ON the centre pages of this newspaper last week, we carried a large photograph of Nessgate in the 1890s. It showed Fowler Brothers the drapers, plus a row of other shops and businesses, including a shaving emporium, a pub and a newsagent.

The focal point of the photograph (reproduced here as photo No 1) was a uniformed man pulling a large hand cart along the cobbled street. 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, disagreed. He got in touch to say he believed the man was actually a parcel delivery postman - although he admitted it was hard to be sure without being able to read the writing on the side of the cart. Any thoughts, anyone?

That photograph inspired us to request a few more images of Nessgate from Explore York's wonderful Imagine York archive. And here they are.

The street's name, by the way, is thought to come from the old Saxon word 'ness', or projection - which in York's case means the tongue of land sticking out between the River Ouse and River Foss which ends at the Blue Bridge. So Nessgate means something like 'the street leading to the ness...

2. Nessgate on December 7, 1903, when the premises shown on the corner of King Street and Nessgate were due to be pulled down to widen Nessgate. The businesses include Fowler Brothers drapers shop, John Coates' tobacconist and, at the far end of the row on the corner of Low Ousegate, the Star and Garter public house. In T.P. Cooper's 1897 book 'The Old Inns and Inn Signs of York' the entry for the Star and Garter on Nessgate states that the name refers to the insignia of the Order of the Garter. "The old house shows signs of antiquity: it no doubt was erected anterior to Charles' reign," the book notes.

3. A huge press of people greeting York's first electric tram in Clifford Street in 1910. The photo was taken from Clifford Street looking towards the junction of Coppergate and Nessgate. The shop at No. 4 Coppergate (in the distance with the striking windows) was occupied at the time by W.B. Dyson, woollen merchants.

4 & 5. The tram shelter on Nessgate near King Street in the 1900s. 'Tramways shelter' says the wooden sign above. Posters advertise the York County laundry on Foss Islands Road and 'Rose & Co for wallpaper'.

6. The poster on the corner of High Ousegate and Spurriergate in this photograph encourages people to visit the Gala which starts 'next Saturday' - so this picture was taken in July. The year is harder to gauge but the photograph is likely to have been taken in the early 1920s. Charles E Simpson had a business which included floristry, greengrocery and dealing in antiques, curios and fine art.

7. High Ousegate seen from Nessgate in the 1940s. The shops visible on the left include Renders silk shop, JH Dewhurst, Stead and Simpson and Brown Brothers.

Stephen Lewis

  • All the photos on these pages, and thousands more, are held on Explore York’s Imagine York archive. You can browse it yourself at imagineyork.co.uk/