‘Ghosts, like ladies never speak till spoken to.’
~ Richard Harris Barham
Although the history surrounding the area of Walmgate can be discovered within the Roman and Viking eras – the street of ‘Walbegate’ which first appears in the year 1080 has enjoyed a rich and controversial past.
With its portcullis, oak doors, stone archway and defensive barbican, the street of Walmgate is also home to the City of York’s most complete and iconic gate – the 12th Century Walmgate Bar and which would in 1644 become the focus for the Siege of York.
As one of the most important streets in York, the history of Walmgate has been dominated by an impressive number of churches, including St Margaret’s and St Denys, housing the rich and powerful, cattle fairs and sea fish markets, an almshouse and chantry school, slaughterhouses and a huge number of pubs!
By the 1840s, Walmgate also became the magnet for the many Irish immigrants who left Ireland during the potato famine and overcrowding and poverty quickly became rife.
With a labyrinth of passageways from Walmgate to the many brothels hidden away in the tiny streets and yards of the Hungate area and along with its proclivities for drink, disease and destitution – Walmgate was considered to have the most notorious reputation by the late Victorian era.
However, with the passing of time and the clearance of the slums – Walmgate now enjoys a reputation for an impressive number of delightful shops, unique architecture, including the Bowes Morrell House and the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall AND also this wonderfully friendly emporium which is home to the SEVENTH Brigante Tomb!
There is also a Regency bridge to saunter across and an array of restaurants to tempt both appetite and purse AND let’s not forget the intriguing legend of the ‘Green Jenny’ who is said to haunt the passageways of an old coaching inn now known as The Watergate Inn.
In the early eighteenth century, there was an additional gated room above the front of the Watergate Inn with an earthen floor and was rumoured to be for the purpose of illegal blood-sports such as cock fighting and rat baiting which had been outlawed in 1835.
And it was around this time that as he walked past this very building, a stableman happened to see a young woman wearing a bright green dress on the staircase which lead to this very room.
Familiar with the illegal sporting activity which went on at the inn, he was very surprised to see a young lady in this part of the building and as she returned his wave of acknowledgement – he initially mistook her for the innkeeper’s wife until he remembered that the young lady was in fact a serving girl called Jenny who had recently died.
The Watergate Inn. Walmgate. York. YO1 9TJ