A History of the County of York: the City of York. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1961.
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THE CITY WALLS, BARS, AND POSTERNS
Nothing is known of the fate of the Roman Wall or how the city was defended in pre-Conquest times. It has been suggested (fn. 1) that the medieval wall covers an earthen mound of Saxon construction but no archaeological evidence for this has been found. On the north-west and north-east the garrison walls probably underlie an earthen mound of 11th- or 12th-century construction and there is some evidence that a mound that may be of similar date underlies the present wall in the Old Station area. (fn. 2) It is thus possible that when the castles were built in 1068-9 a defensive mound was thrown up round the city from the eastern Roman garrison tower to the Old Baile, covering wherever they were found the remains of Roman walls. On the east, in the Walmgate area, some defences may have been erected by the mid12th century when Walmgate Bar is mentioned. (fn. 3)
The defences were strengthened towards the end of John's reign. In 1215 the city received a grant of timber for the fortifications (fn. 4) and later in the century claims were still being made against the Crown for encroachments made 'during the wars between John and his barons' upon the bank and ditch at Blossom Street and near Castle Mills. (fn. 5) A general grant of tolls on goods entering both by road and river was made in aid of securing and defending the city in 1226 and remissions of fee farm and tallage had already been received in 1221 and 1225 (fn. 6) but it seems likely that the defences were still without a stone wall. Indeed, a grant to the Dominicans in 1228 speaks of the city ditch and bank (duna) adjacent to their house on Toft Green. (fn. 7)
It seems likely that the erection of stone walls upon the defences began soon after 1250. Regular grants of murage begin in 1251 and continue, with few intermissions, until the mid-15th century. (fn. 8) By 1260, in a dispute about murage tolls between York and Lincoln, reference is made to 'the repair of the walls', of both cities but whether this means any more than the earlier mound and stockade is uncertain. (fn. 9) The walls round the precinct of St. Mary's Abbey were completed by 1266 (fn. 10) and the licence for enclosing part of the grounds of the archbishop's palace two years later is cast in terms that suggest that the stone defences were complete in that part of the city wall. (fn. 11) Some of the stone walling, therefore, was completed in the 1250's and 1260's; it seems likely that the whole wall from Layerthorpe to Skeldergate Postern was finished by the end of the 13th century.
Whether a stone wall had been built round the Walmgate area at this time is uncertain. A ditch from the Fishpond to Castle Mills had been constructed in 1215-16 (fn. 12) and was still in existence for part of the distance between the Red Tower and Walmgate Bar in 1850; (fn. 13) it then stood at a more or less uniform distance of 50 feet from the city wall. In the 16th century a common balk lay beyond the ditch. (fn. 14) As has been said, the existence of Walmgate Bar in the mid-12th century suggests that there were then some defences; in 1267 a murage grant specified that it was 'in aid of enclosing the street called Walmgate adjoining the city and the repair of the walls of the city'—words which could be taken to mean that no stone wall had yet been erected round Walmgate. (fn. 15) It has been pointed out, moreover, (fn. 16) that there is extant a copy of a building contract of 1345 between the city and a mason to erect a stone wall between Fishergate Bar and the castle with a provisional clause for erecting the remainder between Fishergate Bar and the Red Tower. It seems very likely that these were the first stone walls in the Walmgate area.
The wide ditch or moat surrounding the Walmgate area was probably the only one outside the walls that permanently contained any water; it was sufficiently clean and deep in the early 16th century for the fishing of that part between Fishergate and Walmgate Bars to be let out by the corporation. (fn. 17) The ditch surrounding the remainder of the walls may still be seen, though in a decayed state, on the north-east and south-west. A rent roll of the later 14th century shows the herbage of the whole circuit let out to city tenants (fn. 18) and leases of the herbage or, more recently, of the moats themselves have continued to be made until modern times. (fn. 19) Round all but the Walmgate area were inner ditches; in some cases, perhaps all, these were made incidentally when the earth mound was made over the Roman wall. (fn. 20) On the north-east and part of the north-west sides the inner ditch was known as the King's Dike and in the 15th and 16th centuries served as a sewer; (fn. 21) it was probably part of this dike that in the 17th century Sir Arthur Ingram made into fish ponds. (fn. 22) Tanner's Moat, close to Lendal Bridge, has survived to commemorate the leasing of a part of the inner ditch by the guild of tanners in 1476. (fn. 23)
These walls and ditches, together with the castle, the Fishpond of the Foss, and the two rivers made a defensive ring that completely surrounded the city. The restored wall today lies along the whole of that circuit except in three short stretches: a few yards along the front of Museum Gardens, which was ruinous in the late 16th century and upon which houses were probably then built; (fn. 24) 125 yards of the wall south-west of Bootham Bar, which were destroyed in 1832 when St. Leonard's Place was made; (fn. 25) and between the Old Baile and the river, of which the part between Skeldergate Postern and the river was cleared away with the postern in 1808 and the remainder in 1878. (fn. 26) The stretch between Fishergate Postern and the present bank of the Foss was filled by the river until it was canalized in 1793. (fn. 27)
