King’s Square: past and present

(There’s an update to this page with more information about the church: The lost church of King’s Square)

Old headstone, littered with pieces of disposable plastic fork

The small triangular area of land we know as King’s Square was until the 1930s the site of a church. The raised area often used as a stage by the street performers was its churchyard, or part of it. Some of the headstones remain, scattered with litter.

18th century inscription

Among the 21st century debris, an inscription so clearly from a different age, containing a word long fallen from favour, and another one quaintly mis-spelt. ‘His known good Carractor needs no Encomiums’.

An Encomium sounds like something you might find in a brass band, but is defined in the OED as ‘a formal or high-flown expression of praise; a eulogy, panegyric.’

Old photo of city centre church
The church itself (which appears to have had two names — Christ Church or Holy Trinity) was in the central part of the square, opposite the end of St Andrewgate. Shown here in about 1910. (Photo: Imagine York, City of York Council)

Like many churches it was rebuilt in the 19th century, but became redundant not long afterwards. Here in the centre of York were so many churches so close by: on Church Street, Goodramgate, St Andrewgate, Pavement (since demolished) and St Saviourgate.

We stand watching the street performers where our ancestors once gathered to worship. Where they listened to sermons about sin and burning in hell we can now watch fire-eating, and juggling, and all kinds of other things they would no doubt have found very ‘ungodly’ indeed, on this once sacred ground.

King’s Square is now a busy public space. Just how busy is shown in a brilliant short film on YouTube by It was filmed earlier this year, and shows the pedestrians and spectators in the square, gathering to watch one of the fire-eaters, then dispersing again.


Also on this website: This land is our land? King’s Square

Plan of Christ Church, King’s Square on

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
To link to this page's proper location please use the > permalink


  1. Ian Ramsden

    Thanks to you I now know the history of 33 North Street where I used to live in the early ’70’s via Imaghineyork website.
    I also remember (via a prompt) that it was Cissy Hemmings who used to live next door whilst it was still a shop.
    HUGE thanks.

    as ever


    PS. I will also be watching the Mystery plays tomorrow night and the Olympics closing on Sunday night. A great w/e to look forward to!

  2. Martin Slater

    My mum owns the table which was used as the altar in Christ Church. It was purchased, when the church was demolished, by Frank Wright. Mr Wright was a dentist in Blake Street and used it in his waiting room. He later went on to be Lord Mayor of York in 1955. He gave the table to my Mum who’s own mother was his dental nurse.

  3. YorkStories

    Nice to hear of the reuse of part of the old church, and that it has been passed on in this way. Sounds like it has been used like a regular table since its former life in a place of worship. I wonder if nervous patients at the dentists found its presence reassuring?

Leave a Reply

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>

Thank you for adding a comment. Please note that comments are moderated, but should appear within 24 hours.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.