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Finding Medieval York - Walking the Snickelways and Ginnels of Medieval York


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Finding a Hidden City
Bootham Bar is the oldest entrance into the medieval, walled city of York.

Bootham Bar is the oldest entrance into the medieval, walled city of York. It's also one of the entries to a walk along the top of York's ancient walls.

©Ferne Arfin
Before I arrived in York, I'd read about the Barley Hall - a recently discovered medieval townhouse that had been lost in the middle of the medieval city of York. How on earth can you lose a building?

This small, gem of a city has so many medieval treasures and so many twisting lanes and alleys that it is, in fact, possible, to simply lose one or two of them.

The only way to really find Medieval York is to plunge into the snickelways and ginnels of this ancient city.

The what?!

My York friend Valerie France, who writes occasional food columns and contributes pictures, handed me an amazing little book: A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, by Mark W. Jones, which explained it all.

Author Jones actually created the term snickelway in the 1980s by blending snicket - a passageway between walls or fences, ginnel - a narrow passageway between or through buildings, and alleyway - a narrow street or lane. Now local people in York use the word as if it is as old as the city of York itself.

Armed with a copy of Jones's book, I headed for Bootham Bar, one of the entrances through York's ancient walls. The gateways through York's walls are called bars and Bootham Bar is the oldest, marking a nearly 2,000 year old Roman way into the city.

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