The walls have been frequently repaired, the repairs often amounting to rebuilding. Throughout the 4,840 yards of its length, for example, were interval towers of varying construction and size; Leland saw them and made a note of their number but it is not the same as that now to be found on the restored walls. (fn. 28) At first, perhaps, repairs were carried out with the funds raised from murage tolls but at least by 1321 the city was levying a tallage for the purpose; in that year the Crown confirmed the city's right to levy such a tallage on tenements held of the king in chief. (fn. 29) At about that time stone for repair work was coming, as so much of the city's building stone came, from the Thevesdale quarries near Tadcaster (W.R.). (fn. 30) By the middle of the 15th century murage tolls had come to form a regular and useful addition to the general funds of the city. In 1445, for example, over £26 was received from this source but only £4 was spent on repairs and the wages of gate-keepers; the balance was paid over to the chamberlains for the general uses of the city. Between 1437 and 1442 the chamberlains received nearly £50 from this source. (fn. 31) Grants of murage cease after that for ten years in 1442; (fn. 32) that they were not further imposed was perhaps part of the attempt to revive the failing fortunes of the city by removing tolls. Lack of funds no doubt also accounted for the decayed state of the walls in the later 15th century; in 1487, for example, the walls were said to have fallen down and a few months earlier, in November 1486, the recorder, responding perhaps to current rumours of rebellion, was advising the corporation 'somewhat to help your walls with a little good to be gathered among yourselves or else I am afeared you shall have little power to have the governance of your city'. (fn. 33) The remission of part of the fee farm by Richard III in 1484 had been intended to assist, inter alia, the repair of the walls; but the recorder's advice three years later suggests, that, as might be expected, nothing had been found to spare for the work. (fn. 34)
Responsibility for the repair of the fabric of the walls in the 16th century was given to officers known as mure-masters. It is possible that those appointed in 1527 were the first to hold the office; in the late 15th century a mason had been in charge of repairs under the chamberlains. (fn. 35) Appointments were probably made intermittently until 1626 when the office was abolished. (fn. 36) Custody of the walls for defence and public order was the responsibility of the parishes lying along its length and lists of the apportionment of custody are extant for 1316, 1380, and 1404. (fn. 37)
The walls have been more or less continually under repair from the 16th century until modern times. In 1502 a stretch of 100 feet between Walmgate Bar and the Foss was rebuilt; (fn. 38) in 1541 the mure-masters were authorized to spend £20 a year on repairs; (fn. 39) in 1558 the wall was broken and had to be repaired near Fishergate Postern and without Micklegate Bar; (fn. 40) in 1562 further repairs were needed in the Walmgate area, this time adjacent to the Red Tower; (fn. 41) the section between the Merchant Tailors' Hall and Layerthorpe Postern was dealt with in 1579. (fn. 42)
It seems unlikely that any major repairs of the defences had been undertaken before the siege in 1644 although some restoration had been done in 1640. (fn. 43) The walls were much shattered in the siege, especially on the Bootham and Walmgate sides and repairs were undertaken immediately after the city surrendered. (fn. 44) The walls were again extensively repaired in the later 17th century; in 1665 the mayor viewed them in response to some criticism from the Duke of Albemarle and agreed to remove certain dwelling houses that had encroached upon them; (fn. 45) the section between Monk Bar and Layerthorpe Postern was restored in 1666, that near Bootham Bar in 1669 and from Walmgate Bar to the Red Tower in 1673. (fn. 46)
During the 18th century the walls were abandoned as defences. For two months late in 1745, it is true, some attempt was made to put the city in a posture of defence (fn. 47) but with little effect. Throughout the century rewards were offered for information leading to the conviction of persons stealing stone from the walls, (fn. 48) and gardens everywhere encroached upon the ramparts. From North Street to Skeldergate Postern and from Fishergate Postern to Walmgate Bar the wall was 'levelled upon the platform . . . and made commodious for walking' in Drake's time. (fn. 49) Repairs still went on. In 1721 the £20 hitherto spent annually on the walls was increased to £40, (fn. 50) and repairs were carried out, for example, in the Walmgate area (1729), west of Bootham Bar (1739), near Micklegate Bar (1744), and again near Bootham Bar (1748). (fn. 51) In 1796 £52 10s. was spent on the section from Skeldergate to North Street Postern. (fn. 52)
It was perhaps expenditure such as this last example that led the corporation to investigate its right to take down the walls, bars, and posterns in 1798. (fn. 53) The walls were less a hindrance than the bars but by 1800 the city was petitioning Parliament for an improvement Act by which all might be destroyed. (fn. 54) Statutory sanction was not obtained but in 1807 the corporation made a start by declaring their intention of removing Skeldergate Postern; subsequently they were brought into court by the archbishop on the grounds that he had been disabled by their action from collecting tolls at the postern at the time of his fair. (fn. 55) The archbishop won his case but died shortly afterwards and the postern was removed in 1808. In 1811 a suit was filed in the Exchequer in an attempt to restrain the corporation from further demolition. In their answer to the bill the corporation protested that they had removed the postern and part of the barbican of Micklegate Bar (which was a further subject of complaint) for reasons of public safety and that they had no intention of removing the walls, gates, and towers of the city. (fn. 56)
From about this time the walls began to be generally restored although several of the barbicans and postern were removed after this date (see below). The stretch from Monk Bar to the north corner tower was rebuilt by the chapter in 1824. (fn. 57) The corporation's execution of its responsibilities between 1808 and 1831 was to demolish three barbicans and three postern towers; but this work was felt to be part of the task of repairing and the funds available to the unreformed corporation were very limited. (fn. 58) The first comprehensive plan for restoration was drawn up by the York Footpath Association in 1829; their first public notice made tactful reference to the work of the corporation on Monk and Micklegate Bars and civic approval was thus obtained at the outset. (fn. 59) A public subscription was raised and the walls south of the river from North Street to Skeldergate postern restored between 1831 and 1832; (fn. 60) a small section from Fishergate Postern to a little beyond Fishergate Bar was completed in 1834. (fn. 61) Little seems to have been done for the next twenty years. About 1855 the Local Board of Health was demanding the removal of the Walmgate walls on what have been supposed spurious grounds of hygiene; but by this time public concern for the preservation of the walls and bars was easily aroused and the corporation rejected the demand and set about repairing the dilapidated section. (fn. 62) The section between Layerthorpe Postern and Monk Bar was restored 1871-2 and there remained only the stretch from Monk Bar to Bootham Bar. (fn. 63) The corporation determined upon restoration in 1886 but was not able to proceed with the work until a year later when a composition was reached with the then owner of Gray's Court, who claimed, apparently on extremely slender evidence, that part of the wall lay in his garden. (fn. 64) The whole circuit of the walls has since that time been maintained by the corporation as a public walk.
