History of York

Situated on the River Ouse, York evolved from Eboracum, a Roman city and military base established at the end of the 1st century AD. York later became a Saxon settlement before falling to Viking invaders from Denmark in 837, when it was called Jorvik.

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, William the Conqueror built two castles along the River Ouse at York. The one on the east bank was destroyed during a riot in 1190, but its stone replacement, Clifford's Tower, still stands in York.

York Minister was started in the 13th century and is the largest cathedral in Britain and contains a considerable amount of Medieval stained glass.

At the first census in 1801, the population of York was 16,000. It was an important market and commercial centre, with wharves on the River Ouse that connected it to Hull. Economic growth in the city increased rapidly after the arrival of the railways.

The North Midland Railway linked York to Leeds and Derby in 1839. The following year the York & North Midland Railway established a line from London to York. By 1845 the line northward had reached Edinburgh. York was now established as the most important junction on the east coast route to Scotland. In 1842 locomotive and rolling stock workshops were built in the city. Eventually it became the main locomotive works for the North Eastern Railway (moved to Darlington in 1905).

George Hudson, the Lord Mayor of York, became known as the Railway King. By 1844 Hudson's companies controlled 1,016 miles of railway track. In 1847 Hudson was accused of financial irregularities and was removed as chairman of the Midland Railway Company. After Hudson was imprisoned in York Castle for non-payment of debts, Hudson Street in York was renamed Railway Street (reverted to Hudson Street in 1971).

With trains arriving in York from all directions, it was decided in 1873 to build a new station in the city. Finished in 1877, the 13 platform York Station was the largest in the world and is considered to be one of the great buildings of Victorian England.

Primary Sources

(1) Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724)

York is a pleasant and beautiful city. The cathedral is a gothic building. The only deficiency I find at York minster, is the lowness of the great tower, or its want of a fine spire upon it, which, doubtless, was designed by the builders.

No city in England is better furnished with provisions of every kind, nor any so cheap, the river being so navigable, and so near the sea, the merchants here trade directly to what part of the world they will. They import wines from France and Portugal, and timber from Norway. They also bring coal from Newcastle and Sunderland.