And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

onsdag 29. juni 2011

Where a Gate is not a Gate

So many pathes, so many turnings seene,
That which of them to take, in diverse doubt they been.
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

In this strange Labyrinth how shall I turne,
Wayes are on all sids while the way I misse
- A Crown of Sonnets Dedicated to Love, Lady Mary Wroth

By the way, you will hear many strange words here. Perhaps the most important thing you should know is that a street is called a gate, while a gate is called a bar.
- Sovereign, C. J. Sansom

One of the reasons York is such a charming place is its infrastructure, a collection of streets, squares, bridges and small alleys called snickelways in a native neologism. As with the city's architecture the intrastructure has such an appeal to me because of its wide variety both when it comes to scenery and York's history which is very palpable wherever you turn. A little too often I was tempted to leave my academic labours behind in my apartment and idly stroll the city like the flaneur extraordinaire I aspired to become, bringing my camera and a book of verses with me as my two most frequent companions.

As C. J. Sansom so aptly puts forth, there are some differences in terminology when discussing the infrastructure of York, a point illustrated by this local slogan: When is a gate not a gate? When it is a street in York. The word "gate", like the word "street", is of Norse origin and means exactly the same as its lingual sibling. . The heavy usage of gate most likely stems from the heavy Nordic influence in the latter part of the Anglo-Saxon era, but why this is so predominant compared to the word "street" is beyond my knowledge. Whether this word is found outside York I can't say for sure. On my first trip to Durham I stumbled across a sign with the name Walkergate on it and immediately believed it to mean "street", ignoring the most likely explanation - as a friend pointed out to me recently - namely that the word simply means gate, or "bar" as the Yorkists put it.

They do of course also use the word "street" in York, just as they use numerous other words designating stretches of infrastructure of varying length, but "gate" is by far the most noticeable. Many of the gates are named after trades which were found in that area, such as coppergate and skeldergate, homes of cupmakers and shieldmakers respectively, while others are named after famous persons either of native origin or who played a significant role in the city's history. Examples of the latter can be found in Marygate and St. Saviourgate, named after the Virgin Mary and Christ respectively, who, although they never set foot in York, were of major importance to the city's history and culture, and they remain so today.

This blogpost is dedicated to various streets of York, some of which are major features of the city, while others are less important but nonetheless enjoyable or interesting. Some streets have been left out due to the rather scanty or lacking availability of photographs owing to my own neglect. One street, Stonegate, is excluded because a blogpost has already been bestowed on it. As for the selection below I trust this will entertain and please in its own right.


Bootham is one of the main roads into York, and I walked a stretch of it every day on my way to class or on one of my numerous excursions. Seeing the Minster looming in the distance beyond Bootham Bar was a pleasant sight I never tired of.

This plaque is situated on the wall by White Horse pub which in turn is the neighbour of Jeanette Ray Bookseller, a nice antiquarian bookshop with architecture, gardening and local history as its main themes.

Bootham Bar.

St. Mary's

There is a gentle lady in heaven, who has pity
- Inferno, Dante Alighieri (translated by Charles Sisson)

St. Mary's is a little side road to Bootham where Constantine House, my residence for the stay, is situated.

Marygate Lane

Marygate Lane is a little alley connecting St. Mary's and Marygate, and I was oblivious of this shortcut until a friend revealed it to me. I became very fond of the lane since it cuts through a very nice area, typically British, with brickhouses, hedges and ivy-coated walls.

or the gate in a hedge that opens into England
- The Prodigal, Derek Walcott

Platonic England grasps its tenantry
- Loss and Gain, Geoffrey Hill

 leaves, unraked, tiling the road's margins
- The Prodigal, Derek Walcott

Aldwark and vicinity

Aldwark is an area in the eastern part of York, comprised predominantly of apartments of a fairly recent origin. It is in many ways a rather bland and sterile place and I only walked through it once on my way to Monk Bar, which in hindsight was a ridiculous thing to do considering Monk Bar's location. The only item of interest is St. Anthony's Hall, which by the way now contains the Quilt Gallery, but for reasons I'm not quite comfortable with I only photographed the commemorative plaque rather than the hall itself.

