10 OF YORK’S PECULIARITIES
By Ann Evans
York Minster is the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. It took 250 years to build, starting in 1220 to finally be consecrated in 1472. Prior to 1220 a Norman cathedral stood on the site; before that was a stone church, and before that around AD627 was a small wooden church. If you went back even further you would have found the headquarters of a Roman fort.
Guy Fawkes of the gunpowder plot fame was born in Stonegate, York. Minster Library records show that his parents, Edward and Edith lived in the street. As a boy, Guy attended St Peter’s School, Bootham, York. To this day the school refuses to burn effigies of their former pupil on November 5th.
The Bar Convent, now a living Heritage Centre was founded in 1686 as a school for Catholic girls and is the oldest living convent in England. In those days it was run by a secret community of nuns who would conceal their identity by wearing slate-coloured gowns to avoid persecution. They were known as the ‘Ladies at the Bar’.
Margaret Clitherow’s severed hand is part of an exhibition at the Bar Convent. This wife and mother was horribly martyred for her Christian faith in 1586 by being crushed to death. She was canonised in 1970. There is a shrine to her in the Shambles. She is sometimes referred to as ‘The Pearl of York’.
Jane Hodson has one of the many memorials in the Minster dedicated to her. She died in September 1636 in childbirth, aged 38. She was the wife of Phineas Hodson, Chancellor of York. She had given birth to 24 children – 14 of whom had been baptised at St Michael’s-le-Belfrey just next to York Minster.
A little red devil sits outside number 33 Stonegate, not because the inhabitants were wicked, but because the building was once a printers. ‘Printers devils’ were apprentices or errand boys who would mix tubs of ink and sort hot metal type that had been melted down and re-cast.
A lightning bolt struck the Minster in 1984 and started a serious fire three days after the consecration of the controversial David Jenkins as Bishop of Durham. Many thought the lightning was the wrath of God.
The worst fire to have hit York Minster was in 1829 when a religious fanatic, Jonathan Martin, an escapee from a lunatic asylum, hid in the church after Evensong until everyone had left. Then in the early hours of the morning, he made two piles of anything that would burn, set them alight before making his escape by cutting a hole in a window with pincers. A choirboy spotted the fire early the next morning and raised the alarm. Martin was traced when his pincers were found, and traced back to the shoemakers where he’d been lodging. Only his insanity saved him from execution.
York is the most haunted city in the world according to the Ghost Research Foundation International with a 504 recorded hauntings.
The Lord Mayor’s residence, the Mansion House, has amongst its collections, a silver chamber pot used by George IV. It’s said that this is put in front of the presiding Lord Mayor at private dinner functions.
For more information on York, go to: www.visityork.org
Images courtesy of www.visityork.org