Northern Powerhouse: Exploring Medieval York

Dr Emma Wells
A one-day tour discovering the history and most notorious residents of Medieval York
Dr Emma Wells

Tour Dates

19/02/2022 Book

Northern Powerhouse: Exploring Medieval York

Departs: Saturday 19 February 2022 
Where: York

In this one-day Specialist Walking Tour of York, you’ll be guided by historian Dr Emma Wells around the Medieval and Tudor highlights, discovering the city’s most notorious residents.

We discuss life in the Middle Ages, Medieval Monasticism and the Tudor impact on religion, bringing to life the most dramatic events with visits to the actual locations where history happened. This is a visceral activity that delivers an experience beyond books, TV and lectures.

This Specialist History Day is a chance to spend a full day with an expert and fellow enthusiasts, diving into a fascinating, historical topic so that you can deepen your knowledge and understanding of life and religion in Medieval York. 

The day begins with an orientation and background introduction from your guide, to set in context the places we will visit on the Tour. 

We’ll start at an indoor venue with teas and coffees, before heading out into the streets of York. Throughout the day questions and comments are encouraged – this is your chance to enjoy you passion with a friendly group that is well-informed and shares your love of the past.

You’ll visit:

  • St Leonard’s Hospital and Hospitium
  • St Mary’s Abbey
  • Kings’ Manor
  • Barley Hall
  • York Minster
  • St Mary's Church
  • Clifford's Tower
  • Lunch at Betty’s Café 

Your guide:

Dr Emma J. Wells is an academic, author, and broadcaster. She is an ecclesiastical and architectural historian as well as public historian, specialising in the late medieval/early modern English parish churches and cathedrals, the saints, pilgrimage and stained glass, to historic buildings in the modern age.

Emma writes often and reviews for newspapers and magazines, including BBC History, History Today, the Times Literary Supplement, History Revealed and BBC Countryfile and is a lively broadcaster and frequent acclaimed public speaker.

Tour Dates

19/02/2022 Book



Meet at York Railway station – brief introduction and context setting from our guide Dr Emma J. Wells as we walk through the walls and to the old railway HQ and hotel.


Medieval York tour. Begin walking across the neo-Gothic iron Lendal Bridge towards St Leonard’s Hospital and Hospitium within Museum Gardens, where we discuss life in the Middle Ages, then onto St Mary’s Abbey for a discussion on religion and specifically medieval monasticism before visiting nearby Kings Manor, the former abbot’s house of St Mary’s abbey and, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the site allocated to the Council of the North, and thus the seat of Northern power (Henry VIII even stayed here).


We end the medieval morning by visiting Barley Hall, a reconstructed townhouse originally built in the fourteenth century and once home to the Priors of Nostell and a Lord Mayor of York.

1.30pm – 2.30pm

Lunch at Betty’s Café

2.30 - 3.30pm

Visit York Minster where we continue the discussion of the Tudor impact on religion by looking at the great South Rose window said to have been created for the union between Elizabeth of York and Henry Tudor, and the changes following the Break with Rome.

We then walk down Petergate to see the house built on the site in which Guy Fawkes was born, and the sixteenth-century church opposite (St Michael Le Belfry) where he was baptised in 1570, before heading down York’s most famous cobbled street with its overhanging timber gambles: The Shambles, where we visit St Margaret Clitherow’s Shrine.
Known as ‘the pearl of York’, she was one of England’s greatest Roman Catholic martyrs and here we discuss persecution in the Tudor era.

We then head to St Mary’s Church, Castlegate and enter to continue the discussion of religious persecution through the centuries. Here, we travel back in time to see the walled-up tunnel which York’s twelfth-century Jewish population used to flee an angry mob who had trapped them in the tower of the nearby Castle—one of the worst anti-Semitic massacres of the medieval era.

3.30 - 4.30pm

We visit the remains of York’s castle, Clifford’s Tower. This former prison and royal mint was also the site of the execution of Robert Aske, the rebel leader of the northern Pilgrimage of Grace, who was hanged in chains from the tower walls in 1536.


Return to York station