How we’re building support for York’s walls

York walls: the biggest and best in Britain. Photographs: Friends of York Walls
Ahead of the group’s fair this Saturday, Friends of York Walls’ Alan Fleming explains their plans to make the defences a major worldwide attraction

York’s Bar Walls are the finest and most complete of any town in England. At two miles, they are also the longest town walls in the UK.

More than a million people a year take a walk through 1,900 years of history on York’s city walls. Built in Roman times, they’ve been added to and rebuilt over time and now have parts from across the centuries.

Originally built as defences, the focus is now on conservation. Our local group, The Friends of York Walls, feel that the walls are not promoted enough as a major “must see” attraction, and have set out to address this situation.

The Friends of York Walls is a voluntary non-profit making group who aim to help promote, manage and develop York’s walls and defences (including the Bar Walls, St Mary’s Abbey, Clifford’s Tower and The Castle) for the benefit of local residents and visitors.

It is our aim to establish York Walls as a major worldwide attraction, one that the residents of York can take pride in, and enjoy to the full.

The Friends aim to restore Fishergate Postern Tower
Although formed just over a year ago, the Friends currently have a membership of around 150 and would love to have more members and active volunteers.

In that short time we have organised a number of events and have already established new traditions and activities on and around the walls – including the annual inspection of the walls by the Lord Mayor of York, when he is accompanied by hundreds of local schoolchildren.

We have also held open days, given talks on the history of the walls and organised guided tours. There is an active programme of events planned for 2012.

One of the biggest objectives of Friends of York Walls is to re-open Fishergate Postern Tower, located at the end of Piccadilly, for community use. FYW are working in close partnership with City of York Council and English Heritage to do just that.

We are preparing a bid for support from the Heritage Lottery Fund to refurbish the 500-year-old tower and give it a new lease of life as a visitor centre with informative displays, education facilities and possibly a small café.

Another view of Fishergate Postern Tower
The council has been asked to provide funding to complete repair work, which is essential to the heritage fund bid. Our plans and proposals for the tower refurbishment have been exhibited at various events and public opinion on the proposals has been sought via a questionnaire.

We aim to open the tower to the public at weekends over the summer months, from now to September. Come along and see inside the tower for yourself – climb the spiral staircase, see the garderobe, look for masons marks.

Friends of York Walls are seeking to raise funds towards the Fishergate Postern Tower project by inviting the general public and local businesses to “Sponsor a Stone”.

The Lord Mayor of York, Councillor David Horton, patron of the Friends of York Walls, officially opened the fundraising in January when he was presented with a certificate of ownership of a stone by Friends’ chairman Keith Myers.

You can find full details of the Sponsor a Stone scheme here, where you can also select and sponsor your own stone. You can also add an optional message or a dedication which is entered into a Book of Sponsors.

We also have a photo competition, which is open to all FYW members. Remember that membership is free, and you can submit your photographs up to the closing date of September 30.

Red Tower Fair

Everyone is invited to join the Friends of York Walls fun at Red Tower, Foss Island Road, on Saturday July 7, where there will be all kinds of entertainments and attractions including live music, dancing and games.

Don’t worry if you miss the Red Tower Fair – or indeed if you went and enjoyed it so much you can’t wait for more – because on Saturday July 21, there will be another fun-packed afternoon at Bishophill. Events run from noon to 4pm.

The Red Tower on Foss Islands Road