Nothing like good ol' British hospitality.

It's an aardvark! Can't you see that, Your Highness? It's a bloody aardvark!
- Edmund Blackadder 

Dundas Street

The name Dundas comes from the Celtic and designates a man who dwells at the south hill or at the hill fort. The reason why I even noticed this name is thanks to Patrick O'Brian's splendid Aubrey and Maturin novel series, where one of Captain Aubrey's closest friends is Heneage Dundas.

Black Horse Passage

Now, as the surging horses of Night grip heaven in darkness,
Down from the skies above slips an apparition
- The Aeneid, Virgilius (translated by Frederick Ahl)

King's Staith

Staith is a Norse word meaning "landing" or "dock".


York has long been famous for its pork, and indeed the scent of fried pork is a fragrance often felt when meandering the city, so it is only natural that there is a Swinegate, which, interestingly enough, also has a gate with swine on it. This part of the city probably belonged to swinekeepers.
And the other two little boy pigs, Pigling Bland and Alexander, went to market. We brushed their coats, we curled their tails and washed their little faces, and wished them good bye in the yard.
- The Tale of Pigling Bland, Beatrix Potter

A little snickelway connecting Swinegate with Stonegate, running past, if I remember correctly, Barley Hall Museum.


Davygate is one of the busier streets of York, leading to Parliament Street and St. Sampson's Square. A frequent sight was the long queue of people trying to get a table at Betty's Tearoom, to my big surprise. For a city where so many foodstuffs can be found, purchased and devoured, it is fitting that a street should be named after a lardiner, and of course it is only natural considering the lardiner's position and importance in Medieval times.

Sundry details of Davygate.


Foss River.

Stand still, fear not, I'll show you but this book.
- The Honourable Historie of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, Robert Greene

Fewster Way

I first thought the word fewster was a variant of the medieval term fewter or fewterer - also surnames, by the way - which refer to greyhoundkeepers, originating from the Latin word vertragus, meaning greyhound. However, after consulting Henry Harrison's Surnames of the United Kingdom I learned that fewster means saddle-tree maker, a trade often mentioned together with saddlers in old plays. Which Fewster this street is named after I don't know.

The Shambles

The Shambles is perhaps the cosiest street of York, having crowbarred itself into the townscape and consisting of a number of delightful shops, such as Chocolate Heaven. There is also the shrine of Margaret Clitherow, a Catholic martyr of the 16th century, which I, in my almost criminal neglect, forgot to visit.


The word "jubber" is an older word for Jew and this is one of the various mementos of the city's Jewish history. Another memento can be found in the name Jewbury, which designates the Jewish burial ground. The most tragic location in the Jewish history is Clifford's tower, a Medieval castle, where a number of Jews were burned to death in 1190 due to a severe surge of animosity following Richard I's Jewish policy, a policy too light to the tastes of anti-semitic Medieval Christians.


The shortest street in York is a favourite motif of local postcard designers.


Soon after that came east from Denmark two hundred ships; wherein were two captains, Cnute Swainson, and Earl Hacco; but they durst not maintain a fight with king William. They went rather to York, and broke into St. Peter's minster, and took therein much treasure, and so went away.
- Entry for the year 1075, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Beginning at Bootham Bar and divided into Low and High Petergate, this street can offer an array of pubs, bookshops and purveyors of numerous and various goods. Leading to the Minster, it was the natural way for me to walk when on my way to and from Evensong, or whenever I decided to render the cathedral a visit.


As previously mentioned this was the precinct of the shieldmakers.

