The Shambles in York, UK

The “Shambles” is the most photographed street in England!.

The Shambles in York, UK
The Shambles in York, UK

If one street could exemplify York in England, its character, beauty and incredibly rich history, then it is  definitely the Shambles.

Setting foot on the ancient cobbles I was greeted by the bustling hubbub of locals and tourists, it looked like this is THE place to be when you are in York. Even before I entered the famous little street called the Shambles I stopped and admired the quaint timber-framed buildings. These old buildings actually lean into each other over the narrow cobbled road, and some look quite close to falling over.

The Shambles in York, UK
Im in the Shambles!!!

Not only is the Shambles one of York’s most photographed streets, it’s actually one of the most photographed in the word. I immediately saw why everybody who came upon this street would want to photograph it and can imagine that people even travel miles just to do so. The buildings are 600 years old, and although they look like they are a bit unstable they  are still used by York shopkeepers.

The Shambles in York, UK
The beautiful cobbled Shambles
The Shambles in York, UK
This building seriously looks like it is falling over!

The overhanging buildings were actually designed this way and it was not constructed to look decorative, but to solve the purpose of protecting the shop products from the rays of sun or downpours of rain.

In some sections of the Shambles it is possible to touch both sides of the street with your arms outstretched….well for tall people this is possible but it was not possible for me with my short arms.  

 

Today the shops are filled with souvenirs, food and clothes shops but there is a plaque up in the street that announces that this beautiful street was once filled with butchers and that is actually where the name Shambles comes from.

The Shambles in York, UK
I LOVE the Shambles!!

The name “Shambles” used to describe something messy, a jumble, and probably came from the medieval word ‘shammel’ meaning wide wooden bench, such as workbench or worktop. The low windows of the street were originally open-fronted workshops with low down counter tops, many of them used for killing, hanging, butchering and displaying different meats and animals. It is possible to see some of the original butchers meat-hooks attached to some of the shop fronts.

The Shambles in York, UK
The Shambles in York, UK

It is quite disturbing to think that the today pretty-looking cobbled road would have, in medieval times, been used to drain blood away from the many butcher’s shops, reportedly 26 lining the street in 1872. Luckily the butchers stalls are long gone, the stone channels to the roadside carry away little more than rainwater from the usual British downpour.

The Shambles in York, UK
The best restaurant in the Shambles!!

I stood in this beautiful historic street and imagined how life on this little cobbled street has changed so dramatically over the years in one of Europe’s oldest and best-preserved medieval locations.  I fell in York the very first time I stepped foot into this medieval street and was lucky enough to visit this beautiful city more than once while living in England.

The Shambles in York, UK
The most photographed street in the UK!!
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22 comments

  1. York is an amazing city. I walk around it and look up, you see so many wonderful details up on the buildings higher than eye level. The Shambles is interesting in that it used to be the street with butcher shops and you can still see meathooks under the ledges and around the windows of some of the shops.

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  2. Very interesting about the derivation of “Shambles.” Modern-day people would recoil in horror, I’m sure, at what cities and villages were really like in those times….specifically the smells!! Thanks for an interesting tour.

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  3. Ah, The Shambles! It must be over 20 years since I have been…. Bet it’s getting even more touristy now…but there’s no denying it’s appeal. Thanks for the memory trip, Janaline! 🙂

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  4. York is such an amazing city! I only live about 30 minutes drive from it but I haven’t been half as much as i should have been. Glad you enjoyed it though.

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