The Shambles: One of Britain’s best preserved Medieval streets

 
 
 
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Located in the heart of the city of York, England, the Shambles is an old medieval street, often called Europe’s best preserved, with overhanging timber-framed buildings, some dating back as far as the fourteenth century.

The ancient street of the Butchers of York. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2
The ancient street of the Butchers of York. Photo Credit1 Photo Credit2

 

The Shambles gives a sense of the medieval town where buildings leaned toward each other across narrow streets. Photo Credit
The Shambles gives a sense of the medieval town where buildings leaned toward each other across narrow streets. Photo Credit

The word Shambles originates from the Medieval word Shamel, meaning ‘slaughterhouse’.

The Shambles was once also known as “The Great Flesh Shambles,” probably from the Anglo-Saxon word Fleshammels (literally ‘flesh-shelves’).

The Shambles was historically a street of butchers shops and houses and the word was used for the shelves that butchers used to display their meat.

One of the most visited in Europe. Photo Credit
One of the most visited in Europe. Photo Credit

 

The street was once known to be a row of butchers shops complete with slaughter houses. Photo Credit
The street was once known to be a row of butchers shops complete with slaughter houses. Photo Credit

 

Many houses had slaughterhouse at the back of the premises and shops at the front. Photo Credit
Records state that in 1872 there were 26 butchers on the street. Photo Credit

In 1862 there were 26 butcher shops on this street. The way the pavements on either side of the street are raised up was done to create a channel which the butchers would wash away their waste through.

Offal and blood would gush down the lane twice weekly.

Although the butchers have now vanished, a number of the shops on the street still have meat hooks hanging outside and, below them, shelves on which meat would have been displayed.

It is still possible to see some of the original butcher’s meat-hooks attached to the shop fronts.

It was rebuilt about 1400, when it assumed its present character. Photo Credit
It was rebuilt about 1400 when it assumed its present character. Photo Credit

 

Today the butchers are long gone, but this narrow cobbled lane, lined with 15th-century Tudor buildings. Photo Credit
Today the butchers are long gone, but this narrow cobbled lane, lined with 15th-century Tudor buildings. Photo Credit

Among the buildings of the Shambles is a shrine to Saint Margaret Clitherow, who was married to a butcher who owned and lived in a shop there at No. 10 Shambles.

The butcher's shops have now been replaced with shops catering to visitors, including jewelry and antiques. Photo Credit
The butcher’s shops have now been replaced with shops catering to visitors, including jewelry and antiques. Photo Credit

 

In 2010, the Shambles won the award for Britain's Most Picturesque Street by the Google Street Team in an online vote. Photo Credit
In 2010, the Shambles won the award for Britain’s Most Picturesque Street by the Google Street Team in an online vote. Photo Credit

Today it features great shops, cafes, restaurants and tourist attractions.

Another interesting Medieval story from us: Medieval animal trials in Europe – A pig sentenced to death by hanging for murder

The unique beauty of The Shambles has been recognized and awarded the title of the most picturesque street in Britain in the Google Street View Awards after more than 11,000 cast their vote.