8 fascinating scenes from York's recent past

Flooding at Wray’s Yard, Hungate, on February 28, 1933

Walmgate in the 1930s

Walmgate Bar in the 1950s/60s with the pens for the cattle market which ran alongside the bar walls

Walmgate Bar portcullis has been lowered to act as a barrier to traffic while the work of renovating the bar goes on under the direction of Mr W Slater. This picture was taken on October 14, 1959.

A bus navigates the tight turning at the junction of Whip-ma-Whop-ma-Gate and Colliergate before construction of Stonebow

Pavement in the late 1950s/early 1960s with the sign above Modelia’s shop claiming it to be the fashion corner

White Cross Mill, Haxby Road taken in 1898 (9407099)

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A FEW scenes of old York courtesy of a dip into our archives this week: starting off with two areas of the city that were once notorious as slums.

First up is a wonderful old photograph of Wray's Yard in Hungate, taken on February 28, 1933. Wray's Yard is presumably one of the Hungate streets that were demolished in the slum clearances of the 1930s.

There is a vivid (but less than flattering) description of the area in Frances Finnegan's 'Poverty and Prostitution: A Study of Victorian Prostitution in York'.

Describing the Wesley Place area of Hungate, she wrote: "The properties...consisted of tiny two- and four-roomed cottages which backed on to identical dwellings in the confined yards behind, access to which was through dingy, narrow passages. Most of the houses were only about eleven feet square and even those possessing two bedrooms were cramped, insanitary and unfit.

"Probably the most unpleasant feature of these terraces and yards was their nearness to the River Foss (Wray's Yard and Lower Wesley Place went right down to the water's edge) which was in the nineteenth century an 'open sewer' - unfortunately given to frequent flooding."

Wray's Yard is clearly flooded in our photograph - you can see that the six people pictured are all standing on a plank raised above the waters. They all look remarkably cheerful, however, given the floods and the slum conditions in which they lived.

However poor and insanitary the crowded Hungate houses were, however, they were people's homes: which might help explain why there was apparently considerable resistance to the 1932/33 Hungate slum clearance programme.

"The Hungate plans were controversial," says a history of the Castle Precinct and Hungate area on the A Green And Civic Space website. "There was no compensation for those dispossessed of their property, beyond the value of the plot...There were complaints of lack of public consultation about Hungate, that no representations had been passed on, and that mass demolition was being preferred to selective improvement..."

Crossing the River Foss from Hungate to Walmgate, we have a series of photographs of the street which today houses The Press. The first shows Walmgate in the 1930s. The Five Lions Hotel stood there even in those days - from it we can tell that we're looking northwards along the street towards the Fossgate end.

Next to the Five Lions was Jackson's, a 'Joiner, Undertaker and Builder' according to the sign, while nearer to the camera are JT Fletcher & Sons and Cussins & Light, Ltd. There is no clue as to the nature of either of these businesses.

We also have two photographs of Walmgate Bar from the late 1950s or early 1960s. One shows vintage, low-slung cars cruising past the foot of the bar and heading out along Barbican Road, where the beginnings of the Paragon Street livestock pens which once stood beneath the walls here are visible.

The other, dated October 14, 1959, shows the bar itself with the portcullis firmly down. "Walmgate Bar portcullis has been lowered to act as a barrier to traffic while the work of renovating this historic bar goes on under the direction of Mr W Slater who, although he has lived and worked near the bar all his life, never remembers the portcullis being lowered before," says the caption.

Four more photographs to finish off with. One shows Whip-ma-Whop-ma-Gate sometime between 1953 and 1955, with Colliergate leading off to the left. The photo was taken before Stonebow was built. A second photograph shows Pavement. There is no date on it, but judging from the cars in the distance we'd guess that it, too, dates from the 1950s or early 1960s.

A third photograph shows the old Unicorn pub in what we think is Lord Mayor's Walk. It, too, is undated, although from the cars it looks as though it may also date from the 1950s.

And finally, going back much earlier than any of these other photographs, there is a picture of the White Cross Mill in Haxby Road taken in 1898. We'd be delighted to hear from anyone who knows anything about this mill.

York Press:
The Unicorn Inn in Lord Mayor’s Walk which was demolished to widen an awkward bottle-neck in the busy street

York Press:
White Cross Mill in Haxby Road, taken in 1898

Comments (6)

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5:41pm Mon 25 Aug 14

janice gray says...

Cussins and Light's were an electrical goods shop.
Cussins and Light's were an electrical goods shop. janice gray
  • Score: 9

9:10pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Tug job says...

janice gray wrote:
Cussins and Light's were an electrical goods shop.
Indeed, a simple search on google would take the aspiring journalist to a website where they could find out more about CandL (complete with the 'candle' logo). Even by YP standards this is extraordinarily lazy research.
[quote][p][bold]janice gray[/bold] wrote: Cussins and Light's were an electrical goods shop.[/p][/quote]Indeed, a simple search on google would take the aspiring journalist to a website where they could find out more about CandL (complete with the 'candle' logo). Even by YP standards this is extraordinarily lazy research. Tug job
  • Score: 6

9:12pm Mon 25 Aug 14

ArchieBod says...

The description of Hungate could be used to describe some of the new apartment layouts. Progress?
The description of Hungate could be used to describe some of the new apartment layouts. Progress? ArchieBod
  • Score: 1

10:46pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Pinza-C55 says...

ArchieBod wrote:
The description of Hungate could be used to describe some of the new apartment layouts. Progress?
It sounds like "affordable housing".
[quote][p][bold]ArchieBod[/bold] wrote: The description of Hungate could be used to describe some of the new apartment layouts. Progress?[/p][/quote]It sounds like "affordable housing". Pinza-C55
  • Score: 1

10:59pm Mon 25 Aug 14

Dave Ruddock says...

One has to admit if the Evening Press is new to York, seems each time they know less .
One has to admit if the Evening Press is new to York, seems each time they know less . Dave Ruddock
  • Score: 2

9:08pm Tue 26 Aug 14

Kelvar says...

I 'think' the Mill in the last picture should be called Haxby Road Mill as it's a Tower Mill and White Cross (also known as Pepper Mill and Bootham Stray Mill at various times in its history) was a Post Mill and demolished in c1840, although its not beyond the bounds of possibilities that Haxby Road Mill was built on the footprint of the original White Cross Mill.
I 'think' the Mill in the last picture should be called Haxby Road Mill as it's a Tower Mill and White Cross (also known as Pepper Mill and Bootham Stray Mill at various times in its history) was a Post Mill and demolished in c1840, although its not beyond the bounds of possibilities that Haxby Road Mill was built on the footprint of the original White Cross Mill. Kelvar
  • Score: 0
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