The Bars and Posterns
The walls were pierced from early times by gates, known since the 12th century as 'bars', (fn. 65) on the four quarters of the city. A fifth bar, Fishergate, was probably added later. And at each point where the walls touched the rivers, four on the Ouse and four on the Foss, (fn. 66) were towers with small gates, perhaps originally only for foot traffic, known as posterns.
Micklegate Bar (see plate facing p. 520) does not lie on the route of the Roman road south out of the city but a little south-west of it on what is no doubt a later but still ancient track leading to the Ouse crossing. It is mentioned by name in the 12th century when it was probably no more than a strong gate, possibly of stone, through the earth ramparts of the time. (fn. 67) The massive stone structure of later times and the barbican were probably constructed when the walls were built in the 13th and 14th centuries. There was certainly a house above the archway by the later 14th century. (fn. 68) The central arch was fitted with a portcullis which was destroyed about 1820. (fn. 69) The bar was renovated in 1737 and again between 1826 and 1829 when the barbican was removed. Sir Walter Scott is said to have offered to walk from Edinburgh to York if his action would induce the corporation to preserve the barbican. (fn. 70) The three archways set about the central arch are modern: that on the east was made during the 1826 restoration; the two on the west in 1754 and 1863. (fn. 71) The bar was restored by the corporation in 1952-3.
Bootham Bar appears to have been built on or very close to the site of the Roman gate on this side of the fortress; some Roman material may even be incorporated in the existing structure. (fn. 72) The bar in its later medieval form with barbican and portcullis was no doubt built, like that at Mickelgate, in the 13th and 14th centuries. There are some indications of restoration in Tudor times and the inner front was rebuilt in 1719. (fn. 73) In 1738 an 'image of Ebrauk' (the legendary founder of the city), which had at one time stood in St. Saviourgate and until the Mansion House was built in the chapel of St. Christopher, was set up in a niche in the bar but is no longer extant. (fn. 74) The barbican was removed in 1832 and the bar itself only preserved by strong public protest against a proposal for its demolition. (fn. 75) The bar was subsequently restored by public subscription, repaired in 1889 when the portcullis was preserved from destruction, and again restored in 1951-2. The three figures surmounting the bar were placed there in 1894 to replace some decayed and unidentifiable statuary; they represent Nicholas Langton, the 14th-century mayor of the city, and a knight and mason of the same period. (fn. 76)
Monk Bar, like those at Micklegate and Walmgate, was probably at first no more than an entrance through the simple defences of the 11th and 12th centuries. The superstructure, which rises higher than that of any of the other bars, was erected during the 14th century. (fn. 77) The two outer angles of the bar are capped by circular bartizans surmounted by halflength human figures in the act of hurling down stones. Above the central arch are two rooms, let in the 15th century as a dwelling (fn. 78) and used in the 16th century as a prison. (fn. 79) Above these rooms a chamber contains the hoisting apparatus for the portcullis—the only such machine that has survived in York. (fn. 80) The bar was repaired in 1825 when the barbican was removed (fn. 81) and the arch constructed to admit a new carriage way. The bar was restored by the corporation in 1952-3.
As has been said, (fn. 82) Walmgate Bar is first mentioned in the mid-12th century; the bar as it stands is no doubt substantially that built in the 14th century when the Walmgate wall was rebuilt in stone, though the lower part of the structure may be as early as 1215 when the ditch round the area was built. The bar is the only one to retain its barbican. On the inner face of the bar itself a 16th-century wooden structure of two floors surmounted by an ornamental palisade was probably built to augment domestic accommodation within the bar. Walmgate Bar was much damaged in the siege in 1644 and restored in 1648. (fn. 83) The bar was repaired in 1713 and extensively restored in 1840 and 1959; it retains its portcullis and an inner wooden door with a wicket. (fn. 84)
The fifth city gate, Fishergate Bar, now presents an entirely different appearance from the others and was perhaps never so extensive a structure. The bar was burnt in the rising of the commons in the north in 1489 (fn. 85) and the archway bricked up. So little has survived that event and the restoration of 1826-7 (fn. 86) that it is impossible to say what form the original structure took. The slight remains, however, do not suggest that there was any superstructure to the arch. It is possible that a guard room, that is thought to have been adjacent to the bar, was used as a prison in the 16th century. (fn. 87)
Victoria Bar was cut through the south-west wall in 1838 to give access from the Bishophill area to Nunnery Lane. (fn. 88)
