A whole section of York’s ancient city walls where the Queen Street Bridge used to be is effectively a building site at the moment, as work continues on putting up a retaining wall to protect the old city defences now the bridge has been demolished.

It got us thinking about just how precious - and vulnerable - York’s city walls are. We tend to take them for granted, until something - like the current ongoing work near the station - forces us not to.

Some bits of the walls - the Multangular Tower in Museum Gardens, for instance, and some sections between Bootham Bar and Monk Bar - are almost 2,000 years old, dating back to Roman times.

The main sections of the walls we’re familiar with today, however, date from the medieval period, - probably from between the 13th – 14th century.

They have been much repaired and restored since then - and at one point, we came close to losing them altogether.

In 1800, the Corporation of York - precursor of today’s city council - applied for an Act of Parliament to demolish them, saying they were in poor condition and hindered the city’s expansion.

Many other cities did indeed go ahead and demolish their medieval walls.

Thankfully, city officials in York were forced to back down after meeting fierce opposition - though not before all but one of the historic bars (Walmgate) had lost their barbicans. Three postern gates, five towers and 300 yards of the wall itself were also lost.

But the walls themselves survive.

Today, we take a two-part historical picture tour around the walls, courtesy of images from Explore York Libraries and Archives (images.exploreyork.org.uk/default.aspx).

This gallery covers the sections running from the railway station past Exhibition Square and the Minster to Monk Bar. A separate gallery will look at the stretch between Walmgate and Micklegate Bar.