River Ouse, York

River Ouse, York

This is one of the many photos of York that I took when I visited in 2011. It was taken from Ouse bridge looking towards Skeldergate bridge and the river Ouse.

York is steeped in history as most people know. Not just Viking but Prehistoric, Roman, Medieval, Tudor, Victorian, right up until the present day.

The Ouse River has always played an integral part in the city’s development and history. Originally a source of water and food for many prehistoric groups, it was also a means for transportation of people and their goods. It connected communities from the interior with those settled all along its banks and out along the eastern coast and North Sea. These prehistoric people were using the Ouse and the Humber and many other rivers and waterways well before the Romans came, or the Anglo-saxons, or even the Vikings.

During the 9th century, York was changing from a purely Anglo-saxon ecclesiastical centre with a small trading wic, to a city that was just as important as a centre of commerce, and home to Vikings. The river would have various sea going vessels moored along its banks: Danish, Northumbrian, East Anglian, Frisian, and many other countries would all sail up to York from the Humber to sell and buy wares. We know this because of archaeological excavations in and around York, particularly at Coppergate which is on the left side of the photo, just behind those buildings.

Further down river, just past the Skeldergate bridge in the background and also on the left, were the Fishergate excavations. Here there is evidence for the pre- Viking/ Anglo-saxon trading settlement, Eorforwic. There is even a layer of ash and debris, evidence for its (perhaps partial) destruction around the middle of the 9th century, the time of the Viking invasion.

By A H Gray

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