Monk Bar is generally recognised as the strongest and most impressive of the bars, or gates, around the walls of York.
It dates from the early 14th century in parts, with a top floor added in the late 15th century; the bar still features its original portcullis, or gate, which can still be seen. There is also a museum dedicated to King Richard the 3rd – who was king of England for just 26 months between 1483 and 1485.
Also within Monk Bar is what is believed to be the world’s smallest prison, which held one of Yorks most famous residents Alice Bowman during the time of Elizabeth the First. Her ‘crime’ was her Catholic faith, which she refused to renounce despite being incarcerated several times during her life. The ‘prison’ was in one of the tower’s turrets, and was so small it allowed the prison neither to stand up fully or to lie down.
The name Monk Bar is derived from the fact, unsurprisingly, that is was extensively used by monks to move in and out of the city – there was a monastery just inside the walls in medieval times. During this era, the entire city of York – with a population of around 11,000 – was contained within the walls, so the bars such as this one were extremely important.
Find out more about Monk Bar on our York tour. Click here for more information