One of the things we take for granted in York, but which perhaps seems strange to anyone not from the north, is the way street names here often end in ‘gate’. ‘Gate’ comes from the Norse ‘gata’ meaning street, and is a lasting legacy of the Viking occupation of the north. So in York, as any tour guide will tell you, the streets are called gates, while the gates to the city are called bars.
As in the 16th century, Goodramgate leads from Monk Bar into the centre of the city. Unlike other important streets in the Roman city, it is crooked rather than straight. Angelo Raine, in his magisterial study of the topography of medieval York suggest that Goodramgate ‘may have originated in a trackway over the rubble of the destroyed Roman Fortress from the south gate to the breach in the Fortress wall where, later, Monk Bar was built.’ To me, this is an evocative picture of the crumbling city after the Romans abandoned Britain, but I have no idea how much archaeological evidence there is to support it.
Certainly by Hawise’s time, Goodramgate had become a major thoroughfare, more usually known as Gutheromegaite or Gotheramgate then, although I have kept the modern spelling in Time’s Echo. Although rich and poor tended to live side by side at this period, it’s still significant that one of the few non citizens mentioned in the wardmote court records, Sir William Fairfax, knight, had a house in Goodramgate in 1579.
Alderman Birkby also lived in Goodramgate. Householders were required to keep the street in front of their properties clean and paved, and in April 1575, Mr Birkby was ordered to pave before ‘his howse and gardyng’ there. He was fined 3s.4d. the following October because he hadn’t done so, and the wardmote juries were still insisting that he look after his paving in April 1577. In October 1582, he and Thomas Wadlyer were required to pave the channel, or gutter, in Goodramgate before their doors, as can be seen in the first entry of this page of the Wardmote Court Book (p.182)
We know about some other individuals who lived in Goodramgate when Time’s Echo is set. Mr Smythe’s neighbours complained in November 1585 that he kept pigs, while a surgeon called John Watson was fined 40d. in April 1583 for keeping three couples ‘of men & women’ in one tenement. Thomas Wilson, Leonard Williamson and Robert Cowper were likewise fined the not inconsiderable sum of 40s in May 1584 because they had extended the stalls in front of their shops out as far as the overhanging first floor of the houses which were known as jetties. This encroached on the public space of the street, and they were ordered to pull down the offending structure on pain of a further whopping £5 fine.
* YCA E31, p.183 reproduced by kind permission of City of York Council Archives and Local History. www.york.gov.uk/archives