‘Shambles’ is one of York’s most famous streets and attracts thousands of visitors each year including as part of the Yorkshire Trail. The overhanging timber-framed buildings of Shambles date back to the late 14th and 15th century (around 1350-1475) with the street itself dating back even further – there is mention of it in William the Conquerors Doomsday Book from 1086.
This stunning little cobbled street was originally full of houses and butchers shops many of which had their own slaughter houses to the rear. It was back then known as ‘The Great Flesh Shambles’ – possibly from the Anglo-Saxon word Fleshammels which literally meant ‘flesh-shelves’. Fleshammels was the word for the shelves that the butchers used to display their meat. The meat would have hung outside and been laid out on the window sills for sale. Butchers hooks can still be seen attached to the shop fronts. At this time there were no sanitary facilities or hygiene laws as there are today and raised pavements on either side formed channels for the butchers to wash away their waste blood and offal twice a week. There are records showing that as recently as 1872 there were twenty-five butchers’ shops on the Shambles. The last butchers to trade on the Shambles was Dewhurt’s at number 27.
Among today’s buildings there is a shrine to Margaret Clitheroe who was married to one of the butchers of Shambles. This house is open to the public where the full story of Margaret Clitheroe can be read. You can also find more information here http://www.sacred-destinations.com/england/york-margaret-clitherow-shrine.htm
Today Shambles is better known for its array of souvenir shops, tourist attractions, cafes and restaurants and is often called Europe’s best preserved medieval street. As it is in Britain’s most haunted City Shambles is included in many of the ghost walks and historic tours of the city, no trip to York would be complete without paying this beautiful historic street a visit.