Of the four posterns and towers on the Ouse only North Street Postern Tower remains intact; part of Lendal tower is embodied in the water tower; (fn. 89) and the present arch adjacent to North Street tower was built in 1840 by the G.N.E. Railway Company on the site of the earlier postern which had been enlarged to take carriage and horse traffic in 1577. (fn. 90) It has been suggested that a postern lay behind Lendal Tower (fn. 91) but the evidence is uncertain; it would have led to no more than a narrow strip of land in front of St. Mary's wall from which egress would have been barred by St. Mary's water tower. (fn. 92) Where the walls descend to the river on the south, Skeldergate Postern lay approximately at the junction of Baile Hill (now Cromwell Road) and Skeldergate; an embattled wall led down to the tower at the water's edge. Remains of the tower were seen by Robert Davies about 1860. (fn. 93) The postern was known in the 14th and 15th centuries as 'Hyngbrigg' perhaps in allusion to a bridge across an inlet from the Ouse passing across the front of it. The postern gate was enlarged to admit horse and wagon traffic in 1609. (fn. 94) The postern and the adjacent wall to the river were demolished in 1808. (fn. 95) Opposite Skeldergate Tower lay Davy or Friars Minor Tower, of which some part of the base is still to be seen at the southern end of South Esplanade. It was still standing in the 18th century when it housed a public convenience and on Drake's map appears to be a substantial building of two stories. (fn. 96) It was then known as the Sugar House and a postern was made there to give access to the New Walk. (fn. 97) Between these riverside towers, on the north and south, booms or chains were stretched for defence purposes, and possibly to control the payment of tolls; the keepers of the chains are mentioned in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. (fn. 98)
At the end of the short stretch of wall running north-east from Davy Tower lay Castlegate Postern adjacent to the castle moat (see plate facing p. 161). It was probably built in the 14th century and was in a ruinous condition in the 15th. In the late 15th century it was being used as a dwelling and a dovecote. (fn. 99) The arch was enlarged in 1672 but the passage of wagons and heavy carts was obstructed in the 18th century by a locked post which was not removed until the postern was demolished in 1826-7. (fn. 100) Fishergate Postern which, with its tower, survives almost unaltered, is a late construction. It seems likely that a tower was first built at this end of the wall against the then extensive Foss; after Fishergate Bar was closed in 1489 the need was felt for an entry through the walls at this point and in 1502 the corporation ordered that a substantial postern should be made. (fn. 101) By this time the Foss was silting up (fn. 102) and traffic could no doubt approach the postern without difficulty and it thus became a substitute for Fishergate Bar. The tower was roofed in 1740 but is otherwise little changed. (fn. 103)
The wall ended on the southern bank of the Fishpond at the Red Tower—a small defensive tower of brick known by that name since 1511 when it is first mentioned. (fn. 104) Whether it replaced an earlier tower on the site—it lies on a stone foundation—is not known. The tower has been used for a variety of purposes since it was built and its use as a brimstone manufactory in the 19th century led to its being known for some time as the Brimstone House. (fn. 105) It was renovated and restored in 1957-8. On the northern bank of the Fishpond, at the west end of Layerthorpe Bridge, stood Layerthorpe Postern—a gateway to the city large enough to be called a bar, as indeed it sometimes was in the 14th century (see plate facing p. 520). (fn. 106) The structure comprised a large embattled tower, to which a roof was added in the 17th or 18th centuries, and postern gate. (fn. 107) The postern was demolished in 1829 when Layerthorpe Bridge was reconstructed. (fn. 108)
Ouse Bridge. The Roman bridge which is believed to have crossed the River Ouse lay upstream from the site of the later Ouse Bridges. (fn. 109) It seems likely that the cispontine and transpontine sectors of the Anglo-Scandinavian city were linked by a bridge, but the date of the building of the first Ouse Bridge is unknown. It was certainly in existence at some time between 1189 and 1200, (fn. 110) and if the story of its collapse under the weight of the multitude who welcomed Archbishop William in 1154 is to be credited, a timber bridge had existed by the mid-12th century. (fn. 111) The replacement of the timber by a stone bridge is similarly obscure: Archbishop Gray's request for gifts towards the repair of the bridge in 1233 does not reveal the material to be used, (fn. 112) but a stone bridge was already standing by that time if it be assumed that St. William's Chapel contained late 12th-century stonework and that a stone chapel would not have been built on a timber bridge.
The bridge needed repair in 1307 (fn. 113) and was again repaired shortly before 1377. (fn. 114) More extensive work almost certainly took place in the late 14th or early 15th centuries. It was presumably anxiety for the structure that prompted the order of 1392 that rafts of timber (flotas meremii) should not be allowed to obstruct the arches or damage the bridge, (fn. 115) and in 1393 the city was authorized in Richard II's charter to purchase lands to the value of £100 a year to provide for the upkeep of Ouse and Foss Bridges. (fn. 116) Grants of pontage for the repair of the bridge were made in 1403, (fn. 117) 1406, (fn. 118) 1409, (fn. 119) and 1411. (fn. 120)
Work was frequently carried out in the 16th century: in 1502 the pavement of the bridge was 'new made' and a channel made in the middle; (fn. 121) stone, timber, and other materials were needed for the repair of the bridge and council chamber in 1526; (fn. 122) in 1527 the repair of the bridge was assisted by the gift of 10 trees from the Abbot of Fountains and gifts were solicited from inhabitants of the Ridings; (fn. 123) it was ordered in 1555 that boats should not be fastened to the bridge; (fn. 124) in 1556 £17 6s. 0½d. allowed from the city's fee farm were spent on repairs under the statute of 1548; (fn. 125) the purchase of stone pillars for the repair of the west end was under consideration in 1558; (fn. 126) and in 1564, after instruction had been given for stone from St. Anne's Chapel on Foss Bridge and from Holy Trinity Priory to be used, (fn. 127) it was found that work on the masonry would involve great expense and should be proceeded with only if it was decided that the bridge would otherwise not hold. (fn. 128) The corporation's anxiety was wellfounded and its repairs inadequate, for disaster was to overtake the bridge during the winter of 1564-5.
