A NEW era has dawned for York’s City Walls after the owners of the Jorvik Centre took possession of the keys of Micklegate Bar.

York Archaeological Trust plans to use Micklegate Museum for a series of exhibitions on the part played by the walls in the city’s history, from its Roman foundation to the 20th century.

Visitors will learn about the role the fortifications played in the English Civil War when the city was besieged by the Parliamentarian army; whose head it was that ended up on display at the bar, following revolts and rebellions; and how the walls frequently acted as a backdrop for elaborate civic ceremonies up to the present day.

The museum will also be the focus for new tours and guided walks to the battlefields connected with the various sieges of York.

Sarah Malty, the trust’s director of attractions, said: “The museum holds a wealth of historical importance for the city and taking over the bar brings with it a huge responsibility. “We want to encourage more visitors to explore and enjoy learning about the huge part that the city walls have to play in York’s unique history.” David Mason, curator of Micklegate Museum, handed over its keys after 15 years in charge. According to legend, the responsibility that goes with them is not to be taken lightly, as they are linked to the ghost of Sarah Brocklebank, daughter of a gatekeeper in the late 1700s, who is said to haunt the gateway.

Mr Mason said legend has it the gatekeeper lost his job and his family were thrown on to the streets when she hid the keys during a game and could not find them.

She spent the rest of her life trying to find them, and when she did find them and went to tell the Lord Mayor, she died of a heart attack before revealing their location.

Micklegate Museum is currently closed for refurbishment and will reopen at Easter.

York’s historic boundary

YORK has been defended with walls of one form or another since Roman times.

Today, York has more miles of intact wall than any other city in England.

When the Romans arrived in York in 71 AD, they built a fort occupying about 50 acres on the banks of the River Ouse, and surrounded it with a rectangle of walls.

The foundations and the line of about half of these walls form part of the existing walls. The Multangular Tower in the Museum Gardens is the most noticeable and intact structure remaining from the Roman walls.

By the time the Danes occupied the city in 867, the Roman defences were in poor repair and the Danes demolished all the towers save the Multangular Tower and restored the walls.

The majority of the remaining walls date from the 12th to 14th century, with some reconstruction carried out in the 19th century.

Today the walls are a scheduled ancient monument and a Grade I listed building. They are punctuated by four main gatehouses, or “bars”, called Bootham Bar, Monk Bar, Walmgate Bar and Micklegate Bar.