Walmgate's hidden heritage uncovered

·2-min read
Uncovering the hidden heritage of Walmgate
Uncovering the hidden heritage of Walmgate

The working class history and heritage of two often-overlooked areas of York – Walmgate and Fossgate - will come under the spotlight on Saturday.

Last September York Civic Trust led a series of guided walks around the two areas to discover their ‘hidden heritage’.

The walks took in everything from hidden architectural details and unexpected views of the Foss to discussion of everything from the Irish community that came to Walmgate in the late 1840s to the slum clearances in the first half of the 20th century – and the cattle market which once stood near where the Barbican Centre now is.

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Horses in the York cattle market in 1914. Picture: Explore York

Local poet Robert Powell gave poetry readings during the tours, and those taking part were encouraged to take photos, jot down notes – and even write poems of their own.

At the end of each walk, there was a discussion in the Hungate reading café for people to swap notes and memories.

Those three walks resulted in a surprising wealth of photos, memories and poems, says Megan McKenna, the York Civic Trust’s communications officer.

“There may not be the Minster or Museum Gardens in this part of York. But there’s a real working class history, and it’s important to keep that alive,” she said.

“It was fantastic to see people out on the streets of York directly engaging with heritage in this way.”

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Detail from the Victorian reredos at St Denys’ Church

The photos, poems and memories which resulted from the walks will form the basis of a two-hour event at St Denys’ Church in Walmgate on Saturday.

Held from 2-4pm, the ‘Voicing the Hidden’ event will include a montage of photos and sketches, plus live poetry readings. There will also be a short film which brings together poetry readings and narratives against the backdrop of more images.

The event will conclude with an open discussion led by award-winning poet Mr Powell, Prof Chris Bailey of the UNESCO Creative City project and civic trust chair Stephen Lusty. There will then - weather permitting - be an outdoor reading of Robert Powell’s own original poem inspired by St George's Churchyard and the supposed grave of Dick Turpin.

Mr Powell said: “Some of York's history is famous and well-known, but lots of it is hidden and anonymous. Imagination, writing, photography and art can help bring this 'hidden' aspect of the past to the surface in exciting ways. I'm really looking forward to seeing what the Civic Trust 'Creative Walk' participants have produced!”

The event is open to all, but places are limited. Email info@yorkcivictrust.co.uk if you would like to take part.

The event will also seek to raise money for the restoration of the beautiful Victorian tiled reredos at St Denys’ Church. You can make a donation on the day, or via the civic trust’s donations page at yorkcivictrust.co.uk/?s=donate