York Walks /3

Coppergate and Castlegate

Photographed in August 2004

Semi-naked ladies – Coppergate

Detail from Habitat store, formerly Hardings, 1908
Detail: GWH and 1908
Detail from Habitat store, formerly Hardings, 1908

Shocking, isn't it. Ladies without their blouses on, above the back door of Habitat.


Once you've got over the shock of the above, a few more photos follow, from Coppergate and Castlegate. I only noticed most of these things while I was out with my camera, and had never really noticed them before. Apart from the ladies above, of course, as it's hard not to notice them, in all their glory. They've been there about 100 years now, and aren't looking in the slightest bit weathered. Must be made of a very durable material. I should mention that the shop was originally Hardings, as the "GWH" above reminds us.

Window, Galtres Chambers building   Detail, showing 1906 construction date, Galtres Chambers building

Above: on the opposite side of the road from the ladies is this rather nice ornate detail (above right) on a building from a similar period. Dated 1906, this is, apparently, Galtres Chambers. Or was. Not sure who is in the building now, and forgot to check, as I was distracted by this rather handsome window on ground floor level, near the entrance. I did notice the empty bottle on the windowsill, but left it in the photo as I'm trying to present an honest view of York, as much as possible. Though I do have a constant battle with wheelie bins, and try to miss those off the photos. Difficult, as they're everywhere. Expect a Wheelie Bins page very soon.

Colby Chambers, erected 1904   Modern building, Coppergate, 'LCC, 1986'

I noticed only recently that many of the buildings on Coppergate have inscriptions, above eye-level, showing the date they were built. The shop that is now home to Habitat was, it tells us, built in 1908, Galtres Chambers in 1906, and (above left) Colby Chambers in 1904. Once I was paying attention to this higher level I noticed that even the newer building, housing Dorothy Perkins, has a date inscription (above right). It was built in 1986, and proudly proclaims it, stating its credentials just like the other buildings in this street. I thought this was a nice touch – architects obviously pay attention to these kinds of details.

View of Habitat store on Coppergate  

After shocking everyone with a close-up of the detail on the Habitat building, I thought I should include a wider view of the frontage on Coppergate, as it is so handsome and distinctive. Art Nouveau, apparently, though I'm sure you all realised that already.

The most well-known feature of Coppergate is the Coppergate Centre, which I haven't photographed. It is of course the home to the famous Jorvik Viking Centre, which is on the site of an archaeological dig. The dig took place in the 1970s, and my sister was one of the people who worked on it for a while as a volunteer.

When I read C B Knight's book on York, written in the 1950s, I noticed how he paid little attention to Coppergate, despite covering the history of other streets in detail. This was, of course, because he was writing a couple of decades before the Viking remains were discovered in Coppergate. It makes you realise how much is probably still under our feet, unknown and undiscovered. Some of the streets we now see as dull and not worth our attention might contain the site of a future major tourist attraction.


St Mary's, Castlegate, and more recent buildings   Castlegate view, featuring Fairfax House

Castlegate joins Coppergate at one end, but here we're viewing its other end, where the famous Fairfax House stands, just before the street opens out by Clifford's Tower.

Here on Castlegate is St Mary's Church, the spire of which is a landmark for a fair distance around.

On the left of the photo (above) is a new hotel and bar development, with Fairfax House on the right. I liked the contrast of the three buildings from different periods.

  Fairfax House and old cinema entrance
Former cinema entrance, Castlegate   Cinema entrance – detail

Next to Fairfax House was a cinema, whose entrance seems to have been retained, as it's rather ornate and impressive. The two facades are obviously from very different periods, but they fit together really nicely. I have to say I only realised this summer that this was an old cinema, even though there's a very clear plaque on the wall that tells you.

I should also mention that before Clifford Street – running parallel – was constructed in the 19th century, this street of Castlegate was the main route through to the York Castle area. I haven't got a view of the street yet, but it is very narrow, and makes you realise how everything used to be on a much smaller scale, before we had to fit in trams, cars, lorries and buses.

Related pages:
Clifford Street, running parallel, home to the law courts and other impressive 19th century buildings
Clifford's Tower (York Castle), visited in York Walks /1.