This was rectified earlier this week with a long weekend stay in York. Arriving by train Saturday lunchtime and departing Tuesday lunchtime there were still plenty of attractions left for us to visit next time. That is all to the good as we are already planning a winter break when we can include a little Christmas shopping.
To write about York as one long blurb would be too much. Therefore the visit will be split into different reports. This one will detail The Shambles and shopping in York.
So what are The Shambles?
The Shambles is a very old street in the City of York. The buildings overhang the street and many are lopsided to say the least. It is quaint, charming and more often than not packed with sightseers. A narrow, cobble street runs through the middle but it is traffic free.
Surprisingly York was damaged in the World War Two German bombing. Luckily however the City still has many of its original buildings and features. Some have been restored and but for signs declaring this you would not know.
The Shambles date back to the fourteenth century. From then until the 1800s butchers shops populated the street. These days they have vanished. These days the shops are more "gentrified" including a hand made chocolate shop, gift shops galore and unusual shops. Close by the market offers a cheaper supply of the usual tourist goods. The Shambles is not a cheap place to shop.
According to wikipedia various UK towns have their own shambles. "Shambles" is an obsolete term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market. They also got their names from having been the sites on which butchers killed and dressed animals for consumption. The Shambles in Stroud still has the hinged wooden boards attached to the shops, and hosts a regular local market"
Well it is much more civilised these days. Pubs, cafes and restaurants abound in the area. The Shambles itself is surrounded by a wide shopping area which includes the usual Marks and Spencers, Banks and the like as well as more unusual shops.
As so many of the streets are cobbled they can be hard under foot. Wearing sensible footwear or not is up to you but be warned. If you do not your feet will soon ache.
Along the Shambles there is a house that is a small shrine. It is free to enter. It is a shrine to Saint Margaret Clitherow. Inside you will find a traditional Shambles room with dark wood panelling and a low ceiling. A small altar and pray area has been arranged here.
In 1586 Margaret was arrested. She was accused of harbouring Roman Catholic priests. It was a time when the holy Roman catholic faith was not allowed in England. In an attempt to protect her children from being forced to testify and probably tortured Margaet refused to enter a plea to the court. For this she was crushed to death. This was the prferred punishment for those who refused to enter a plea at that time in our English history.
Wikipedia details how Margaret was killed, "She was killed on Good Friday 1586. The two sergeants who should have killed her hired four desperate beggars to kill her. She was stripped and had a handkerchief tied across her face then laid out upon a sharp rock the size of a man's fist, a door was put on top of her and slowly loaded with an immense weight of rocks and stones (the small sharp rock would break her back when the heavy rocks were laid on top of her). Her death occurred within fifteen minutes; she was left for 6 hours before the weight was removed from her corpse. After her death her hand was removed, and this relic is now housed in the chapel of the Bar Convent, York. After Clitherow's execution, Elizabeth I wrote to the citizens of York to say how horrified she was at the treatment of a fellow woman: due to her gender, Clitherow should not have been executed."
If you visit the shrine spare a prayer or thought for Margaret be you religious or not. It is a peaceful place amongst the thronging 21st Century shoppers roaming The Shambles.
It was only in the 20th Century that Margaret became recognised for her courage and sacrifice. She was beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI and canonised in 1970 by Pope Paul VI along with other martyrs from England and Wales.
If you visit the Sambles pre Christmas you will be in for a treat. However at any time of year it is a fascinating place to visit.