Paving, part 1: King’s Square

(Please see King’s Square paving becomes a national concern for an update)

‘Paving, part 1′, what a title eh, with its tantalising suggestion that there may be a ‘Paving, part 2′ …
But don’t leave immediately as it is about The People’s Square, aka King’s Square. Which was from today to be reinvigorated, mainly by the replacement of its paving, with chunks of gold bullion judging by the cost. This work has now been delayed until September.

I’ve long been an admirer of a nice bit of quality paving, and after a recent exchange on Twitter I know that there are at least three of us. So I’ll press on, striding out across the stuff beneath our feet, worn smooth over the decades. Do join me.

Reflections on paving

‘The sinuous way the materials flow through from Newgate and the Shambles and into Kings Square is particularly pleasing, especially when it rains and the different materials catch the light.’

– said Janine Riley, CYC Conservation Architect, in consultation responses (PDF) to the proposals for King’s Square.

I’ve noticed the same thing, as recorded in this photo from a walk on a wet evening in 2007.

A major part of the planned ‘reinvigoration’ of King’s Square involves the replacement of its paving. Presumably including this bit. The more I think about it, the more this seems like a mistake, but then who am I to judge. Greater minds than mine have analysed the paving situation.

I doubt though that anything can look better than this, shining in the rain. And of course, this being England, we do have a lot of rain, so paving made beautiful by rain seems a good thing to have.


But then it’s not just about how things look, and perhaps some residents find this shiny surface not the friendliest to walk or wheel about on. If you find this to be the case, please add a comment.

When it’s not a wet day these stones look rather dull and lifeless. But still have that attractive curve, heading off around the front of the King’s Court buildings, into Newgate at one end, out onto Colliergate at the other. The tarmac patches are a recent addition, and were mentioned in a comment online a while back. This suggested what we’d all been thinking, that the repaving was going ahead whatever the consultation responses said, and that the stones and setts had just been patched up temporarily, awaiting the removal of the whole stretch.

The fact that this was mentioned at all suggests there are possibly four of us with an interest in paving.

Many places in York have been repaved with modern blocks, which don’t reflect the light, but seem to absorb it and kill it. If that’s what’s planned for here, then that makes no sense to me.

Hard to picture anything better than the characterful curve we have at present, smoothed by decades of residents’ feet and wheels crossing it on a rushed visit to the market, and by the footfall of leisurely meandering tourists. There are perhaps places smoother than other bits, where the tourists stand to take a photo of that picturesque building on the corner.

The line here goes swerving round King’s Court on in its sinuous way regardless of the places it passes, heading towards the market. The new reinvigorated paving might instead include a triangle pointing to the doorway of the Chocolate attraction.

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  1. Robert Wright

    Whenever I see a road like this it always reminds of the first few lines of Chesterton poem I’ve pasted below (ps – who needs straight, flat streets? Boulevards are for the French!)

    Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
    The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
    A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
    And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
    A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
    The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

    I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
    And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
    But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
    To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
    Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
    The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

    His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
    Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
    The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
    But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
    God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
    The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

    My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
    Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
    But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
    And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
    For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
    Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

  2. YorkStories

    That is fabulous Robert, thank you. Full of wonderful lines I’ll use for inspiration for ‘Paving, part 2′

  3. Kings Square is gorgeous when its rained, thankyou for reminding me!

    the new ‘revamp’ is little short of vandalism in my eyes, but i’m in a minority on this unfortunately…

  4. YorkStories

    No you’re not in a minority Mallory, I’m sure.

    Most people saw no need for the revamp at all, and Press comments suggest it’s unpopular.

  5. “a sense of place” is a phrase i’m sure i’ve picked up from this website.. i do like that phrase, and all my favorite nooks and crannies of york ooze “a sense of place”, redolent with age and lives lived before.

    and that’s what will be lost when this square is “re-invigorated”. its apparent that those making these decisions, and those advising them, and those supporting them, just see a tired and scruffy square, whereas i can sense those who have lived their lives, traded, worshipped, all those echoes are present in this square.

    all to be ripped away and replaced with characterless stone.

    “insensitive” at best, “vandalism” at worst…

  6. YorkStories

    The response from English Heritage in the PDF I’ve linked to at the top is worth a read – R24 – starts on p15, bit about paving on p16: “It is not clear whether the proposal and its variations would be based upon the retention of the existing paving, or whether alternative stone paving would be used. We would advocate the retention of all of the present York stone paving and stone cobbled surfaces, along with the granite wheel tracks and the kerbstones”.

    Of course the council have already approved the scheme to replace the paving, so it’s not really open to debate now, but just want to make sure we all notice and appreciate its handsomeness before it’s removed.

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