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convoked for Friday, Dec. 2nd, 1332; but several great men, peers and prelates, not having arrived, on account of the foul state of the roads, the opening was adjourned to the following Tuesday.
Prior to the meeting of Parliament, the State officials, having regard to the health of their royal master and of those who should attend the assembly, caused, on Oct. 28th, a mandate to be issued and forwarded to the Mayor and Bailiffs of York, which tersely mentioned the "salubrious" atmosphere of the city.
"The king, detesting the abominable smells abounding in the said city, more than in any other city of the realm, from dung and manure, and other filth and dirt, wherewith the streets and lanes are filled and obstructed, and wishing to provide for the protection of the health of the inhabitants, and of those coming to the present Parliament, orders them to cause all the streets and lanes in the city to be cleansed from such filth before St. Andrew next (Nov. 30), and to be kept clean, so that by their negligence the king and his magnates . .
Unfortunately, the parchment roll is damaged, and the document is incomplete. It probably ended with reciting some grave penalty, or the king's displeasure, if no heed was taken of the royal behest.
The sites of disused churches were not respected, as even they are not at the present day, but formed convenient places for dumping rubbish. On Feb. 14, 1338, the king, Edward III, granted in mortmain, after an inquisition, "to William, Archbishop of York, a void place called Patrik Pole, in the city of York, containing in length towards Thoresday Market 114 ft., and towards Stayngate 80 ft., and in breadth towards Petergate 88 ft., and towards Swyngail 40 ft., lately assigned for divine services, and whereon a church of St. Benedict was in ancient time built, but now lying waste and covered with refuse, for the building of rentable houses to find some perpetual chantries for the good estate of the present king in life, for his soul after death, and for the souls of the Archbishop, William de Grenfield, sometime Archbishop of York, and the faithful departed."
1 Cal. Close Rolls, 6 Edward III.
2 These houses were called Bennet's Rents, or Bennet's Place, a name that still lingers in the neighbourhood.
3 Cal. Patent Rolls, 1338-1340, p. 13.
On the 21st September, 1371, the Mayor and Commonalty of York confirmed an ordinance passed during the mayoralty of John Acastre (1363), to the effect: "That if any dung hill is made the offender is fined each time he leaves it there. And seeing that in the time of rain many of the citizens of the said city throw out dung each in his neighbourhood to the great defiling and nuisance of the said city, it is ordained and decreed that if any citizen of the city throws dirt and refuse in his neighbourhood, he pays to the commonalty xld. for his trespass."1
Another ordinance dealt with nuisances caused by butchers : Item, the same day it is ordained and established that no butcher of the said city or their servants throw refuse or offal that comes from their beasts between the bridge of Ouse and the little staith near the Friars Minor, but that the butchers of the said city make a pier upon the said small staith below the said Friars, and no place besides upon pain of half a mark to pay to the said commonalty, and that no citizen of the city wash skins without hair of oxen or other animals in the said water, between the said Friars and the pier above-said; nor in any other place on either one side of the Ouse or the other, where the water is drawn for brewing or baking, no refuse of pigs or offal or any other noisome stuff shall be thrown into the said water, upon pain of paying to the said commonalty the sum above-mentioned.”2
Before John de Santon, mayor, 9th Feb., 1377, it was agreed and ordained for the honour and profit of the city that the old statutes against placing dunghills in the streets should be enforced: "Item, if any dunghill be found in the high street and [highway] the master of the house by which this dung hill is made shall be fined," and from day to day as long as it remains shall pay id. each day.
The ordinance dealing with offending butchers was re-enacted: Item, if any butcher of the said city, their servants or others whosoever he be, throws or throw offal or refuse or other filthy things that come from beasts upon the bridge of Ouse and beyond into the water there, or in the lanes of the said city, or elsewhere save in the place assigned to them by the mayor of the said city, let him forfeit the vessel from which he throws the offal; and besides, the master whom he serves be fined
1 York Memorandum Book, Surtees, vol. 120, p. lxvi.
2 Ibid., p. lxvii.
vjd. to the commonalty each time ensuing that he shall be found in default. And if any servant of the butchers carry offal and entrails of beasts from the slaughter-house to the water of Ouse uncovered and without a cloth above it, he shall be find sixpence and forfeit the vessel as is above-said."
A statute referring to pigs wandering abroad was also ordained by Mayor Santon.
"Item, if any pig is found going within the said city by night or day, his owner shall pay ivd., or the sergeant and other officer who finds and takes it, as well within the high street [as within the lanes of the said city] shall detain the said pig, and if it pleases he shall kill the said pig at his will, and shall keep the four feet until he be paid the beforesaid four pence. And if pigs or other beasts are found going upon the ramparts of the said city, as well within as without, the owners shall pay for each pig or other beast four pence to the sergeant or other officer."1
To each of the six wards of the city was assigned a sergeant, whose duty was "to get rid of trunks of trees, offal, and refuse, and all other nuisances as before is said."
It is obvious, from recent research, that in mediæval days there were a series of ditches contiguous to and bordering the city walls and ramparts on the inner side, as well as those on the outer side. These ditches were known as the King's Dikes, and formed an additional defence, though, subsequently, they appear to have been appropriated for drainage purposes, and in more recent years they have been filled up and built
It was the custom in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, whenever a dispute arose between the inhabitants relating to drainage easements, or to the rights of property-owners, with regard to their leaden and other gutters, on or near party walls, that carried the rain water off, to employ as assessors or arbitrators the searchers of the three guilds, representing the Masons, the Wrights, and that of the Tilers.
