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Queen Margaret's Arch
Queen Margaret's Arch (aka Bootham Postern, York) was built in 1497 to provide a more convenient entrance for the Abbot’s house (now known as the King’s Manor).
The wall around St Mary's Abbey was built as a relatively low boundary wall in 1266, but it was strengthened shortly after 1318 when the King granted the Abbot a 'license to crenellate' (probably in response to the capture of Berwick by the Scots). At this time, there was no direct access (suitable for use by horse and carriage) between the Abbey grounds and Bootham, although there may have been a small postern doorway somewhere near Bootham Bar. In 1497, a new gateway and associated Postern Tower (see Images 1 & 2) were inserted into the Abbey wall opposite Gillygate. According to a letter written to Abbot Senhouse by Thomas Gray (the Mayor of York from February 1497 to February 1498), this new gateway was constructed so that
the Kyng . . . in his noble viage toward Scotland wuld rest within your monastery and for his pleasure and passage to the mynster
In other words, the new gateway would provide the King (and the Abbot) with a less circuitous ceremonial route between the Abbot's house and York Minster.
The new gateway was and is known as Bootham Postern. However, it is more commonly referred to as Queen Margaret's Arch, in honour of Princess Margaret (aka Margaret Tudor) who was the eldest daughter of the English King Henry VII and Elizabeth of York. Records show that, following her betrothal to King James IV of Scotland, Princess Margaret stayed at the Abbot’s house in York between the 13th and 15th of July 1503 while en-route to Scotland.
The stone archway is 10 ft. 7 ins. high and it was originally fitted with a pair of inward opening doors. The adjacent 7 ft. high pedestrian arch was added in 1836 (see Image 3).