Day 3 – Gainsborough and York

On Saturday (April 8, 2017) I arose early to leave London and make my way to the next points on the map. I said my goodbyes to the lovely streets of Notting Hill, then made my way to Kings Cross train station.

This was my first time travelling by train and I was a bit unsure of just how it was to work, but in following everyone else’s example, it turned out to be a fairly easy process. I had pre-ordered a BritRail Pass which gave me 8 days of travel for any train in the UK. I loved the flexibility and it reduced the stress of worrying I was going to miss a particular train. Leaving London to the northeast, we had a bit of fog but it soon burned off and I was able to enjoy the pretty countryside flowing by. I was to change trains in Retford in order to head for the small town of Gainsborough but there was a strike so they had arranged for a bus to shuttle people around, which gave me a chance to see more of the local towns. Arriving in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, I walked from the station to the Old Hall, enjoying a walk along the River Trent.

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View from the train of the English countryside
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River Trent
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Gainsborough is an industrial town, a bit run down in places, but there is beauty amongst it as well.

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My destination was the Gainsborough Old Hall, one of the best-preserved medieval manors in the country, the current house being built in 1460 with later additions in the 1480s. It has a rich history of everything from visits from kings to associations to the Puritan movement. It was originally owned by the Burgh family who entertained Richard III, and later Henry VIII and his 5th wife, Catherine Howard. In 1596 the Hickman family bought the manor and lived there until 1720. The Hall saw other uses after that – a theatre, pub, and a Masonic temple. In 1970 the descendants of the Hickmans gave it to English Heritage.

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Gainsborough Old Hall

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The small opening below the window is called a bee bole. It used to house hives made of straw coiled up called a skep. There were several along this east wall.

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In the Great Hall, where banquets would have been held.

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The king’s table would have been raised.
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Family crest
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A banquet fit for a king: looking into the kitchen area
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In the 1400’s this kitchen area wouldn’t have had a roof to keep the thatching from catching fire from wayward sparks. It was later closed in. This area consisted of many rooms off of the main courtyard to keep supplies and food. There were 3 fireplaces to cook over, along with some ovens for baking. This particular fireplace was large enough to roast a whole deer.
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One of the smaller rooms, this one was housing meat.
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Looking out over the kitchen garden from an upstairs passageway. This area used to be a market area for the town and the garden would have been located elsewhere.
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A bedchamber set up in the style from Richard III’s era

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A bedchamber from the era of Henry VIII. Behind that curtain is the garderobe.
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This garderobe is quite large compared to most. They kept their clothes in here as well as the privy. It was thought the smell would keep pests like fleas away.
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I found a secret passageway behind another curtain.
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It lead to the top of the tower and gave some amazing views
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Looking across the north side of the Hall

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Moving into the 1600’s
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Another bedchamber – loved this bed!
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Dining room with dark panelling on the walls 


It was the Puritan connection that caught my interest, as my mother’s family were Pilgrims that came to the shores of the New World on the Mayflower. The Hickmans were Protestants when it was not a popular thing, and helped to shelter them during the reign of Catholic Mary I, including John Knox of Scotland. The Hickmans fled for awhile to Holland until Protestant Elizabeth I was on the throne. They, along with many others, felt the reform happening within the English church was not enough, that it still carried many traditions that were not found in the Bible. This began the Separatist movement. They had to meet in secret or risk fines, loss of job, imprisonment, or worse. Meeting to discuss the Bible outside of the church without an approved clergyman to define the scriptures could be considered treason. There were secret meetings held in the Gainsborough Hall by John Smyth for some of the nearby followers. Later much of the congregation fled the country in hopes to find a place to worship in freedom as they felt led to. The Hickmans were some of the ones who remained in England.

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A display dedicated to the Mayflower voyage

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List of passengers on the Mayflower
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I am a descendant of William Bradford

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They had many of these banners explaining who the Separatists were, the voyage over the Atlantic, and their life in the New World.  


With my mind brimming with facts and dates, and imagining what life what was like during the late medieval period, not to mention what my own ancestors went through to stand for truth, I walked back to the train station feeling a bit overwhelmed. I then went on to Doncaster where I would be staying at The Red Lion Inn for the next 2 nights, left my things in my room (I was just travelling with a backpack, but it was always a welcome relief to be able to tour without it), and headed back to the train station. It was market day in Doncaster, and the inn was in the market place. I didn’t have time to explore, but enjoyed listening to the sounds of people hawking their wares in a sing-song sort of voice as I went by to catch a train to York.

York is a fascinating old city: originally the area was inhabited by the Brigantes tribe, then under Roman rule it became a walled city in 71 AD housing 6000 soldiers. The Angles took the area over in the 400’s. The Minster was originally built in 627. The Danes took the city over in 866, then the Normans in the 11th century. It has served as a major trading centre in times of peace, and a base for attacks in times of war.

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The Micklegate bar (bar is an entrance into the old walled city)

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I visited the Jorvik Viking centre where they had a display of artifacts that have been dug up from around York. Jorvik was the Viking name for the city at the time.
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Besides the display area, they also have a ride that takes you through a reproduction of village life so you can see, hear, and smell what life was like in Viking-era York.
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Coins produced from King Cnut’s era
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All Saints Pavement Church looking over the streets and snickelways of the old city brimming with shops. A great place to visit!
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Walking through the Shambles. These used to be mostly butcher shops and meat was hung from hooks in the 2nd storey overhang.
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Some of the buildings were so close, you could hardly see the sky above your head!

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Monk bar.
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Steps to the walk around the top of the wall surrounding the city. They close all the access points at dusk, so I only walked the portion behind York Minster.
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York Minster and the different residences located near Dean’s Park

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A lovely spot to enjoy the view and listen to the church chimes ring the ending of another day.

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Walking along I spotted this little girl lost in a garden. Made me think of Alice in Wonderland.

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The wall walk can be narrow in some places.
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Inside Bootham Bar.

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The Roman Column – it once stood in the Roman headquarters building and was discovered in 1969 when they were doing excavation under the Minster, lying where it had fallen all those years ago.

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Crossing the River Ouse back to the train station.


Back in Doncaster I had a bite to eat from a few things I had picked up in the grocery store, soaked my tired feet, and pondered all that I had seen that day.

One thought on “Day 3 – Gainsborough and York

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