The Shambles is often called Europe's best preserved medieval street, although the name is also used to collectively refer to the surrounding maze of narrow, twisting lanes and alleys as well. The street itself is mentioned in the Domesday Book, so we know that it has been in continuous existence for over 900 years.
The Shambles has the effect of a time machine, transporting you back to the Elizabethan period. The houses that jostle for space along The Shambles project out over the lane in their upper stories, as if trying to meet their neighbours opposite.
In some places the street is so narrow that if you stand with arms outstretched you can touch the houses on both sides.
Shop in The Shambles - note the
window sills where goods were
displayed in the medieval period
The name "Shambles" comes from the Saxon "Fleshammels", which means, "the street of the butchers", for it was here that the city's butcher's market was located. Notice the wide window sills of the houses; the meat for sale was displayed here.
The butcher's shops have now been replaced with shops catering to visitors, including jewelry and antiques; indeed, the Shambles is now one of the premier shopping areas in the city of York.
One building of note in The Shambles is the home of Margaret Clitherow. She was arrested in 1586 on the charge of harbouring Catholic priests. To make matters worse, she had regular Masses said in her house, and hid clergy vestments there.
The authorities condemned her to death by pressing (crushing beneath a heavy weight). Margaret Clitherow was canonized in 1970, and her home is now a shrine.
Margaret Clitherow's house