HERE’S a part of York that tends to be overlooked these days, but which in this 1890s photograph has a Dickensian quality all of its own.

Nessgate today is often choked with traffic queuing to get over Ouse Bridge or heading the other way towards Tower Street. In the 1890s it was clearly a busy shopping street in its own right, however - a continuation of Coney Street and Spurriergate.

In this photo, in the space of one short stretch, can be seen a draper, Fowler Bros (admittedly apparently just closed and moved to Clifford Street); a shaving emporium; a pub; a newsagent (with a bowler-hatted man studying the headlines); a tobacconist; and, on the corner, perhaps another pub. A sign on the wall of St Michael’s Church on the corner of Spurriergate points to ‘Brown’s drug stores’. The focal point of the photo is the man in uniform pulling what looks like a hand cart. We thought he must be a porter of some kind. But Richard Robson, who was for many years the Curator of Costume at Castle Howard, believes he was actually a parcel delivery postman - though Richard admits it is hard to be sure without being able to read the writing on the side of his cart...

Stephen Lewis