Let’s just get one thing out of the way: Snickelway is fun to say.
Even though snickelway is a newer word to the English vocabulary (formed in 1983 from the words snicket [passageway between walls and fences], ginnel [passageway past buildings], and alleyway [narrow street]), it is a solid part of York’s identity. Most of the snickelways date back to medieval times, offering some entertaining names and even better ghost stories.
Lund’s Court (formerly Mad Alice Lane)
According to legend, Alice was beaten by her husband on more than one occasion. Finally growing tired of the abuse, she poisoned her husband. Overcome by the weight of the murder, she went crazy and was hanged in 1825. Since then, she’s haunted the snickelway where her husband would beat her, usually appearing in one of the many windows looking out onto the narrow lane.
Hole in the Wall
This is the shortest snickelway in York, nestled right beside the pub of the same name. In 1816, a hidden dungeon was unearthed in the pub, complete with chains and manacles. A white mist and full-bodied apparitions have been spotted. Legend says that a tunnel runs beneath the snickelway, leading to York Minster, though this has never been found.
Ye Olde Starre Inn
Situated on a 10th Century cellar, Ye Olde Starre Inn is considered the oldest structure in York. The snickelway and current pub (which dates back to the 17th Century) is haunted by a pair of ghostly black cats.
This snickelway takes its name from the Anglo-Saxon word shammels for the meat benches placed outside windows of butcher shops. This specific lane was home to York’s butchers (hence the name). The street, itself, dates back to at least the 11th Century, mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086. Thomas Percy (7th Earl of Northumberland) is sometimes seen wandering down the Shambles (without his head, of course).
This ancient lane was part of the slums of York in the 19th Century. A man named Pimm ran a school and workhouse for poor and orphaned children in the area. But he was a cruel man who ignored the needs of the boys and girls, with many of them dying under his care. According to legend, he hid many of the bodies along the Bedern snickelway. The ghosts of the children tormented and haunted him until he went insane. You can still hear the children laughing today and you might just see their shadow along the wall or feel their fingers in your hair.
This snickelway leads to a four-story Georgian structure. In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, England’s senior judges would stay here before making their way to York Castle to pass judgment on criminals. One such criminal was the highwayman Dick Turpin. The area is haunted by a large black-clad man. Interestingly enough, the bones of a large male were found in a dry well as well as his boots.
How much do you want to bet I’m going to get lost in one of York’s many snickelways (haunted or otherwise) while I’m here?
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