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Walmgate Bar

Walmgate Bar is the most complete of York's fortified gateways and the only one to retain its barbican. The latter still bears the scars of the Civil War.

Walmgate Bar was built to control access into the city via the main road from the southwest, a route that follows the alignment of a Roman military road.

The oldest part of the structure is the main gateway arch at ground floor level, at least part of which dates from the mid-12th century. At this time, the defences on either side of the gate consisted of a parallel ditch and bank, with a wooden pallisade running along the top of the bank.

The gateway was significantly modified during the 14th century, when its height was increased, the barbican was added and the adjacent city walls were constructed. (The barbican is the stone-built projection with additional gate that extends outwards from the southeast elevation of the main gate - see Images A1 & A2).

The royal coat of arms of King Henry V (1406 - 1422) has been set into the stonework on the southeast elevation of the main gateway building (see Image B1). This suggests that the structure may have been repaired or further modified during this period.

The structure was damaged by fire during the 'Yorkshire Rebellion' of 1489.

The surviving pair of oak gates (one of which contains a wicket door - see Image B2) are bellieved to date from the 15th century.

The rear of the structure was significantly modified during the 16th century (circa 1585) when the building was converted into a house / lodging for the local constabulary. The timber-framed rear portion (see Image 3) is believed to date from this period.

In 1644, the structure was damaged by cannon fire during the Civil War 'siege of York'. A series of musket ball holes / bullet holes can still be seen in the Bar's stonework, as can a noticable dip in the north-eastern wall of the barbican. Significant repairs were carried between 1645 and 1648.

During the last decade of the 18th century, John Browne (who became well known as an artist and historian for York Minster) was born in - and grew-up living in - the residential quarters on the first and second floors of Walmgate Bar. For further information, see the background article 'A brief introduction to John Browne and his illustrations of York Minster'.

As proclaimed by an inscribed panel set into the gatehouse wall (see Image B3), the structure was 'restored' in 1840. The adjacent large archway through the city wall (not visible in the images above) was created in 1861-2 to speed-up the flow of traffic into and out of the city. The structure was rennovated again in both 1959 and 2015.

Although Walmagate Bar lies a significant distance from the city centre (between half a mile and a mile, depending on the route taken), it is well worth making the effort to view this rare and fascinating structure. When viewed from outside the city walls (see Image A1), it retains a distinctly medieval feel (if one ignores the traffic). However, when viewed from within the city walls (see Image A3), the structure has a distinctly Elizabethan feel.

Practical Information

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Location Information (Where is . . . ?)

Walmgate Bar
Walmgate
York
North Yorkshire

 
Coordinates
Latitude: 53.955187000000
Longitude: -1.070832000000

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Other practical information

The most direct route to Walmgate Bar from the city centre is via Fossgate and Walmgate. However, the most interesting and attractive route is via the Wall Walk (see Image A4).

Access steps between road level and the Wall Walk are provided on either side of Walmgate Bar. The wall-top walkway does NOT pass through the building. When walking this section of the wall-top walkway, it is necessary to descend a set of steps to road level, cross the road (carefully), then climb the steps on the other side.

The building houses an excellent coffee shop. During opening hours, customers can view the interior of the building (including the portcullis, which is now permanently secured in the raised position). Weather permitting, customers can also access the barbican walkway (see Image A2) and the new roof terrace.