York Minster Gates

Those of you who have been to cathedral cities such as Salisbury or Wells will know that they have doors or gates into their cathedral close or precinct. York Minster used to have one too, entered by four gates. One was Minster Gates West, which used to cross the road from the corner of High Petergate to Lop Lane also known as Little Blake Street. This area was altered in about 1860 to create Duncombe Place. Dean Duncombe was behind this idea to improve the approach to the Minster. Peter Prison, also known as St Peter’s Prison, was also situated by Minster Gates West. This prison dealt with offenders in the Liberty of Minster Yard and had its own officers. The Court was called Hall of Pleas. Jonathan Martin, aka Mad John Martin, was held at this prison after setting fire to the Minster on 2nd February 1829. The second gate was Minster Gates South. The third was Bedern Gate at the Goodramgate end of College Street. The final one was Ogleforth Gate, at the Chapter House Street end of Ogleforth.

Minster Gates West and South have also been called High and Low Minster Gates, respectively. The small lane leading from The Minster to Stonegate is still called Minster Gates. It has also been known as Bookbinders’ or Bokebynder’s Alley or Bookland Lane as the shops have been associated with the book trade or stationery required by clerics attached to the Minster. This street has always been pedestrianised. A row of posts or stulpes were mentioned as far back as 1370. In 1418 Thomas Wardle, a glover, had a lease from the Corporation for a piece of ground in Petergate at “les Stulpes”, for which he paid a rent of 2/- a year in order that he might set up a stall for the sale of his wares. The western side of the alley was the property of the Dean and Chapter. Lamps were first introduced into York in 1687. These included one was at Minster Gates, one at Ouse Bridge and one in Pavement.

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