Historic Atlas of York & Study Day (23 April 2016)

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A wonderful new historical atlas of the city brings together the results of more than 40 years of archaeological research, peeling back the layers of York’s history one by one and allowing us to see how it has evolved and changed over the last 2,000 years.

A series of maps take a snapshot look at the city at different periods of its history – under the Romans in 200AD; in the Anglian period when York was capital of Anglo-Saxon Northumbria; under the Vikings; in 1100AD following the Norman invasion; and then roughly every 200 years up to the 1850s, when Victorian York was on the cusp of its industrial expansion. Each of the historical maps shows what we know about the roads, streets and rivers of the city at the time, all superimposed above the faint outline of Victorian York, to help you get your bearings.

So the Roman map shows the Roman fortress plumped down right where the Minster is today. The fortress walls are depicted in red, and show individual towers. the site of the Roman baths and forum are shown – and, on the other side of the River Ouse, burial sites under what is now The Mount and the railway station, as well as a cluster of temples around what is now Micklegate.

The inhabited area at the time is shaded in brown. So by flipping through the maps in sequence, you can quickly see how the size and centre of gravity of the city shifted over time. In Alcuin’s time – the Anglo-Saxon period – the are around the old Roman fortress was still inhabited, but a new area had been colonised south of the Foss around what is now Walmgate.

By Viking times, the inhabited area of the city had expanded enormously. And by 1100, the city walls as we know them today had begun to appear, together with the the first Norman Minster and castles at the Eye of York and at Baile Hill. You can also see clearly how the Normans had dammed the Foss to create a defensive moat around York Castle – creating as a by-product the King’s pool, a large lake to the east of York.

By 1300, the Minster has clearly grown in prestige and size, as has St Mary’s Abbey, and the city is dotted with ‘new’ churches.

Little seems to have changed by 1500 – but in fact, as a result of the Black Death, the population of the city had declined hugely from 20-30,000 in 1300 to something like 7,000 in 1500.


In support of this publication, the Institute for the Public Understanding of the Past (IPUP) will be hosting a study day on Saturday 23rd April 2016 based at King’s Manor in the heart of this historic city.  The day is intended to explain and explore the making of the atlas, highlighting some of the challenges in mapping historic York, and introducing the wider comparative European context for the project.

Tickets for this event are priced at £25 per person and are available here.  For further information on the Historic Towns Atlas please visit Study Day.

To purchase the atlas, go to the website of Oxbow Books

Dr Kate Giles on the Wall Paintings at Pickering Church (23 February 2016)

[from the York Press, 19 February 2016]

A PROJECT to highlight one of Yorkshire’s hidden gems is being launched in Pickering.

Pickering Parish Church is aiming to conserve its wall paintings and improve visitor facilities through a Heritage Lottery Fund Project “Let there be Light”.

Father Antony Pritchett, Vicar of Pickering, said: “The present church has stood in the town for almost 1,000 years, and painted on to its walls are what have been described as Yorkshire’s hidden gem – medieval images of saints and sinners, of kings and conquerors.

The wall paintings were painted about 1450 but then covered over at the Reformation. Rediscovered in 1852, they were then painted over again, only to be restored in the 1880s.

Fr Pritchett said the wall paintings had delighted and thrilled people ever since.

“Pickering’s wall paintings are amazing,” he said.

“Visitors enter the church, and just gasp out loud at seeing the paintings because they’ve probably never seen anything like them before.

“Pickering has one of the most complete sets of medieval wall paintings in the country, and increasingly they are being considered one of the most important examples of their kind in northern Europe.”

Fr Pritchett said the Parish Church was hoping to get Heritage Lottery Funds to help clean and better conserve the paintings, and to improve visitor facilities, including improved lighting.

The church is also working closely on this project with the University of York, and the main speaker at the Heritage Lottery Launch will be Dr Kate Giles, leading expert on Pickering’s wall paintings.

Fr Pritchett said: “Dr Giles has talked to many groups about Pickering’s wall paintings, though I believe that this is the first time she will actually have done so in the building itself. Most recently she was talking about them on television.

“At the launch event we will be displaying some early drawings of the wall paintings not generally on public view, so it’s going to be a really good, fascinating and quite thrilling evening.”

Following the talk there will be an opportunity for the audience to offer views, ideas and suggestions on the project.

Fr Pritchett said: “Pickering is very fortunate to have these wall paintings – once seen they are never forgotten – and I think we could make a fantastic visitor experience which would be great for Pickering and great for Ryedale.

The launch meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 23, at 7.30pm, in Pickering Parish Church.

There is no charge for the evening, and refreshments will be available.