This Saturday, lovers of local history will have a unique chance to learn about the past of one of York’s most interesting quarters: Walmgate.

Archaeologists who have been digging in the grounds of the former Willow House care home near Walmgate Bar will be holding an open day from 10am - 4pm to talk to local people about what they have found - and what this reveals about the area’s history.

Finds date back to Roman times - and even further. Archaeologists and volunteers working at the site even discovered a flint arrowhead from the time before the Romans ever arrived.

But many local people with connections to Walmgate might be more interested in the area’s more recent, Victorian past.

Victorian Walmgate is often referred to as one of the city’s slum districts - and it was certainly very poor.

York Press: Washing hanging out behind No 120 and 126 Walmgate, 1959Washing hanging out behind No 120 and 126 Walmgate, 1959 (Image: Explore York Libraries and Archives)

A wave of Irish immigrants arrived in the 1840s - and soon Walmgate and the surrounding streets were home to half the city’s population.

Overcrowding and poverty were rife, and there wasn’t even any fresh running water.

One of the few sources of water were the public conveniences in Walmgate Bar. “People would queue down the street with their pans,” said Ian Milsted, head of community engagement at York Archaeology, which is running the dig.

But ‘slum’ is a pejorative word, Ian says. To the people who lived here in Victorian times this was just home.

It was also a strong community. There were no fewer than 20 pubs on the street in 1901 - and there was local industry, too; an iron foundry, a linen mill, a brewery, a rope-maker, plus shops and merchants and, just the other side of the city walls, the York Cattle Market.

In our gallery today, we take a look at the history of Walmgate in pictures. We focus on the busy life of the street itself - but also look at some of the ‘slum’ areas that were cleared in the middle part of the last century, to make way for council flats - and for Willow House itself, where the dig has been taking place...