The Shambles, York’s most iconic street, is one of the best-preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe. It is also the oldest shopping street in Europe and was even mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086.
This former street of butchers’ shops is still home to the wide windowsills, where cuts of meat were displayed, exterior wooden shelves, where the meat was served and hooks from which it was hung. It is said to have gained its name from the ‘shammels’ benches used by the butchers.
The Shambles is just one of York’s many quaint streets and snickleways with curious names such as Mad Alice Lane. This particular street was made narrow by design in order to keep the meat out of direct sunlight.
In Medieval times, The Shambles would have been noisy, chaotic and littered with offal and discarded bones; conditions which likely contributed to the many outbreaks of the plague that periodically erupted in the city.
Today the buildings have been restored and converted into quaint shops and cafeterias, along with one remaining butcher’s shop.
The quirky, cobbled lane was named the ‘Most Picturesque Street’ in the first Google Street View awards and is said to have been the inspiration for the Harry Potter movies’ Diagon Alley.
- York tourist information book
- Information signs in York