Monument record MYO4229 - York City Walls (Fishergate Bar)


The Fishergate Bar was burnt in 1489 and the archway bricked up. So little has survived that event and the restoration of 1826-7 that it is impossible to say what form the original bar took. Now a single storey gateway. The remains of the bar were used as a gaol during the 17th century.


Grid reference Centred SE 6078 5127 (8m by 4m) (2 map features)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (8)

Full Description

Fishergate Bar (Pl. 48; Figs. p. 150, below) is first mentioned in the Custody of 1315, at a date when the stone curtain wall E. of the Foss had not yet been begun. The chamfered plinth of the wall erected in 1345 between the Foss opposite the castle and this Bar returns along the outer side of the W. abutment of the Bar, showing that a stone gateway was built or rebuilt at this time, but nothing demonstrably of the period now survives above plinth level. The 'right-hand gate of Fishergate', presumably the W. side passage, is mentioned in 1422. (fn. 35) A rent of 4d. was paid in 1440/1 (fn. 36) for a 'small stone house over the bar'. In 1442/3 20½ tons of stone were brought to the Bar from St. Andrew's Landing at a cost of 4s., and 10d. was paid for three measures of lime. (fn. 37) This indicates a work of some import ance and probably refers to the existing gate which has side passages flanking the main archway, a design unlikely to be earlier than the late 14th century, though whether the structure is all of one date is difficult to determine. In 1449–50 a new iron-bound wooden gate was made for the Bar at a cost of 25s. 8d. and three chains were bought. (fn. 38)

¶On 15 May 1489 rebels led by Sir John Egremont and John Chambers burned Walmgate and Fishergate Bars, and Alderman Thomas Wrangwysh, warden of Walmgate ward, was reprimanded for negligence in repairing and defending the two gates. (fn. 39) Fishergate Bar was blocked as a result of the damage sustained. In 1495 a certain Joan Milner with other women of loose character was illegally occupying a tower there. (fn. 40) In 1491 and 1495 the highway leading to the blocked gateway was being damaged by the digging of pits; since one of the offenders was Friar William Bewyk, surveyor of works at the castle and lessee of Castlegate Postern, these may have been sawpits. (fn. 41)
On 10 March 1502 the City Council decided 'that ther shalbe a substancial posterne maide at Fyschergate whiche now is closed up, an by reason therof aswell the stretts and beldyngs within the wallez as without ar clerly decayed and gon down', (fn. 42) but no action seems to have been taken to reopen the Bar. On his visit in about 1536 Leland found it still blocked: 'Fysscher Gate stoppid up sins the communes burnid it yn the tyme of King Henry the 7.' (fn. 43) Towers near the Bar, possibly the 'stone houses' of earlier documents, continued to be leased, (fn. 44) but in 1584 the Council resolved that 'the poore folkes in the late barre called Fishergate barre shalbe forthwith avoided, and the same to be maid a howse of correction'. (fn. 45) Expenditure for that year includes payments 'to the foure bedells for clensing the houses for presons at beanhills, 12d.' and for fitting locks and bars. (fn. 46) Beanhills was an area outside the Bar, which itself came to be known by this name, 'Bean Hills alias Fishergate Barr'. (fn. 47)

Conditions in this prison for Margaret Luetie, a recusant, in 1594 are described by another prisoner: 'a little tower in a stone wall, low upon the moist ground, where venomous vermin doth breed, very dark, having no light but a little loop-hole in the wall'. (fn. 48) The prison was used for those possibly infected by plague and for lunatics from 1598 to 1633. (fn. 49) In 1638 the building of a pesthouse there was contemplated. (fn. 50) An inspection was made in 1674 of 'the old Barr adjoyninge on Beane hill' to see if stone from it could be used to repair the Staith. (fn. 51) In 1699 stone from 'the Bar or the Tower Arch out of Fishergate posterne', probably meaning this gateway, was to be granted for rebuilding Castle Mills Bridge in stone. (fn. 52)

Drawings by Place of c. 1675 show that the gate was then flanked on each side by a rectangular tower rising above the city wall, and 'E.B.'s 'South East Prospect of York' of 1718 seems to show a tower here. These flanking towers may have risen from the existing projecting blocks of masonry containing the side passages, although they seem from the drawings to have been larger. By 1790, however, the Bar, although still blocked with a brick wall, looked much as it does now. Reopening was discussed intermittently from 1791, (fn. 53) and it was finally unblocked and restored in the autumn of 1827, when flights of steps to the wall walk were also added. (fn. 54) Drawings by John Carter of 1790, (fn. 55) by Joseph Halfpenny of 1807, (fn. 56) by Henry Cave of 1813, (fn. 57) and by George Nicholson of 1827 (fn. 58) show the Bar before and during the reopening. One of the inscriptions set up by Sir William Todd, presumably the one granted in 1818 to George Todd, (fn. 59) was given in 1858 to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society. (fn. 60) The Bar was restored in 1961. In modern documents it is sometimes called George Street Bar or Postern.

