| Library | Reference
| Teaching | General
| Links | About
ORB | HOME
York - Shambles
York's Shambles is a rare example of a street identified as
far back as Domesday Book. In the
Middle Ages the street was used as the butchers' market, its name deriving
from an Old English word referring to the
stalls from which meat was sold.
Shambles were to be found in many of the larger English towns.
The slaughter of livestock and sale of carcasses in York (as elsewhere)
created a range of health hazards, prompting city ordinances such as that
of 1301, which forbade butchers to sell carcasses or cuts of meat that had
already been displayed for sale on their stalls, exposed to the sunlight,
for a full day (unless it had been carefully cleaned and salted). Spoiled
or poor-quality meat might be given to the city's lepers.
As one of the elements that made up the city
fee farm, butchers were required to pay
1d weekly, under the name of "Schameltoll", for the right to slaughter
beasts and sell their meat from these stalls. In 1382 the butchers
refused for several months to pay this toll and used force to retrieve
an item that the city bailiffs had
distrained from one of the butchers.
The bailiffs responded by successfully suing the butchers.
There remain examples of late medieval buildings in the Shambles, which
represents a good example of how houses topped by overhanging "solars"
through which it was hoped that sunlight might be brought through the
windows into burgesses' living quarters were sometimes within arms'
reach of each other.