The Victorian Walls

The most sustained period of construction works for 600 years took place in the 19th century.

Robin Hood Tower

A good example of what the Victorians thought a medieval tower should look like can be found at the north angle of the defences behind the Minster.

This tower has been known by a variety of names: the Bawing Tower in 1370, Frost Tower in 1485 and Robin Hood Tower in 1622. The present tower was built in 1888-9. It is circular, with eight cruciform arrow slits in two neatly staggered rows. The outside is faced with neat limestone blocks and the inside is built from concrete reinforced with tram-rails used as girders! It was last repaired in 2007.

Victoria Bar

Victoria Bar was opened in 1838 because of the increased population in the Nunnery Lane area.The inscription above the central arch reads: ‘Victoria Bar, erected by public subscription under the direction of the city commissioners. AD 1838 George Hudson Esq. Lord Mayor’.

The Railway Arches

The fact that the main railway line from London to Durham, Newcastle and Edinburgh passed through York was an important boost to the city’s infrastructure and to maintaining the importance of York in the 19th century.

The railway’s arrival had a dramatic impact on the walls, too. The first railway station was built immediately outside the city walls. It opened on 29 May 1839. But the railway company, the North Midland and Great North of England Railway, felt that being outside the walls was not good for business and so, two years later, they opened a new station and offices inside the city walls.

A stretch of the city walls and the rampart it sits upon was demolished and taken away in 1839-40, to allow trains to enter the station and the wall-walk was then restored by constructing large arches over the railway track. Initially only one arch was built. But traffic grew and more lines were needed so a second arch was added in 1845. These arches, funded by George Hudson, the ‘Railway King’, were carefully designed to match the walls.

Next: The Walls Today