Architectural Description. Fishergate Bar consists of a large round-headed 15th-century archway abutted by rectangular blocks of masonry, through which passages run, projecting beyond the main archway both externally and internally. The side passages have flat lintels and roofs supported on continuous chamfered corbel courses and stepping up towards the rear of the Bar. The W. side door, when open, folded back into a recess, which still remains in the W. wall of the passageway. A stub of wall projecting E. from the outer face of the E. abutting block and 10 ft. in front of the city wall is apparently part of a rectangular tower once flanking the gateway; a return in the city wall suggests that it was 22 ft. long. The plinth of the city wall returns along the W. side of the W. abutting block, but the wall above it appears to be 19th-century, and a drawing of 1829 shows it without a parapet.

The main archway of the Bar has a portcullis slot, rounded below the arch springing, set between two chamfered orders. This slot resembles that in the main gatehouse of Kirby Muxloe Castle, built in 1480–4. Some of the stonework of the main arch, especially on the E., is discoloured by fire. Over the archway is a narrow and inaccessible platform with a plain parapet; in the centre of the latter is a through stone carved on each side with the arms of the City of York above an inscription. This stone has been reset, since the inner side would have been obscured by the portcullis. The inscription on the outer face (Pl. 48) reads: 'A. dni. mcccc / lxxx vii Sr. Willm. / Tod Knyght + / mayre this wal / was mayd in his / days lx yardys'; on the inner face 'A. Do. mccc / c l xxx vii Willm. / Todde, Knyght / mayre of this citie'.

The panel in the Yorkshire Museum, removed from the Bar or near by (Pl. 48), has the remains of two figures under a projecting canopy, on the left a man in civilian dress standing and facing outwards, and on the right a kneeling figure in profile. On the canopy are two shields each bearing a merchant's mark. Inscribed at the level of the shoulders of the figures is 'lx yerdis of length' and below the group 'Ao. dn~i M CCCC lxxxvii Sir Will. / Tod mair [Knight &] long tyme was / Schyrife dyd thys cost hy~selfe'.

The wall W. of Fishergate Bar is neatly faced with well squared stones evenly coursed above the plinth. It stands 6 ft. 8 ins. high externally and is 7 ft. thick at the base. This stretch is apparently that built by Thomas de Staunton according to the contract of 1345.

¶The rampart here is low and has probably been reduced in size, and a steeper slope to the Foss has been obscured by a build-up of the ground level. The rampart rises again to the S. angle at the corner of Fishergate and Paragon Street where it forms a triangular salient projecting S. for 100 ft. Skaife's map of 1864 shows a scarp continuing the E.-W. line of the rampart across the base of the salient. The resemblance of this earthwork to a regular 16th or 17th-century bastion is apparently fortuitous since the wall standing on it seems to be that built in 1345, and it may be a modification of the earthwork defences made in the 13th century.

Tower 38 (NG 60735127) is rectangular, 7½ ft. wide and projecting 5½ ft. The interior is hollow with walls about 1¾ ft. thick, but there are now no openings into it. The tower has been added to the curtain wall, since the plinth of the latter continues behind it, though the plinths and the stone coursing of both are alike.


SE60785127] Fishergate Bar [GT]. (1)

Fishergate Bar was burnt in 1489 during an insurrection and the archway blocked up. So little has survived that event and the restoratin of 1826-7 that it is impossible to say what form the original structure took. (2)

The present bar is modern. See GP AO/63/105/7. (3)

Fishergate Bar incorporating earlier gate c1440, blocked 1489-1827, restored 1961. 1-storey gateway. Truncated wall finished with plain parapet with sloped coping has round carriage arch of 2 chamfered orders with portcullis slot: on each side are weathered block buttresses pierced by foot passages with corbelled lintels. Parapet incorporates through datestone recording construction of 60 yards of the city wall in 1487 by Lord Mayor Sir William Todd, carved with the City of York arms. Listed Grade I. (4)

History of the bargate and architectural of the present structure. (5)


1 Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date) OS 1:1250 1962
2 A history of Yorkshire: the city of York 514 edited by P M Tillott
3 Field Investigators Comments F1 RW Emsley, 04-Jun-1963
4 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest City of York, 14-Mar-1963
5 An inventory of the historical monuments in the City of York. Volume II: the defences 151-3 Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England

NMR Related Objects:

BF061948 York City Wall, York
OP07978 A view presented on a postcard looking towards Fishergate Bar, York from the south with a group of people on bicycles standing infront of the arch

NMR, 2019, NMR data (Digital archive). SYO2214.

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Digital archive: NMR. 2019. NMR data.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (3)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Jan 31 2021 7:05PM


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