This first Ouse Bridge had consisted of 6 arches; it seems likely that only the central two were used for navigation, that those on either side of the central pair were those which were frequently called the King's Bow and the Queen's Bow, and that the extreme arches were dry. Certainly the fishing under the King's and Queen's Bows was frequently leased by the corporation. (fn. 129) The dry arch at the eastern end of the bridge was called the Salthole (fn. 130) and steps known as the 'salthole grese' (in later times corrupted to the 'Grecian Steps') (fn. 131) led down from the bridge to the riverside. (fn. 132)
Houses and other buildings extended over the entire length of the bridge on both sides, and included, on the north side at the west end, St. William's Chapel, the Council Chamber, the Exchequer, and the civic prisons or kidcotes; (fn. 133) and on the south side at the west end, the maison dieu, the Tollbooth, and latrines. In 1376 the bridge and its immediate approaches carried, in addition to the chapel, Tollbooth, and maison dieu, 20 shops, 3 tenements, and 2 cellars on the north side, and 16 shops, 2 tenements and, near the centre, a cross on the south side. (fn. 134) Licence was given in 1417 for one or more tenements to be built near this stone cross, (fn. 135) and in the later 15th and the 16th centuries between 20 and 30 houses stood on the south side of the bridge. (fn. 136)
It is not known when St. William's Chapel was built, but its architectural style seems to indicate the later 12th century, perhaps with 13th-century additions. (fn. 137) There may perhaps be some factual basis for the traditional stories of the collapse of a timber bridge in 1154, and the building (though it could have been only an enlargement) of a chapel by the citizens after they had slain the servants of a Scots nobleman on the bridge in 1267. (fn. 138) The chapel was certainly in use in the early 13th century, (fn. 139) and it was served by a number of chantry priests in 1388. (fn. 140) In the 15th and 16th centuries the corporation was responsible for the upkeep of the chapel and such matters as the behaviour of its priests, the hours of service, and presentations to chantries. (fn. 141) With the dissolution of chantries in the chapel in 1546, the corporation ceased to pay the incumbents' stipends, (fn. 142) but services continued until at least 1547 when priests were appointed to say mass, ring the bell, keep the clock and the ornaments, and clean the chapel. (fn. 143) Worship ceased in 1550 when the corporation ordered that the steeple and lead should be removed, the chapel roofed with stone, and the stalls and 'implements' sold; the clock and bells were to be preserved. (fn. 144) The glass windows, altars, and other 'necessary things' were ordered to be restored in 1554, (fn. 145) and although it was decided in 1555 that either the chapel or the 'great chamber' on the bridge should be used as a school, (fn. 146) the appointment of a priest was ordered in 1556. (fn. 147) The restoration to religious use was, of course, short-lived, and chambers in the chapel were subsequently let, (fn. 148) and in 1585 it was granted to Edward Dyer. (fn. 149) The chapel tower contained a clock, which was repaired and maintained by the corporation, (fn. 150) and probably also the common bell: clock and bell were used to set the time for the enforcement of market regulations. (fn. 151) In 1552 the exchange of Ouse Bridge bells for those in the church of St. John, Ouse Bridge End, was seen as a source of profit for the common chamber. (fn. 152)
Near the chapel but on the south side of the bridge was the Tollbooth. (fn. 153) Tolls had been collected on traffic passing over the bridge and through its arches as early as 1280. (fn. 154) Near the Tollbooth was the city maison dieu, (fn. 155) apparently refounded in 1302. (fn. 156) In 1367 latrines were built in an arch under the maison dieu; (fn. 157) arrangements were made for their cleansing in 1544. (fn. 158)
In the early 13th century there were custodians of the bridge (fn. 159) and from at least the early 15th century two bridgemasters were appointed for Ouse Bridge and two for Foss, but from the late 16th century two bridgemasters supervised both. (fn. 160) Their oath in the late 15th century enjoined them to supervise the chapel and its chaplains, the houses, rents, and all other things pertaining to the bridge. (fn. 161)
During the winter of 1564-5 the Ouse rose in flood and carried away the central pillar and two arches of the bridge, (fn. 162) destroying the houses which they had supported. (fn. 163) A ferry was promptly instituted, in January 1565, to carry foot passengers across the river (fn. 164) and a temporary wooden bridge, supported by boats, was built by April. (fn. 165) Steps were immediately taken to raise money for the rebuilding of the bridge but only a little over £174 had been raised by a general assessment by January 1566. (fn. 166) In addition, it was proposed that citizens be asked for gifts, that city property be leased, and that money due to the city should be paid without delay. (fn. 167) The corporation supported an alderman's request for a trading licence because he promised to give £10 a year towards bridge work so long as the licence remained in force, (fn. 168) and gifts included £100 from the widow of Alderman Hall. (fn. 169)
An early problem of the rebuilding was the construction of a jetty to enable masons to work on the foundations and a carpenter was making one in June 1565; but the corporation sought the help of Sir Martin Bowes (fn. 170) in finding a more expert workman, and as a result Thomas Harper, the surveyor of 'Westminster' Bridge, visited York for a month in July and August. (fn. 171) By September the state of the river made it impossible to keep water from the foundations (fn. 172) and work was suspended. During these early stages in the work, forced labour was provided parish by parish with an alderman, one of the 'twenty-four', and two common councillors supervising the workmen, (fn. 173) and the city was spared the mustering of its 100 armed men in order to assist the work. (fn. 174)
It had apparently been intended to rebuild both arches, for only in April 1566 was it decided to construct a single bow; and in that month work was resumed. (fn. 175) The provision of sufficient stone was a pressing problem during the work; stone was taken from St. George's Chapel and many other ruinous buildings throughout the city; and it was brought from quarries at Tadcaster. (fn. 176) By October 1566 the new bridge was complete. (fn. 177) The boats of the temporary bridge were sold and timber from it was used in the construction of houses and shops. (fn. 178) By January 1567 the new shops had been let: 3 stood at the west end and 5 at the east end of the south side, and 3 at the west end and 6 at the east end of the north side. (fn. 179)
