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A real hive of industry
WE dipped into local historian Paul Chrystal’s new book York Industries Through Time on the books pages of this newspaper a week or so ago. But it is so full of evocative old photographs of people going about their business in York that no excuse is needed for paying it a second visit.
As well as focusing on traditional industries down the years, Paul’s book looks at shops and other businesses. Our first image from the book today shows a bustling Coney Street in the 1940s, as viewed from Spurriergate.
The name of the street is Viking in origin, Paul says – konungra was the Viking word for king, and by 1213 it was known as Cuningstreta, or King Street.
By the 1940s, as our photo shows, it was a thriving shopping street (as it is today).
Famous businesses on the street in the last hundred years or so have included Leak & Thorp – seen in close-up in our second photograph, also taken in the 1940s – Archibald Ramsden’s piano and organ shop (which moved to Coney Street from St Sampson’s Square) and the Black Boy Chocolate Kabin (later sold to Maynard’s), which was next door to Leake and Thorpe.
The River Ouse, Paul notes, has been crucial to York since Roman times, making the city an important port right through the Viking period and the middle ages. There is evidence of German and Irish boats using the river in York from about 1125, Paul writes.
Even by the 1920s, it was still used by barges, and the riverfront boasted a plethora of advertsing – as seen in the photo of Queen’s Staith from 1925.
York’s cattle market was also an important part of city life. When it opened in Fawcett Street it led to the reopening of Fishergate Bar to enable cattle to be driven through, Paul notes.
It also saw the end of the time-honoured practice of livestock being kept behind the butchers’ shops themselves so they could be slaughtered on site, as happened in Shambles for many years. The market closed in 1971, when it moved to Murton.
And finally, an image to delight the heart: a regiment of taxis lined up in front of York station, spare tyres slung on their sides. There’s no date for this photo: but it looks to us like the 1920s.
Taxis at York station in the 1920s
• York Industries Through Time by Paul Chrystal, with new photographs by Simon Crossley, is published by Amberley priced £14.99.