Beyond the city walls

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The Knavesmire is a large piece of open land to the south-west of the city, a mile or so from Micklegate Bar. It’s one of the historic areas of public-access, undeveloped land called strays. It’s criss-crossed by paths and cycle paths (part of the Sustrans network and leading to the Milky Way route to Selby, a scale ride between the planets). To the south is an area of woodland.

Though it is also used for recreation and open-air events, the Knavesmire is mainly known as the home of York’s horse-racing events.

But there is also a historic side to the Knavesmire. On the fringe of the fields, at the side on Knavesmire Road, a main approach road into the city, is a gruesome reminder of times past.
A small paved area and plaque marks the site of York’s main tyburn, or gallows. These stood here from the 14th century on. Felons to be executed were brought from York Castle in a cart to this spot, including Dick Turpin.

There was also a gibbet, used to exhibit the bodies of executed people as a warning to others. (Heads were generally displayed on one of the bars, such as Micklegate Bar.)

The last public hanging here was carried out here in 1801, after which business was transferred to outside the Castle. It was felt that the gallows on the main road into York from the south was perhaps not the best welcome for visitors.

At A Glance

York YO23 1EX


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