Walls Trail – History & Timeline

Long Top Banner

Brief history of the walls [ see map2 ]

Trail map 2

Map 2 – The origin of the Walls

In the Museum Gardens [1844-present]: the red-striped Roman wall [c.100 AD] shows rough patching, probably over Civil War cannon-damage [1644], and a medieval top half to its corner tower [c.1260]. (SM)

The Romans started York around 71 AD. They built walls around their fort and then around the city that grew up on the other side of the River Ouse. Big bits of the walls of the Roman fort can still be seen and up to half of the rest are in the ramparts under the present walls. 400 years later there were new invasions: Anglian York developed, then Viking York in the 9th century, then Norman York in the 11th century; over this time the Roman walls fell but ramparts grew.

About 900 years ago, the times we call “the Middle Ages” began –these were when the present Walls were built –mainly to protect York against the Scots. Around 500 years ago the Middle Ages ended and cannon were making military walls less useful; in spite of this the Walls were strengthened in the 1640s for the English Civil War.   The Walls were seriously attacked and damaged in this war of King against parliament –but luckily a conditional surrender of the city stopped the damage and the parliamentarian victors arranged their speedy repair.

Behind York Explore (library) from the left – medieval walls, with modern underpinning, then Roman Walls – with possible Anglian Tower in the background, then probably medieval hospital walls. (AF)

About 200 years ago there was another sort of battle being fought in York –over whether the Walls should be knocked down to open up the city to traffic and fresh air. During Victorian times a compromise developed: small bits of wall were demolished and new arches were built through the Walls but most of the Walls were repaired and opened as a footpath. Little has changed since then.

There is a lot more history in sixteen stories from the history of the Walls, these are separately labelled as stories at the end of the descriptions of a relevant section of the trail. What follows on this page is the Walls’ history in the form of a timeline, but recent discoveries suggest it is wrong to imply that the Roman fort’s earliest stone walls were built around 130AD and that the ‘showy’ wall facing the Ouse came later –leading archaeologists now date both to around 100AD. Similarly, it may be wrong to imply that the victorious Scots army of 1319 is the same one which reached Bootham Bar around then.


Timeline 1

Timeline 2

External link to a historical  Map of York in 1617

External link to a very detailed historical  Map of York in 1852



Wall Trail: Introduction                                                 [map 1]

Wall Trail: Overview

The Trail:  Section 1. Bootham Bar                          [map 3 ]

The Trail:  Section 2. North Corner

The Trail:  Section 3. Monk Bar                                  [maps 4]

The Trail:  Section 4. East Corner, part1

The Trail:  Section 5. East Corner, part2

The Trail:  Section 6. East Corner, part3

The Trail:  Section 7. Walmgate Bar                       [maps 5]

The Trail:  Section 8. South Corner, part1

The Trail:  Section 9.South Corner, part2

The Trail:  Section 10. South Corner, part3

The Trail:  Section 11. Micklegate Bar                    [maps 6]

The Trail:  Section 12. West Corner, part1

The Trail:  Section 13. West Corner, part2

Wall Trail: Appendix

Walls Trail: History & Time Line                                 [map 2]

Walls Trail: Glossary, Maps & Credits

Walls Trail: Contents & Links



 AF / SM (text)    UPDATED    13 July 2023Long Top Banner with text

Layout, text and all content is copyright to the Friends of York Walls.
Any comments, errors/corrections, etc.  to   walks@yorkwalls.org.uk


%d bloggers like this: