Oh What a Shambles!

Britain’s Most Picturesque Street:

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The Shambles - York

Shambles in name only, this cobbled lane took the prize in the 2010 Google Street View Awards as Britain’s most picturesque street.  The street is one of the UK’s most visited and you’ll see pictures of The Shambles on chocolate boxes and also as the backdrop for many jigsaws.

The Shambles dates from the Middle Ages and this cobbled lane is the best- preserved medieval shopping street in the U.K.  Its 15th century buildings are now filled with shops, cafes, boutiques and gift shops.


As the plaque in the street explains, “The Shambles is the ancient street of the Butchers of York mentioned in the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror.  It takes its name from the Medieval word ‘Shamel’ meaning the stalls or benches on which the meat was displayed…..”

This makes the Shambles over 900 years old and York’s oldest street.

In 1872 there were 26 butchers in the street and the last butcher to trade on the Shambles was at number 27. You may notice that some of the buildings lean into the middle of the street so much so that their roofs seem to almost meet.  The street was made narrow deliberately to keep the meat out of direct sunlight.  Unfortunately, it was also a grey day and the lack of light didn’t help the photos.

Another feature of this butchers’ street is that the pavements are raised up on either side of the lane, creating a little channel.  Livestock was slaughtered on The Shambles and the channel allows the butchers to wash away their animal waste.  During that period there were no sanitary facilities or health laws as exist today.

Imagine blood and offal gushing down the Shambles twice weekly!  It certainly wouldn’t have been selected as the most picturesque street at that time…or would it?

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