read ‘HAMLET OF ST MARY’S’. It seemed rather quaint and charming.


So when I saw the new one I assumed they’d made a mistake. I got really irritated and thought ‘more money wasted’ and rolled my eyes and did that cursing the council thing.

Later I Googled ‘Hamlet of St Mary’s’, assuming I’d turn up various old documents containing this phrase. But I didn’t.

Medieval tower, red phone box

St Mary’s Tower, July 2014

I did though find several references to ‘Hamlet of St Marygate’.

Which suggests that the new sign is more historically accurate than the previous one. The old sign had acquired an air of historical accuracy mainly perhaps because it looked old and carefully crafted. Like those 1970s cobbles in King’s Square.

I don’t have the time to investigate this mystery of the misnamed hamlet. If anyone has any background information please do add a comment.

Hamlet of St Marygate, sign

It will take me a while to adjust to liking the brightness of the new sign, which is now the most prominent thing if you’re looking across from Bootham, so your eyes aren’t drawn so much to the whole picture, the street behind, the verge and the phone box.

On that subject, before we head off from the hamlet, another photo from the York Civic Trust annual report of 1946-7, showing the view of this corner from a different angle, a little way down Marygate.

Black and white photo (The caption invites us to compare it with the ‘photo opposite’. The photo it refers to can be found on the page on the Bootham rest garden.)

And how this scene looks in the 21st century:

Street scene, medieval tower and wall

A bit tidier than it was.

The wall and tower still look a bit ‘ragged’, of course. We might assume that all this visible damage is the result of the assault on the tower and wall in the siege of 1644. But the more we look deeply into the multi-layered history of the city the more we realise that it’s risky to rush to judgement about what is ancient or authentic or historically accurate. There were houses built here later, against these walls. They were then demolished in their turn. So are the rough-looking parts all siege damage or are they from the building and demolition of the houses once built right up against these older structures?

I can’t answer that question, but I can recommend a read of my ebook for a deeper exploration, a historical appreciation, of this location and many others, in a walk around 17th century York.

Next we head towards the city centre, and more observation of 21st century York.

If you’re interested in 20th century history — a few years ago I compiled from dusty volumes of council minutes some notes on the history of a wartime hostel (aka ‘the hutments’) built during the Second World War on the land behind this wall (and since demolished): a history of the ‘hutments’.

. . . . .

This page was sponsored by a reader. Thank you.

Tagged: ,

  By Lisa @YorkStories 10 July 2014 , , To link to this page's proper location please use the > permalink

About Lisa @YorkStories

Lisa @YorkStories is the creator, administrator, and writer of content on She can be contacted on this link or via Twitter, @YorkStories

Add a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>