The safety of the bridge was a cause of concern in ensuing years. In October 1566 piles were ordered to be driven on the north side of the pillars, (fn. 180) in June 1568 the pillars were ordered to be substantially piled and filled, (fn. 181) and Christopher Walmesley, who had been the mason for the bridge, was engaged to view and repair it each year. (fn. 182) Sand was ordered to be spread over the arch and heavy wains were refused passage in June 1567, (fn. 183) and although a 'sledd' carrying mill-stones for the city's windmill on Heworth Moor was allowed to cross in 1569, (fn. 184) wains carrying coal, timber, mill-stones, or the like were prohibited in 1570, (fn. 185) and repairs were ordered in the same year. (fn. 186) Similar measures were frequently taken in subsequent years. (fn. 187)
The new bridge was less burdened with buildings than the old had been, the height of the bow being left clear (see frontispiece). (fn. 188) No doubt to increase revenue for the upkeep of the bridge, high rents had been asked for the new shops, but some remained untenanted and the rents of all 17 were reduced in 1569. (fn. 189) The disaster to the old bridge did not substantially affect the complex of civic buildings. The council chamber was used without interruption (fn. 190) but was taken down and 'newly made' in 1566. (fn. 191) The chapel apparently went unscathed: the records of the sheriff's court were ordered to be kept there in 1570, (fn. 192) craft business was transacted there in 1571, (fn. 193) punishments were inflicted there in 1585, (fn. 194) and chambers in the chapel were let out by the corporation. (fn. 195) In 1622 it was stated that the chapel had been 'beautified' by the Merchant Adventurers for a meeting-place. (fn. 196) The maison dieu still stood, although reputedly in decay, in 1594, (fn. 197) the Tollbooth continued in operation, (fn. 198) and prisoners were still confined in the kidcotes. (fn. 199) The civic clock was repaired and keepers of the clock, dial, and bell appointed in 1593. (fn. 200) In 1583 the three bells from St. William's Chapel had been exchanged for the bells of St. Saviour's Church. (fn. 201)
The number of houses on the bridge remained at about 20 on each side during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, (fn. 202) and no houses were built on the crown of the arch. (fn. 203) Some ruinous houses and shops were demolished in 1745 and a few years later a house on the south side was authorized to be replaced by two new ones. Three small houses on the south side were taken down in 1764. (fn. 204) The first steps towards the improvement of the bridge and its approaches were taken in 1793-5 with the demolition of houses at both ends of the bridge. (fn. 205) During 1795 the corporation considered applying for an Act to authorize a large-scale improvement (fn. 206) and an ambitious scheme, involving a single-span iron bridge, was put forward in 1796. (fn. 207) No progress was made, however, and the only notable development was Richard Hobson's appropriation, during his mayoralty, of large quantities of materials from the demolished houses. (fn. 208) Similarly nothing came of the city's petition to the House of Commons in 1801 seeking permission to take down the city walls and bars and to use the materials and profits for rebuilding Ouse and Foss Bridges. (fn. 209)
The question of improvement was taken up afresh in 1808 and 1809; it was decided that the cost should be met by subscriptions, loans on the credit of tolls, and the tolls themselves: the corporation agreed to give £2,000, with a further £200 a year so long as tolls were collected. (fn. 210) By May 1809 the desired Act had been obtained (fn. 211) and demolition was begun. (fn. 212) By December 1809 orders were given for the purchase of stone for the widening of the bridge and timber for a coffer dam. (fn. 213) An amending Act was obtained in 1810 (fn. 214) and work went ahead: a jetty was built for landing stone, the moat near North Street Postern was used as a working-place for masons, Thomas Harrison of Chester examined and gave his opinion on the bridge, (fn. 215) Peter Atkinson the younger was appointed architect, and the first stone was laid in December 1810. (fn. 216)
The procedure adopted is not clear: tolls were still being taken for traffic crossing the bridge in 1811-14, (fn. 217) so that unless a temporary bridge was built, much work on the new bridge must have been carried out before the old was demolished. Progress, however, was slow because funds were inadequate, and the need for a new Act was realized as early as September 1812. (fn. 218) Work was suspended in June 1814, (fn. 219) and the Act was obtained in the following year. (fn. 220) Authority for the work was now removed from the corporation and vested in the justices of the three Ridings and the city. The Ridings were to raise £30,000 in five equal yearly instalments; the city and The Ainsty would raise £215 a year for five years; in both cases a sixth annual instalment was authorized should it prove necessary. Further, the £200 a year which was payable as long as a toll was taken at or near the bridge was now raised to £400 for the five (or six) years of the annual contributions from the rates.
Although part of the three-arched bridge was opened for foot passengers in 1818, the final stone was not laid until August 1820. (fn. 221) The total cost of the bridge is said to have been £80,000, (fn. 222) but details of the money raised between 1809 and 1815 are not known; presumably £33,075 was raised under the Act of 1815. The toll at the bridge was not abolished until 1829. (fn. 223)
The civic buildings did not survive this final rebuilding of the bridge. St. William's Chapel was removed together with all those buildings and houses which had obstructed the approaches to the old bridge. No substantial alterations have since been made to the bridge.
The first Foss Bridge, presumably of wood, existed by the earlier 12th century; (fn. 224) it was replaced by a stone bridge at least by the beginning of the 15th. In 1393 the city was authorized in Richard 11's charter to purchase lands to the value of £100 a year to provide for the upkeep of Foss and Ouse Bridges, and at the same time was given permission to set stone pillars in the Fishpond of the Foss up to 100 feet beyond the bridge to strengthen it. (fn. 225) Grants of pontage were made in 1402 for the building of Foss Bridge, (fn. 226) in 1403 for that purpose and for the repair of Ouse Bridge, (fn. 227) in 1406, (fn. 228) 1409, (fn. 229) and 1411 for both bridges. (fn. 230) The grants of 1402-9 all refer to Foss Bridge as being ruinous but there is little doubt that it had been rebuilt early in that period.