York Way

And, as can be seen, there are stretches of road related to York even outside York. This was taken in London and is complete with the compulsory CCTV.

lørdag 18. juni 2011

The World's an Inn

The world's an inn, and death the journey's end.
- Palamon and Arcite, John Dryden

in the beginning, all
drunkenness is Dionysiac, divine.
- Another Life, Derek Walcott

I'm not a drinker of alcohol; I have never seen the appeal, nor have I felt compelled to try it. I don't mind, however, to be in the company of people who drink, and I can enjoy a good pub as much as anyone. Had this not been the case I would have found myself much more on the sideline in this matter, but luckily I could experience the pubs in my own way rather than to shun them altogether, and I could experience them in the company of great friends.

I love the concept of pubs, and I take delight in York's many old and charming venues, although the compulsory odour of alcohol, old upholstery and old wood combined sometimes can be a bit heavy to the nose. Since York is known for its university and as one of Britain's best tourist cities there's a big market for pubs, which I had become aware of already on my first visit in 2009. Some of these I visited in the course of my stay, others I just passed by, planning to return but failing to perform said plan. In most cases I frequented the pubs for a good meal, and I soon took a liking to pub food which in my view counters many of the prejudices against British cuisine, albeit reinforcing some of them.

This blogpost is basically an array of pictures showing pub signs and, in come cases, pubs. Most of these I never visited, mostly because when I decided to go to a pub I was too preoccupied with getting food to remember to take pictures.

Into a Foxe himselfe he first did tourne;
But he him hunted like a Foxe full fast:
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

The Fox, situated on Poppleton Road, is a pub I passed on the way to the city centre on my first visit in 2009. I never visited the place, but I found the building charming and I like the name.

To the right on the picture you can see a door with flowers on the ledge, and hopefully you can make out the words The Hole in the Wall from the pub sign. Don't look for this sign if you're visiting, though. This picture is from 2009, they've put up a more eye-catching sign now.
When I finally had installed myself in Constantine House I went out to get some food, eager to taste some of what England had to offer and rather hungry for something warm. The first place I visited was a nice little locale on Bootham called The White Horse, but since they don't serve food the landlord adviced me to go to The Hole in the Wall, situated on High Petergate. The pub, built on the premises of a dungeon discovered in 1816, is rather large and it is a very nice place to go for a meal with friends. Alternatively you can, as I did the second time around, sit down with Archbishop Wulfstan's masterfully repetitive prose and a nice plate of ham, eggs and fries.

The Red Lion is one of the most popular pub names in Britain. This one is situated in Merchantgate, somewhat on the verge of York's more old-fashioned architecture and consequently an area of the city I rarely frequented. I never got around to visit the venue, but I've read favourable reviews and it is said to be connected to the late Dick Turpin, so I guess I'll have to render it a visit sooner or later.

I vaguely remember popping in on one of my walks round about the city looking for a good meal, and for some reason I remember leaving the locale shortly thereafter. Whether this was due to the prices or lack of a place to sit down I don't recall, but this is nonetheless a place I'd have to revisit if not for other reasons than its 15th century origin.

Come, fill the Cup, and in the fire of Spring
Your Winter-garment of Repentance fling:
The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter -and the Bird is on the Wing.
- Ruba 7, Omar Khayyam of Nishapur (Transl. by Edward Fitzwallace)

And maybe Natalie Portman will make an appearance?

This beautiful pub is situated on Peasholme Green, close to the junction of St. Saviour's Place and Stonebow. It is a somewhat expensive place, which kept me away this time around, but its timberwork is spectacular and the atmosphere historic, making it a great place to visit together with a few friends to share the experience.

The cat climbing on the wall is one of twenty cats scattered throughout the city. It was a project carried out by a late artist whose name has escaped me. In the pub I found a leaflet with a map over the two-hour cat tour, and I'd like to walk it when I get an opportunity.

Yt framed was of precious yuory,
That seemd a worke of admirable wit;
And therein all the famous history
Of Iason and Medæa was ywrit;
Her mighty charmes, her furious louing fit,
His goodly conquest of the golden fleece,
His falsed faith, and loue too lightly flit,
The wondred Argo, which in venturous peece
First through the Euxine seas bore all the flowr of Greece.
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

This is another pub I visited on my quest for a quick, cheap and somewhat healthy lunch, yet also this I abandoned rather quickly, most likely because of the prices. Situated on Pavement it is in the vicinity of the Shambles, one of my favourite streets in York.

