We're in York for the next six weeks. York is centrally located between the cities of Leeds and Hull where we hope to find more ancestors. Also, York is the home of the Borthwick Institute, which holds a lot of historical records for northern England. We haven't got fairly started yet, because we're Bootham Bar trying to dispose of the backlog of old wills and maps we got in London, as well as a huge email message with hundreds of new cousins. So we're happy as a pig knee deep in slops, which is not a bad metaphor for this farming country.
On any given day in York, year round, the streets are fairly jammed with tourists speaking a goodly number of languages. The city has been around for a couple of thousand years, raided by Romans, Vikings, and Normans, in turn, not to mention its role in the War of the Roses and the Civil War. To the east the muddy river beds have preserved some bronze age boats. The churches and monasteries in York had a fair amount of valuables to protect, so the city needed a defensive wall.
The wall around York, which is nearly complete, is really lovely. Built up on a good high embankment, it provided wonderful defenses. It almost got torn down at the beginning of the nineteenth century, but a far-seeing mayor spent some of his personal wealth to rebuild part of the wall, and it proved to be the beginning of a substantial and long-lasting conservation project. When you take a walk along the wall you get lovely views over the city, its York Minster dominates the city churches and its gardens. And every so often there is a Bar, which is a combination of a tower and gate with a built in portcullis to keep out the enemy. It's probably as picturesque an old-time city as you'll find in England. On weekends there are quite a variety of outdoor markets.
The tourists, it seems, include lots of Englishmen, too. They come for just a few days or a week at most, do some shopping, visit some museums, eat at some restaurants, walk around some old narrow streets with a tour book or map in hand, listen to some street buskers and musicians, visit some pubs, and then turn around and go home. Nobody had ever heard of someone coming to York for six weeks, and it was hard to find a place to stay with a vacancy for the whole time, because they all were booked up over Easter. So our rooms are not as nice as London or Cornwall, but they'll do for us.
The York Minster, ruled by the Archbishop of York, is huge. The largest vertical gothic cathedral, etc., etc. The architecture tends to be a bit ponderous and heavy, not as uplifting as some of the cathedrals on the continent. Besides the Minster there are dozens of churches, monasteries, abbeys, church schools, etc. Religion has always been a big part of the life of the city, just as it is in Canterbury, in Essex. And some of the bloodiest wars Clifford's Tower fought here were religious wars.
Railroads got off to an early start in York, and now there's the National Railroad Museum and a Miniature Railroad Museum. Steam trains run past our room on holiday excursions, along with the regular passenger trains.
We thought Yorkshire was an ancient English county, but that's wrong. Actually, the area was divided into several different counties until early in the nineteenth century when Yorkshire was formed. But then in 1970 they decided it was a bad idea so they split everything back up into smaller counties again. So for example our ancestors the Levitts and Thompsons emigrated from the East Ridings of Yorkshire, but we'll look for their parish records in the Humberside County Record Office. To get an idea of the effect of all this, imagine that back in 1830 Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Long Island were combined into a single state, and then divided back up again in 1970. Can you picture all the confusion??!?