If the rebuilding involved the complete demolition of the old bridge, the new bridge was nevertheless as heavily encrusted with houses as the old had been: in 1376 23 tenements and 3 shops stood there, (fn. 231) and in 1407 there were 25 tenements and 2 shops. (fn. 232) It seems likely, however, that the old bridge was strengthened and embodied in the new structure. The number of buildings was later increased: by the mid-15th century there were 19 tenements on the south-west side of the bridge, 23 on the northeast side, and 10 in the fish shambles. (fn. 233) This number was maintained with little variation during the earlier 16th century, (fn. 234) but by the later 16th and early 17th centuries the number of tenements had been reduced to 15 on the south-west and 9 on the northeast sides. (fn. 235) In the later 17th century there were no houses on the north-east side of the bridge. (fn. 236)
Some further indication of the reduction in the number of houses is provided by the order of 1564 that materials from demolished houses at the southeast end of the bridge should be used for the repair of other houses there and of St. Anne's Chapel. (fn. 237) It thus seems likely that the houses of the fish shambles were dilapidated and yielding no rent long before their demolition.
St. Anne's Chapel stood on the north-east side of the bridge near the northern end. The charter of 1393 noted that its construction had already been proposed, (fn. 238) and it was in use by 1424. (fn. 239) The conduct of the chapel was supervised by the corporation during the 16th century. In 1536 the priests of the chapel were obliged to rent chambers from the bridgemasters, (fn. 240) and in 1544 the corporation withheld the stipend of the priest who was found to have neglected his duties there. (fn. 241) In the following year, the chantries in St. Anne's Chapel having been dissolved, the priest was instructed to help with services in St. William's Chapel on Ouse Bridge while still saying mass on Foss Bridge. (fn. 242) The chapel had ceased to be used for worship by 1555 when it became a storehouse for materials in the charge of the bridgemasters. (fn. 243) In ensuing years it was rented to a tenant, (fn. 244) and it was ordered to be repaired in 1558. (fn. 245) Stone was taken from the chapel for the repair of Ouse Bridge in 1564 and 1565, (fn. 246) and for the repair of Foss Bridge itself in 1589. (fn. 247) The chapel was granted to Edward Dyer in 1585. (fn. 248) Some remains of the chapel were taken down in 1664 (fn. 249) and a number of its supporting wooden piles was removed in 1734 or 1735. (fn. 250)
The collection of rents from property both on the bridge and elsewhere in the city, and the supervision of repairs to bridge and houses were the responsibility of bridgemasters. Two were appointed for Foss Bridge and two for Ouse Bridge until the late 16th century; thereafter two bridgemasters were responsible for both bridges. (fn. 251) The first officials in charge of the new bridge accounted in 1407-8, but the earlier bridge had also presumably had its custodians for, in 1280, 46s. 8d. was received by the city from toll of the bridge. (fn. 252)
The bridge was frequently in need of repair during the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1489, to assist the repair of Ouse and Foss Bridges and for street paving, a toll was imposed on wagons coming to the city; (fn. 253) in 1527 voluntary contributions towards the repair of the two bridges were collected in the Ridings; (fn. 254) parts of the bridge were said to be 'in ruin and decay' in 1536; (fn. 255) in 1568 Foss Bridge was repaired in preparation for the Lord President's visit and a mason was instructed to visit York annually to examine the bridge and other structures; (fn. 256) and further reparation was ordered in 1570 (fn. 257) and 1589. (fn. 258)
Damage to the bridge and obstruction of its arches by the deposit of rubbish in the Foss were other nuisances frequently deplored in the late 16th century. Occupiers of houses on the bridge were forbidden to keep holes through which filth was thrown into the river: the practice resulted in the rotting of bridge timbers; grates at the end of the bridge were secured to prevent rubbish from the streets finding its way into the water; garths encroaching on the river near the bridge were to be set back; and rubbish obstructing the arches was to be removed. (fn. 259) The increasing sedimentation of the Fishpond of the Foss (fn. 260) was having its effect upon the bridge, and by the early 18th century one of the three arches of the bridge, that on the south-east side of the river, had become buried. (fn. 261)
The bridge remained covered with houses during the 17th century (fn. 262) but they had been taken down by Drake's time (fn. 263) and fish stalls had been erected on the south-west side of the bridge in 1728. (fn. 264) Foss Bridge was apparently high enough to need no alterations by the Foss Navigation Company in the late 18th century, but in 1809, when the corporation was raising subscriptions for rebuilding the bridge under the Act of that year, (fn. 265) the company agreed to subscribe £100 towards the work. (fn. 266) The new bridge was designed by Peter Atkinson the younger; its foundation stone was laid in June 1811 and it was opened in 1812. (fn. 267) No substantial alterations have since been made.
This bridge is said by Leland to have had five arches in the early 16th century. (fn. 268) An indictment was brought against the corporation by the Crown in 1791 for their negligence in not repairing the bridge, but the matter was held over from assize to assize in view of the impending application for an Act for making the Foss navigable. (fn. 269) The Act was obtained in 1793 (fn. 270) and plans for rebuilding the bridge made in 1794: it was designed by Peter Atkinson the elder, was preceded by a temporary bridge, and financed by a grant of £100 from the Foss Navigation Company to the corporation. (fn. 271) The bridge was widened between April 1924 and June 1926 (fn. 272) and has not been altered since.
