I'm going back into my photo archives of a visit last winter to York. The weather was just as changeable from hour to hour as it is at the moment. The river level was high and some of the paths alongside were under water and I expect it has been the same this year because of the continual rain.
There's so much of interest in York that a day's visit is not enough. I spent most of my time in York Minster and then walked in the Museum Garden by the river as I wanted to see some of the remains of some early medieval buildings in that area.
As the information plaque says St. Leonard's was the largest medieval hospital in the north of England and cared for the ill and infirm. The poor came to be fed and St Leonard's also provided meals for the prisoners in York Castle.
Also in the Museum Garden is the ruined St. Mary's Abbey, first built in 1088. It was one of the most important Benedictine monasteries in England. The abbey estate occupied all the land that is now the Museum Garden and the abbot was one of the most powerful clergyman of his day.
The gateway on Marygate was the main entrance into the abbey. It was here that the poor could come and claim alms. The building known as St. Mary's Lodge is now the headquarters of York Museums Trust. The stone walls that surrounded the abbey were built in the 1290s and remain the most complete set of abbey walls in the country. At the time they were built to defend the abbey when the city and the abbey were in dispute over taxes and land.
|St. Olave's Church next to Marygate entrance|
Another medieval building in the gardens is the timber and stone Hospitium which would have been a guest house or barn for the monastery. The first floor was rebuilt in the 20th century to accommodate some of the museum's archaeology collection. Now it's used as a conference centre and venue for weddings.
In the 1530s Henry VIII began his campaign against the monasteries. The monks at St. Mary's were pensioned off and the abbot's residence was converted into a palace for the King and base for his Northern Council. Gradually the church fell into ruin and the other monastery buildings were used for agricultural purposes.
As I've mentioned in my last post I've read most of the books in the series of historical novels written by C.J. Sansom set in Tudor times. Much of the plot of Sovereign is set in York in the Autumn of 1541 before returning to London and the Tower of London. St. Mary's Abbey by that date is no longer a monastery. The church is being used as stabling and pavilions are being set up in the grounds for the King's visit to attend an extravagant public display of submission by his rebellious subjects in York.
Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as legal work processing local petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for Archbishop Cranmer - to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator who is to be returned to London for interrogation. But the murder of a York glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle, but to the royal family itself.
It was certainly interesting to see for myself this area of York that's mentioned in this novel. The Museum Garden is full of historical and botanical interest and has been used as a backdrop for many events and the famous York Mystery Plays.
The Fern Garden
The Roman Fortress and Multiangular Tower