WELL, here's a dramatic series of photographs. They show an important moment from York's 'modern' history, when a key section of the city centre's roads network was completed. That moment? The extension of Piccadilly to link up to Parliament Street in 1911 and 1912.

The southern part of the street dates back to the 1840s, according to City of York Council's character area study of Piccadilly. That's when a medieval lane which had once run alongside the lake known as the King's Fishpond (which was created after the Norman Conquest to help protect York Castle by deliberately damming the River Foss, but which had long since been drained by Victorian times) was widened and renamed Piccadilly.

The street only extended northwards as far as Dixon Lane, however. In the 1910s it was decided to extend it northwards to link up to Parliament Street in what was one of the last stages of a city-wide civic improvement programme.

It was a controversial project in its day. First proposed in May 1907 to provide new shop frontages which it was hoped would would pay for the scheme, there were many who opposed it - including the Deputy Mayor, Alderman Agar. They feared that the new road would ruin Fossgate and make Coney Street a by-street.

Nevertheless, the scheme went ahead. The project involved the demolition of several buildings on Parliament Street and the approach to it, to make an opening for the new, extended Piccadilly, and the laying of the new road.

The existence of the new street didn't have the impact on Fossgate and Coney Street that many had feared - if anything, it was Piccadilly itself that failed to take off. It was named after its grand London counterpart. "But (it) never lived up to the reputation of its forbear, in terms of ambience or of the quality of its buildings," admits the city council's character area study. That's a problem this largely unloved quarter of York has struggled with ever since - though at long last, with the Castle Gateway plans, there are signs that things could finally pick up.

We have six images today which capture the construction of the road, all of which come from Explore York's wonderful Imagine York electronic photo archive.

One is a view across from the west bank of the River Foss to workmen on the Piccadilly side who are busy constructing the new street.

Another looks northwards along the new stretch of Piccadilly - still, at the time the photo was taken, just loose-packed earth and rubble - to the gap broken through onto Parliament Street. A third, looking in the same direction, was taken in 1913, shortly after the road had been completed.

There are also three photographs of buildings which had to be demolished to make way for the extended road and its junction with Parliament Street: one shows the old Criterion Cocoa Works, and two show the White Swan Hotel.

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/