The Shambles is an old street in York's city center, which has survived since the 14th century. Many of the overhanging timber-framed buildings once housed butcher shops. The Anglo-Saxon name for these premises was 'Fleshammels' or "flesh-shelves." Up until 1872, there were an incredible 25 butcher shops on the street. Now though, you are more likely to find cream teas and souvenir mugs than a pound of flesh when shopping in The Shambles.
Discover the medieval streets.
The name "The Shambles" is sometimes used not just to refer to a specific street, but to the whole labyrinth of narrow lanes that surround it. Today, they are some of England's most visited streets. These are some of the best-preserved streets in England and you can't help but marvel as they come to life before your eyes. When looking at these overhanging buildings, it's easy to think that they have toppled forward over time; however, the truth is that this sloping architecture had a practical purpose. The forward-leaning timber-framed houses afford protection to the wattle and daub (the traditional mud and clay building materials) of the lower sections of the building. It also provided shade to the slabs of meat laid out on the window shelves below.
To make the most of a visit to The Shambles, why not join one of the many historic or ghost tours, where knowledgeable character guides will take you on an unforgettable and somewhat spooky trip around the city. Here you can learn of tales and ghastly stories while visiting significant monuments and buildings that have shaped the city's past. Today, the streets are known for attractions, stores, restaurants, and cafes, but it is not hard to imagine a different past.