An Historical Map of York

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From Medieval Times to 1850 – an historical map of York

If you’ve read any of our previous blog posts you’ll no doubt have realised that Dennis Maps prints a quite remarkable range of maps. They relate not only to present day geography, but to important events like World War I, Shackleton’s crossing of South Georgia and even to subjects like music. Another historical project has been our updated edition of the award-winning Historical Map of York from Medieval Times to 1850.

With a folding card cover – the same format as an Ordnance Survey map – all its illustrations are new, including the cover illustration of an 18th century watercolour of the Minster from the city walls.

The map depicts the city of York in 1850, and includes the locations of many medieval and later buildings, both those still standing and the ones which by then had disappeared. It’s a unique visual history of the changes in the structure of a growing city.

York is one of the most attractive and important cities in the north of England. It was founded as a fortress by the Romans in about AD71 due to its proximity to the rivers Ouse and Foss, and the protection given by its elevated position.

The native Britons’ name for the settlement was ‘Latinised’ to become Eboracum. When the Romans departed, the Anglo-Saxon invaders substituted their own word, Evorwic. Then the Vikings called it Jorvik, from which can easily be seen the evolution of the name we’re familiar with today.

Whatever the name, the city was always a prosperous river port and centre of trade. The Minster was the largest Gothic cathedral in Europe, and even after the Reformation York retained its commercial importance, situated as it was on the Great North Road between London and Scotland.

In the 17th and 18th centuries its wealthy merchants erected many elegant buildings as a way of displaying their success, and then in the 1830s the railway arrived, and York became an important hub of the new rail network. By 1900 the railways and the manufacture of chocolate – by Rowntrees and Terry’s of York – were the city’s main industries.

To modern eyes the city of 1850 looks like a refreshingly simple, straightforward and ordered city. In comparison to today’s immense, sprawling urban areas it is compact, neatly organised, and on a human scale.

On the face of the map is a potted history of York from the early Roman days through the following centuries up until the 1800’s. The key opposite shows how different colours refer to buildings of different periods. For further ease of reading, various fonts or Styles of Lettering indicate the age of the named sites, medieval or later.

On the reverse of the map is a gazetteer, or directory, of York’s many historic buildings and sites, both those still standing in 1850 and those that had by then been pulled down. The Pudding Holes, on the east bank of the River Ouse, was a public washing place. One wonders what standards of cleanliness were achieved, considering that the ‘innards of beasts’ were also washed here!

Modern spa lovers might be surprised to discover that York residents could enjoy a Turkish bath at The Bagnio from 1691. The delightful-sounding Festival Concert Rooms are no longer a venue, having been demolished in the 1970’s.

York’s street names are always intriguing to visitors, and have their own explanatory section on the reverse of the map. Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate is surely one of the oddest, and its origins are obscure, although it may refer to a whipping post, where wrongdoers were tied to receive their punishment.

A wonderful reference for anyone visiting York, An Historical Map of York is published by The Historic Towns Trust and is available to buy at £9.99 from bookshops and online book retailers.

If you liked this, take a look at our other maps of cities and towns:

London National Park City map