Wednesday, 19 August 2015

The home of chocolate

You can walk on part of the old Roman town wall
The town of York is very old – it was a Roman provincial capital in 71AD – I don’t know how they coped with the weather after Rome. When the Roman empire toppled, the Anglo-Saxon’s moved in. The Vikings then overtook the town for a few centuries, followed by the Normans, who destroyed the city, then rebuilt it.

the Abbey is tucked in between lots of other buildings
During the industrial age, York’s railway was the largest in the world and they have a magnificent railway museum where you can look inside the carriages of all the monarchs through the ages.

the Abbey's stone was reused in other buildings

If you ever delve into the history of York you come across Henry VIII who closed all the monasteries and nunneries. The old section of the city is dominated by York Minster – a large gothic cathedral that took 250 years to build. 250 employees and 500 volunteers help preserve it’s heritage. They are renovating it, so there is scaffolding everywhere. During WWII they removed the stained glass windows and put them back later. Where panes used to be fixed with lead, they are now removing the lead and fixing the breaks with new seamless methods.

The area known as the Shambles is a cobblestone street where the butcher shops were.

the Shambles

More Shambles
Botham Bar is one of the 4th Century Roman gates embedded in the city wall. The current town wall is from the 12th century, composed of both roman and medieval parts and you can still walk along the top of one section.

botham bar - one of the town gates
The Castle Museum is like a number of museums in one. The most enjoyable were the Victorian streetscape, the WWI section and the prison.

Clifford's Tower
A volunteer told us a tale about Victorian life. When times were tuff, you would sell an heirloom to the pawn brokers, if there wasn’t enough to eat, the father was fed first as he needed to work, so the mother and children went hungry. There was a bathroom up the street for all to use, along with the water that had to be fetched each day and brought back to the house. All water had to be boiled before it could be drunk. People drank beer as it was safer to drink than water. Pale ale was watered down beer, which didn’t make the children intoxicated! Cocoa drinks were promoted as an alternative to alcohol for the working man. When cocoa houses sprung up, they became meeting places where people could buy meals and drinks. The Quakers ran most of these cocoa houses and York is the home of Rowntree (Kit Kat, Aero) and Terry’s confectionary. Rowntree is now owned by Nestle and Terry's is owned by Kraft.

Terry's confectionary
A time before newspapers

The Castle was the main prison for the whole of Yorkshire for a thousand years. It still has holding cells and people who have committed serious crimes are still tried in the Crown Court there. Inside many of the cells in the museum section, videos come on as you enter each room giving you various stories about different people, including the people who worked there. One lady was convicted of petty treason, having been accused of arranging the death of her husband. She was strangled and then burned at the stake.

There is a WWI section which tells about life on the front line. The officers bought their own uniforms, so they were dressed differently from the enlisted men’s khaki greens. When they realised that it made them targets for snipers, they changed their uniforms to be more like everyone else.

Hitler bombed York during WWII, choosing the destination out of a guide book!

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