I say - the future is a serious matter -
And so - for God's sake - hock and soda-water!
- Don Juan, George Gordon Lord Byron

If you look closely at the upper right corner of the row of houses closest to the camera, you should be able to make out a blurred picture of a human figure. This figure is Richard III and the pub in question is Kings Arms, a small pub serving only cold drinks situated on King's Staith. As can be seen in this picture its proximity to the Ouse often proves a curse, and there is a marker on the inside where visitors can behold the flood levels of previous years. It is a good place to go if you want a short break from things and enjoy an orange juice and a good book in peace, or, as in my case, if you have some postcards to write. Although not particularly cosy, despite a certain intimacy due to its size, it might be a good place to sit down with friends if the purpose is to chat rather than to drink.

Situated by Lendal Street this venue has a certain ambiance because of its brick vaults and dim lighting. In the Middle Ages there was an Augustinian friary here, dismantled 25 November 1538. The Romans also built on this site, walls and a drain were unearthed in the 19th century. It is a good place to visit with friends, but its selection of foodstuffs is rather sparse compared to other, and cheaper, dining places. I tried the bangers and mash here in 2009, but last time I visited it appeared they had replaced this traditional English delicacy with a more foreign approach simultaneously sprawling across the Continent and the Atlantic.

This is the view when leaving Lendal Cellars: the beautiful St. Helen's  Church with its very decorative and impressive belfry.

Situated on North Street close to the wonderful All Saints Church, this pub has not yet had the pleasure of my presence.

Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage, and, for turning away, let summer bear it out.
- Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

A three-legged mare is a gallows of great efficiency as it allows for several simultanous hangings as illustrated by the pub sign above. Despite being named after one of the more cruel manifestations of mankind's quest for improvement, the Three-Legged Mare is a very nice little venue situated on High Petergate. They don't serve food, but, as I discovered, you are welcome to bring your own snack while having a drink. In a city like York with its numerous small food shops this is a great attribute.

I never visited this pub on Stonegate, but the sign is adorable.

In the tavern when we're drinking,
though the ground be cold and stinking,
down we get to join the action
with the dice-controlling faction
- Carmina Burana, translated by by David Parlett

Also situated on Stonegate this appeared to be a very popular place. I only visited once but although it was in early in the afternoon it was completely full. The atmosphere is very charming and from what I recall the menu was pleasantly British in scope.

Me and my associate
Like the clientele here get
The onions and the 'taters
Rib eyes on the grill
Toothpicks and luckies
And a coffee refill
- The Ragpicker's Dream, Mark Knopfler

I believe it was in this delightful pub I had my first real English pie, and I've gathered here with great friends for a meal and a chat, which is mainly why I hope to return in not too long. The entrance is found in Stonegate, but to get to the pub you have to pass through a little overbuilt snickleway which opens up to a little secluded place, adding to its charm.

These are of course just a selection of pubs I've visited. Some of these deserve an honourable mention, despite my failure to provide photographic material. First of all I'd like to mention York Arms on High Petergate, probably where I was introduced to orange and passion fruit juice, bless them. It is not as cosy as The Hole in the Wall, although quite similar in many respects. Its gammon and eggs is inferior to that of the former venue, but a nice place nonetheless. Secondly there is The Burton Stone Inn, situated on the junction of Burton Stone Lane and Clifton Moor, where I spent some delightful Friday evenings with friends, sometimes playing dart, sometimes singing karaoke. The final pub I'd like to mention this time around is the Evil Eye on Stonegate, a venue where I spent some time in the company of friends and which has a charmingly Eastern approach both when it comes to menu and decorations. It is a rather crammed place, but I still like it, despite the fact that I'm neither tall nor handsome enough to quickly get the attention of the barkeepers. There are of course numerous other pubs to explore in this wonderful city, and hopefully that's what I'll do next time I'm visiting.