The Shambles—York’s Famous Medieval Street
We can learn a lot about the history of a place just from its name.
“Shambles” is an archaic term for an open-air slaughterhouse and meat market.
Aptly named The Shambles, this beautiful medieval cobbled street in York was once lined with butcher’s shops and stalls, or benches, for displaying meat known as “Shamels” in Anglo-Saxon.
As you walk down the ancient street and look up, the overhanging timber-framed buildings—some dating from the 14th century—appear to almost touch in places.
Jettying was a building technique used in medieval times in which the upper floors projected beyond the lower floors, thus increasing available space without obstructing the street.
It had the added benefit of not raising property taxes, which were based on the ground floor area.
In 1872, there were twenty-five butchers’ shops lining the street, but now there are none.
Today, the Shambles is a wonderful place to stroll, to shop, and to eat.
Quaint little shops, cafes, tea rooms, and restaurants line the street—winner of Google’s Most Picturesque Street in Britain for 2010.
And with street signs like this, you won’t have to worry about losing your way.
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Several “snickelways” lead off the Shambles. In his book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, author Mark W. Jones coined the word Snickelway from the words snicket (a passageway between walls or fences), ginnel (a narrow passageway between or through buildings), and alleyway (a narrow street or lane).
Take a little snickelway off the shambles called “Little Shambles” (they thought of everything), and you walk into Shambles Market, a historic and vibrant open-air market complete with fresh produce, unique crafts and essential merchandise. Sample the street food and enjoy courtesy seating and even Wi-Fi!
The Shambles Street View. Take a virtual walk back in time to medieval York.