Reference to 'Leirfordbrigende' in 1341 suggests that the bridge was preceded by a ford, (fn. 273) but the bridge existed by 1309 at the latest. (fn. 274) It had three arches in Leland's time. (fn. 275) In 1556 £14 14s. 3½d. was spent on the bridge, (fn. 276) which was repaired again in 1570. (fn. 277) Having been destroyed during the siege of 1644, the bridge was replaced by a temporary crossing of planks and rails in April 1646, (fn. 278) and it was not substantially repaired until 1656 when the middle arch was rebuilt. (fn. 279) After the passing of the Act of 1793, (fn. 280) the Foss Navigation Company constructed a new central arch, (fn. 281) and the responsibility for the disrepair of the bridge was in dispute between the corporation and the company in 1815 (fn. 282) and again in 1828. (fn. 283) In February 1829 it was reported that the Foss Navigation Company's enlargement of the central arch had so damaged the structure that a complete rebuilding was desirable; (fn. 284) this was carried out by the corporation in 1829, the new bridge being designed by Peter Atkinson the younger. It was a wider structure than the previous bridge and its erection involved the removal of Layerthorpe Postern which had stood at the southwest end of the bridge. The bridge was widened in 1926 (fn. 285) and has not been altered since.
Although there is no record of a bridge over the Foss near the castle until the late 16th century, it seems likely that the dam of the Fishpond of the Foss (fn. 286) provided a means of access to and from the castle; (fn. 287) the old and new bridges over the mill sluice mentioned in 1402 were probably part of a crossing by the dam. (fn. 288) In 1583 it was agreed that a wooden bridge for 'footmen and horsemen' should be built at Castle Mills: (fn. 289) doubtless the dam, which had needed continuous repair in previous centuries, (fn. 290) was then of little value as a causeway. This first bridge was apparently destroyed during the siege of 1644, and in February 1645 the corporation discussed the erection of a drawbridge at the mills as part of a track for 'horse and foot' from Castlegate Postern. (fn. 291) In 1699 the building of a stone bridge for carts and carriages was under consideration, to replace 'the wood bridge called Castle Mill Bridge'; (fn. 292) this work was not carried out.
In 1733 the wooden bridge was ordered to be replaced by an arched horse-bridge; (fn. 293) this was washed away in 1746 and was apparently replaced by filling in the sluice. (fn. 294) Having taken steps to exact a contribution towards the cost from the occupiers of Castle Mills, (fn. 295) the corporation had the bridges and roadway at the mills repaired in 1793; the work included an arch and wall over the mill race. (fn. 296) An illustration of the bridge in 1809 shows a high arch over the race and a smaller one over the clews beside the mill; (fn. 297) this structure embodied the work of the Foss Navigation Company who rebuilt and widened the bridge in about 1800. (fn. 298) Responsibility for the repair of the roadway over the bridge was disputed in 1831 (fn. 299) and the bridge was widened and improved by the corporation in 1836 and 1837, (fn. 300) and again in the 1850's. (fn. 301) A new, substantially wider, bridge was built in 1955 and 1956. (fn. 302)
The first bridge across the Foss near its junction with the Ouse was ordered to be built in 1738 at the end of the New Walk in St. George's Close; it was apparently a wooden drawbridge and was replaced by a stone bridge in 1768. (fn. 303) By the early 19th century a wooden swing-bridge had been substituted by the Foss Navigation Company to allow boats to pass. (fn. 304) It had been in a decayed condition for many years before a new bridge of the same type was erected in 1834. (fn. 305) The wooden was replaced by an iron opening-bridge in 1857, (fn. 306) and a new bridge was built in 1929-30. (fn. 307) From the first the bridge was painted blue and the colour and name have been retained.
In medieval times the Ouse could be crossed from St. Leonard's Landing to North Street Postern by a ferry. (fn. 308) The replacement of Lendal Ferry by a bridge was first suggested in 1838; (fn. 309) the need for an improved crossing at this point was greatly increased by the building of the Old Railway Station, but responsibility for it was disputed by the corporation and the railway company. (fn. 310) Although an Act was obtained in 1847, (fn. 311) no progress was made. Further agitation led to the passing of the Lendal Bridge and York Improvement Act in 1860, (fn. 312) and the foundation stone of a lattice-girder bridge, designed by William Dredge, was laid that year; after the collapse of the partially constructed bridge in 1861, (fn. 313) a design for an arched bridge by Thomas Page, the engineer of Westminster Bridge, was adopted. The completed bridge was opened in 1863 having cost about £35,500: the Act had authorized the corporation to borrow up to £35,000. (fn. 314) Tolls imposed to help to meet the cost were not abolished until 1894. (fn. 315) No substantial alterations have been made to the original structure. (fn. 316)
From at least 1541 the Ouse could be crossed by a ferry near Skeldergate Postern. (fn. 317) Proposals for the replacement of Skeldergate Ferry by a bridge were put forward in 1873, (fn. 318) and the York (Skeldergate Bridge) Improvement Act was obtained in 1875. (fn. 319) The original design was by Thomas Page, but, after his death at an early stage in the negotiations, it was modified on several occasions by his son George. The bridge eventually erected consisted of five spans, three of which were over the river itself: that on the north-east side of the river opened to allow the passage of vessels. (fn. 320) The foundation stone was laid in June 1878 and the bridge opened in March 1881. (fn. 321) The Act had authorized the corporation to borrow up to £35,000, but in December 1880 the corporation sought permission to borrow a further £15,000, (fn. 322) and when the bridge account was closed in February 1882 the net cost of the bridge was given as £56,000. (fn. 323) The subsequent toll on traffic using the bridge was not removed until 1914 (see plate facing p. 473). (fn. 324) In 1938 and 1939 Skeldergate Bridge was reconstructed, 60 per cent. of the estimated cost of £15,000 being granted by the government; four of the spans were strengthened and the opening span reconstructed. (fn. 325)
The most recent bridge across the Foss is that forming part of the street (now part of Piccadilly) which was under construction and probably completed in 1913 to link Pavement with the older section of Piccadilly. (fn. 326)