Kirkgate: The Victorian Street
Our world-famous Victorian street reopened in June 2012 with more to see and explore of the life of the rich and poor – with new backstreets, authentic York businesses and thousands more goods on display.
Originally built in 1938, Kirkgate is a recreated Victorian street which has become the most iconic part of York Castle Museum and its schoolroom, police cell, Hansom cab and cobbled street surface all remain.
New research means that every single shop on the street is now based on a real York business, all of which operated here between 1870 and 1901. Our costumed guides can tell you more about each shop when you arrive…
Visit shops, like Banks Music, Sessions Printers and Terry’s sweet shop, which are names still operating today; others are within living memory for many residents like Leak and Thorp Drapers shop.
See fascinating goods for sale which have disappeared from our high streets today from Cooper’s Saddlers, Horsley’s Gunsmiths, Cooke’s Scientific Instruments and Edward Allen Taxidermist….
Other more familiar shops give the chance to compare with today’s fashions – The Little Dust Pan Ironmongers, Kendrick’s Toy Dealers and Fancy Repositry and the Plummer Sisters Milliners.
Some sold to the rich, like George Britton’s grocers, importers of fine teas and coffees; others like Thomas Ambler’s grocers to the working class. Some did both – John Saville, Pharmaceutical Chemist, would sell to leading citizens but also worked as a surrogate doctor to the poor.
A new alleyway off Kirkgate, called Rowntree Snicket, aims to portray the poverty of Victorian York.
It includes a working class home and and was inspired by Seebohm Rowntree’s famous survey of York’s poor, which led to his ground-breaking report, Poverty: A Study of Town Life, published in 1901.
Meet our seven York characters in the new Cocoa Room, which is situated down another new alleyway, next to Rymer’s Undertakers, and find out more about their lives in Victorian York in a Magic Lantern show:
Mary Sessions – a widowed shopkeeper, an entrepreneur and a Quaker;
Isaac Dickinson – grew up in a slum, worked at Terry’s, campaigned for shorter hours and helped bake a Royal cake;
Tempest Anderson – a medical doctor, a climber, explorer and local celebrity;
Mabel Smorfit – daughter of a railway worker, school child who did well at her lessons, and a proud owner of a new bicycle;
Thomas Frederick Earnshaw – started work as a child, was a successful apprentice who won a prize for his workmanship and rang the bells at the Minster;
Elizabeth Kidd – a bootmaker’s daughter, housemaid, mental health worker and photographic model;
George Alp – a teenage dad who moved cities to become a policeman, often drunk but commended for catching a thief.
Pick up a copy of our newspaper, The Kirkgate Traders’ Review, and find out more about the shops on the street.
You will also see real Victorian adverts, copied from newspapers and posters in our archives.
Have fun comparing photographs of streets in Victorian York with today’s views and find out more about the stories of the real Kirkgate shopkeepers who lived and worked in the city.
Our fascinating, free app is based on a map of York and can be used on a walk around the city on your iPhone or Android smart phone, or is available on our Kirkgate Victorian Street website to browse through.
- Exclusive Exhibition Events for YMT Card Holders at York Art Gallery, the Yorkshire Museum and York Castle Museum in 2017
- Major Development Being Planned for York Castle Museum
- York Museums Trust Appoint Fundraising Manager
- New Exhibition Confirmed for York Castle Museum - Chocolate: York’s Sweet Past To Open Easter 2017
- Christmas Special of our Relaxed Opening Event at York Castle Museum Planned for 11 December 2016
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