Monk Bar and Micklegate Bar in York form part of the ancient defences of the city, along with the wall. In each of the Bars are currently two exhibitions – Richard III and Henry VII experience. These are swiftly becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city of York.
We will start with Monk Bar which is one of four major gateways into the city. Construction started in the early 14th century at the time of the Anglo-Scottish wars, and was built in stages, finally being finished in 1484. Its defensive systems include a gated barbican, a portcullis which is still there in position, and a set of murder holes from which defenders could drop missiles upon attackers, as well as a number of arrow slits where defenders could shoot with ease. Should the attackers get past these defences into the Bar, each floor could be defended independently. This was because the stair cases were not continuous – each guard room would have to be crossed in order to reach the next flight. Throughout the ages Monk Bar has also been used as a police station and temporary prison. Inside today, there is a good display and story of Richard III who is still loved by many of the people of York.
Across the city you can find Micklegate Bar and the current Henry VII experience. This can be reached by a scenic walk around the city walls if you wish. Micklegate Bar was the most important gateway in York. This is where the king was greeted when he came to visit the city and has been a major gateway since Roman occupation. The Bar still includes Roman stonework as the medieval builders re-used Roman masonry and even coffins from a nearby cemetery. Its defence is similar to Monk Bar and has displayed the heads of traitors throughout the Middle Ages and as late as the 1700’s. Famous heads displayed on the roof of the Bar include Richard Neville Duke of York (father of Richard III) and Lord Scrope who was executed for plotting to kill Henry V.
Both the Richard III and Henry VII Experience take you on a journey through the story of Medieval York during their reigns, while at the same time exploring these two major monuments of the city. Owned by York Archaeological Trust, the exhibitions are informative and enjoyable.