York, YorkshireYork, YorkshireAfter Sheffield I decided to continue on to York the capital of Yorkshire, England's largest county. I had visited here before and enjoyed the town's many historic sites. In fact King George VI once remarked, "The history of York is the history of England". The city has passed through the hands of Romans, Saxons, Vikings, and Normans ... and now it was my turn. Rather than laying waste I lay wasted on my bed. Still the victim of jet lag and a nasty cold. Eventually I was able to get up and about. My favorite hotel, The Dean Court Hotel was not available so I stayed at the York Moat Hotel. Much has been said about it's out of place modern architecture but I found the hotel satisfactory. There were two places that I always visit while in York. One is the National Railway Museum and the other is The Shambles, a street that echoes back to medieval times with the tops of it's buildings almost touching overhead.

York, YorkshireBefore the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD, the area that is now northern England was controlled by a confederation of tribes known as the Brigantes. In 71 AD the governor of Britain, Quintus Petillius Cerialis, sent the 9th Roman legion to invade Brigantes territory. The Romans quickly realized the strategic value of this place at the confluence of the Foss and the Ouse rivers. The legion established a fort on the banks of the Ouse. The fort at Eboracum, or "place of the yew trees" followed the usual Roman system of a grid-like pattern of streets, and public buildings such as the forum and baths. The legionary baths were uncovered during construction work in the 1920s beneath the pub now known as The Roman Bath.

The Emperor Constantine I visited here in 306 but died during his stay.His son, Constantine the Great, founder of Constantinople and the first Christian Emperor of Rome, was proclaimed emperor in York. The traditional site of his crowning is preserved under York Minster. The withdrawal of the Roman legions from York around 410 AD left the city at the mercy of the Anglo-Saxons. Under the Saxons the city was renamed Eoferwic, and it became the capitol of the Saxon kingdom of Deirwa. York enjoyed prosperity and a prominent place in the Anglo-Saxon world, but the tides of fortune were about to turn again with the appearance in the 9th century of a fierce new invader, the Danes. The Vikings changed the name of the city from the Saxon Eoforwic to a more Danish "Jorvik". Although the name of Jorvik did not survive the Viking period, the Danes left a legacy of street names behind them; the suffix "gate" that attaches to so many York streets (such as Micklegate and Skeldergate) is based on the Viking "gata", meaning simply, "street". Eventually the Danes retreated back whence they came.

Fast forward to the Norman invasion when William the Conqueror overcame King Harold and his Anglo-Saxon forces at the Battle of Hastings, he found himself nominally king of England. But he still had to consolidate his control over his new realm. William marched north, putting out small fires of rebellion, but no resistance awaited him at York; indeed he was given the keys to the city on his arrival. The Conqueror made York his base of operations in the north. He expropriated property and divided half amongst his Norman followers and kept half for himself. The magnificent Minster was rebuilt in Gothic style over the years 1220-1482, and the Archbishop of York was second only in religious power and influence to the Archbishop of Canterbury. A full forty other churches were built in the city during the medieval period.

York, YorkshireAt the end of the medieval period York was a centre of power for the Lancastrian cause. As the fortunes of the Wars of the Roses ebbed and flowed, the top of Micklegate Bar was decorated with the heads of leaders killed by first one side then the other. Edward IV never forgave the city for its support of his enemies, and he imposed a harsh rule on York after his eventual triumph. During the Civil War many important buildings in the city were destroyed, but Sir Thomas Fairfax, who was a native of Yorkshire, exerted his influence to spare damage to the city's churches, including York Minster. The Victorian age was the age of the railway in York. The "iron horse" came to York in 1839, brought by the then Lord Mayor, George Hudson. Hudson, dubbed The Railroad King, died disgraced by disclosure of financial improprieties. But York prospered by Hudson's actions; the coming of the railroad allowed the expansion of several local business to national importance, notably Rowntrees Cocoa Works, and Terry's Confectionery Works. These company's along with the railway itself, became the major employers in York. The city became a railway transportation hub for the north, due to its convenient location halfway between London and Edinburgh. Major carriage building and repair yards for the East Coast line sprang up, and workers and their families swelled the city's population. Today York is like a living museum having it's own collection of curios from invader's past. A popular attraction is the Viking excavations though I'm embarrassed to admit I have never seen them, their marketing a little bit too intrusive.


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National Railway Museum
National Railway MuseumGeorge Stephenson is considered to be the inventor of the first steam locomotive engine for railways. Stephenson was extremely poor growing up and received little formal education. He worked in local collieries or coal mines and was self-taught in reading and writing. In 1812, he became a colliery engine builder, and in 1814 he built his first locomotive for the Stockton and Darlington Railway Line. Stephenson was hired as the company engineer and soon convinced the owners to use steam motive power and built the line's first locomotive, the Locomotion. In 1825, Stephenson moved to the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, where together with his son Robert and Henry Rooth built (1826-29) the Rocket.

National Railway MuseumIn 1829, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway offered a prize of 550 Pounds Sterling to any company or individual who could build a locomotive that would weigh less than six tons and could pull a load of 20 tons at a rate of ten miles per hour. Of the five engines entered in the October 1829 trials, only the Rocket completed the course, exceeded all the requirements and performed without incident. For this achievement, the L & M bought the Rocket from Stephenson and soon thereafter ordered four more for their passenger service between Liverpool and Manchester, thus providing the first rail passenger service in the world. A copy of the Rocket is now on display at the National Railway Museum in York which I had the pleasure to visit for the second time.

Besides a wonderful display of rolling stock the museum has opened up its workshop as well as backroom collection. There you can find many models of railroads and a vintage layout used to teach railroad operation.


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