Many of their verdicts are extremely interesting, and are recorded in the City Registers in the possession of the Corporation. The following award very graphically describes old-time sanitary conditions, and also how sewage matter accumulated, and became a nuisance to the church dignitaries who resided within the Minster Close.
1 York Memorandum Book, Surtees, vol. 120, p. lxix.
"Feb., 1419. For als mykill als Maister Thomas Haxey, Tresorer of the Cathedrale Kirk of Seint Peter of York, and other Chanons of the same kirk, compleyned un to the Meir and un to the gude men of the cite of York that the kynge's dyke betwix Bouthum-barr and Munkbarr was so stopped, that the water myght noght hafe issue, for the whilk defaute a close of the erchebisshope was drowned yerly, and also, diverse tymes, thaire gardyns in the self manere, and also thaire halles and thaire houses of office of som of tham; and than, be the assent of the Meir and the chanons and the gude men thay went bathe the partys to gyder to se the defautes, and when thay had seen the defautes, it was accorded and assented be bathe the partys that the sercheours of the masons and of the wryghtes of this cite of York suld ga and see what were ryght for ayther party; and, apon thys, the sercheours was warned that thay suld ga serche and see and do ryght to ayther party, and that thay went and serched, and demed, and awarded that the Tresorer and the person of Seint John kyrk of Pyke gar remove thayre pryves that standys upon the kynge's dyke, and all other also that hafes any pryves standyng thare apon, betwene the barrys beforesayd; and that thay and all other gar clense of thaire costages all the foresayd pryves and rutes, wedys and erthe, that hafes ben casten thar out of thaire gardyns or thayre houses be any of thaire servants, the whilk lettys the water to hafe the ryght issue; and that all dores that opyns apon the dyke be closed, and all the bryggys taken away that na man hafe na entre un to the kynge's walles bot at bathe the endys; and that nane entir, neyther at the endys na ellys whare, to defoule the walles na the motes,1 bot thay that has taken tham to ferme, the whilke sall kylle the herbage that grewys apon the mote."2
Further reference to the "Kynge's dyke" behind the houses in Petergate is contained in an award dated Aug. 20th, 1476 :— "John Burgh, William Stanehouse, William Cole, and Richard Blakelok, seircheours of ye wrightes and tilers within ye citie of Yorke, ye same day above written, come to fore Thomas Wrangwish, Maire & ye chamberleyns, in ye counsell chaumbre uppon Owse brigg, and award & jugement gaffe of a variaunce
1 Mote, a hill or mound on which fortifications were built. The latinised form of the word is mota. Mote meant. originally, a sod or clod of earth used in throwing up embankments. To-day the
citizens speak of the city rampart, as the moat or moats.
2 Reg. Civ. Ebor. AY, 181a, printed in English Miscel.anies (Surtees Soc, lxxxv), p 14.
of a ground be twix John Gilyot, Alderman, of ye on partie, and Ambrose Preston, of London, chandeler, of ye other partie. First yai deme a gutter yat ligge in lengh frome ye streit of Petirgate, be fore doun thrugh a tenement of ye said John Gilyot, Alderman, to ye Kynge's dyke be hynd of ye on partie, and a tenement of ye said Ambrose Preston of ye other partie, ye which said gutter and ye leid yer of, we ye said seirchours fyndes be our discrecions pertenyth evenly to ye forsaid John Gilyott & the said Ambrose, never ye lesse we consider ye greit cost and expences yat ye forsaid John Gilyot maid and done, we y'fore giffes and awardes yat ye said John Gilyott shall have ye said gutter all hole to hym selff, so yat he giffe to ye forsaid Ambrose, or to his depute, for cause of eassement in watter fallyng owt of ye forsaid gutter uppon ye ground of ye said Ambrose, iijs. iiijd. now furthwith, and never after yis to giff more to ye said Ambrose for ye said gutter, and els ye said John Gilyott to bere charge of ye watter commyng of ye said gutter."
A century later, and still similar complaints are made. On Feb. 5th, 1570-1, the election of the Master and Wardens of the Corpus Christi Guild, York, should have taken place at the Hospital of St. Thomas, just without Micklegate Bar, but the members of the Guild found it more convenient to meet "in the Consell Chambre apon Ousebrig-for that the way and wether was troblesome and myery.'
If one of the chief thoroughfares of the city, Micklegate,3 was in such a state of disrepair, no doubt the minor streets were in a worse condition. In fact, one byway was so much neglected that it was for many years known as Dirt Lane. Frequent reference to this lane is found in fifteenth and sixteenth century records, and it is thought that Trinity Lane is its more modern name.
1 House Book, Civ. Ebor., i, 21. Ibid., p. 20
2 The Register of the Guild of Corpus Christi, Surtees Soc., vol. lvii, p. 308.
Flagged footpaths were unknown in the Middle Ages, and it is scarcely credible that the wealthy residents of Micklegate should be contented, until the year 1750, to live in this street without the convenience of such a footpath before their dwellings. In that year they obtained permission from the city authorities to crect, at their own expense, posts at a convenient distance from their houses, and make a flag-pace, two feet broad, for the use of foot-passengers, to extend in length from the Bar to the
house where Abstrupus Danby, Esq., then dwelt, the same as was then without Bootham Bar. The posts to be erected were required to protect pedestrians from the incursions of horses and carriages, which were not always guided on the middle part of the highway. Hence the necessity for the advice which Gay, the author of Trivia, gave to persons walking in the streets of London a century ago:
Though expedition bids, yet never stray Where no rang'd posts defend the rugged way. Davies, Antiquarian Walks through York, p. 139.