York Castle Museum

887 Reviews

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Things to do


Date of travel

November, 2018

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We were on the doorstep of the “York Castle Museum”:https://www.yorkcastlemuseum.org.uk/ when it opened at 9.30am. We paid our £11 (plus a £1 donation, “we do have charitable status you know”), gave our details for gift aid and in return received one of those horrible all-inclusive hotel style wrist bands. Presumably this is because the café and shop on the ground floor is free for all and you could then just wander into the museum which is on either side of it. The entrance fee lasts for a year.

We were advised to start on the left-hand side with its timeline about the development of York as a city and the history to the museum which was started by a Doctor Kirk who, when patients couldn’t afford his fees, he accepted objects in lieu of payment. This eclectic display was then given to the museum in 1938.

At the time of our visit, there was a Victorian Christmas theme where the Period Rooms were beautifully decorated in traditional festive style.

One of the major attractions is Kirkgate, a recreated Victorian street which is probably the most iconic part of the museum with cobbled street, lots of shops, schoolroom, police cell, Hansom cab and horse. I remember vividly this horse from visiting the museum around 50 years ago – obviously the horse seemed huge at the time. The shops contained lots of trade you’d not see on the high street now e.g. taxidermists, saddle makers, gunsmiths, and maker of scientific instruments.

There was also special exhibitions including the personal shoes of the designer Vivienne Westwood which had some weird and wonderful creations with vertiginous heels and platforms.

Shaping the Body: 400 Years of Fashion, Food and Life displayed costumes through the ages. There was also an interesting display of how nationalities decorate their bodies through tattoos, dress, scarring or other mutilations such as the Ethiopian ladies with lip rings.

The second wing was given over to a display of the first world war – 1914 When the world changed forever. A volunteer was guarding a display of medals, when I asked whether this was a temporary exhibition to commemorate the centenary, he confessed he didn’t know as he was in his first half hour as a volunteer!

An 1960s exhibition featured music, culture and dress of the times before we were led out through the prison yard (the museum is situated in the former prison) and then through the former cells.

There is something for everyone and although we only spent 2.5 hours in the museum, it would be possible to spend much longer although I’d suggest splitting up the trip over two days.

Helen Jackson

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