Registered: ​21st August 1972
Duration: 22 minutes
Feet: 1980 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​​​​​​​​BR/E36367/27/8/77
Produced for : United Artists
Production Company: ​​​​​​Harold Baim Motion Picture Productions Limited

More Film Stills: ​at baimfilms.com (opens in new window)
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York is an ancient city with an eye to the future. The old Roman capital is still locked behind its walls and the famous cathedral, York Minster, is a favourite with tourists. It is a place steeped in history and whilst its outlook is to the next century it retains the atmosphere of its ancient heritage.

Title and Credits:
Valentine Dyall Tells You About A City Where The Past is Ever Present ... 

Narrator: Valentine Dyall
Filmed in Eastmancolor by: Harry Orchard
Music: De Wolfe
Editor: Peter Elliott
Sound Recordists: Chris Fellows, Malcolm Bristow
Advisors: ​Richard Afton, A. Clarke Dunn, John Brown, Major C.F. Wilson MBE
Processed by: ​Rank Laboratories, Denham, England
Produced by: Harold Baim
Directed by: Michael G Baim


Air display by four (training?) fighter jets in formation against light cloudy sky
Military marching band in dark blue dress uniform with white helmets enters show ground     

Military marching band in grey uniform enters show ground     

Military marching band in Red dress uniforms and white helmets enter show ground    

Camouflaged six wheel armoured vehicle (Alvis Saladin)    

Royal Navy Helicopter lands in show ground     

Military horses at speed across show ground as riders spear targets on ground    

Military display motorcycles with driver and passenger spear ground target at speed    

Military display motorcycle team    

Motor cycles display team reside through fire     

Motor cycle ridden by rider on a ladder     

Six motor cycles carry 21 person pyramid     

Military bands play in front of display ‘castle’ for 1000th anniversary of York     

River Ouse    

River bank with parkland trees    

Swans in River    

River bank in countryside     

Castellated Walls of City of York    

Statues on the City walls     

Ornamental gardens under Walkways on Wall    

View of York Minster from Walls   

Traffic drive though medieval gateways     


Image of Guy Fawkes and conspirators     

Ancient book records birth and baptism of Guy Fawkes    

Saint Peters school     

Sign: Youngs Hotel. The birthplace of Guy Fawkes 1570    

Grave.  Headstone marked Richard Turpin    

Street Signs: Tanners Moat; Swinegate; Jubbers Gate; GillyGate    

Cobbled Street    

Sign: Pavement; Finkle Street; Piccadilly; Ogleforth; Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate;     

Mansion House exterior     

Merchant Adventurer’s Hall    

Exterior wooden gargoyle     

Ruins of Roman Emperor Constantine    

Medieval defence ruins preserved    

Ruin of Benedictine Abbey. St Mary’s in York     

Clifford’s Tower    

Religious figures in Black Robes walk amongst the ruins    

Byland Abbey ruins  


It's a great big birthday party. A gala performance of parades and processions.

It's an anniversary celebration with splendid spectacle and stunts spectacular.

And if, as it did, the party went on for 12 months, it was well deserved. for this was the 1900 birthday of a city the Romans founded as a military camp from which to subdue the warlike tribes of the part of England which today we call Yorkshire.

And from these early beginnings, in the year AD 71, the Roman city called Eboracum became York. Where yesterday lives today.


Two tributaries come together and enter the Ouse, the river on which York stands.

Though now picturesque and tranquil, once down this waterway, came the ships of the conquerors, who left their indelible mark. Standing a silent testimony to the wars and sieges, out of which the city was born, are these monuments of history. the walls.

Romans, Angles, Vikings, Normans, Picts and Scots. British rulers from Edward the Confessor to the present queen have all known York.

Today, the walls are walkways, from which one can look down on the city, with its startling contrasts of ancient and modern.

The medieval gateways are called bars. Once armed guards were stationed to conduct travellers through the surrounding forest to protect them from wolves. There's no one to protect them from today's traffic.

These were never out of stock. This is the first five holed one I've seen.

Famous and infamous were some of York's citizenry. Guy Fawkes was born and baptized here. And at his school, Saint Peter's, he told the teacher what he wanted to do when he grew up. What better memory to his name? A pub where the fire of thirst is quenched.

But the ride to York did not do a highwayman extraordinary, Dick Turpin any good. Here he was convicted and hanged.

There are lots of strange sounding street names unchanged through the centuries. They must look great when printed at the top of the residents note paper.

York, like London, has a Lord mayor who, like his counterpart, has a mansion house. And York's Lord Mayor ranked second in the United Kingdom.

As in most medieval cities, members of the same trade formed guilds which combined religious, benevolent, marketing, and trades union activities. This is a 600 year old Merchant Adventurers Hall.

In AD 306, Constantine was proclaimed emperor at York.

The place is full of historical treasures. This tower was part of the intricate defense system set up by the Romans 1600 years ago, to keep their enemies at bay. All that is left of one of the wealthiest Benedictine abbeys in England. It is Saint Mary's in York, founded by a man called Alan of Brittany in 1089. The citizens of York, who lived 900 years ago, did not care much for the monks of Saint Mary's, and the feeling was mutual. So the monks fortified the abbey and built a wall around it, parts of which are standing today. 50 monks were in residence when the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Afterwards it was pillaged and the stonework was stolen for the repair of local churches.

Clifford's Tower, the scene of part of the Easter Massacre of 1190. 200 people of the Jewish faith asked the constable for sanctuary. He let them enter, went away, then returned with a gang of thugs and murdered them all.

In the area, the ruins of famous abbeys abound. Byland was the largest Cistercian church in England to be built to a specific design. It had a window which was 20ft across, and a cloister which was 145ft square.

On November the 30th, 1538, when its yearly income was £295, Henry VIII dissolved Byland Abbey and its 25 monks fled. In the December of the same year, Rievaulx, with its remaining 21 incumbents, was closed by order of the King.

Founded 400 years ago, it once had 600 monks in residence. With their white robes and black scapulars, they belonged to a very austere order. They avoided all ostentatious display, but were not really great scholars, preferring to work with their hands rather than their brains.

Yorkshire monastic orders were four; religious, mendicant, regular canons and military. 13 monks left Saint Mary's, York to found Fountains Abbey in 1132. Just before building was completed, it burnt to the ground, and they had to start all over again.

The original east end was demolished and, in the 13th century, rebuilt. The cost was met out of the spoils from the sacking of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade. To some, romantic ruins, to others dismissed by a shrug of the shoulders. Fountains Abbey closed by decree forever on November the 26th, 1539.

After 250 years of work, in the year 1474, York Minster was completed. Every Archbishop of York signs his name Ebor, a shortened version of the Roman name for the city Eboracum.

On the banks of the River Ouse is Bishopthorpe Palace, the official residence of the man who holds one of the highest ecclesiastical positions in the land, the Archbishop of York.

Europe's most outstanding Gothic building. York's crowning glory.

For five years the most complicated exercise in restoration has been taking place. Things were not well with the structure of the famous church. Something had to be done and done fast. Parts of the building were near to collapse, and if deterioration was allowed to continue, the entire building could well have become a relic of the past, like those we have already seen.

The structure was sinking, the towers were toppling. Public conscience was aroused and money poured in. Concrete collars were laid round the foundations. Hundreds of steel pins held them together, and the work of restoration proceeded.

The Minster was not built to withstand the vibrations set up by traffic, polluted atmosphere or sonic booms. Gigantic spiders webs of scaffolding enfold the edifice, while armies of specialist builders and painters and artisans of every kind repair the ravages of the past and those anticipated in the future.

The erection of the scaffolding alone must have been an indescribable task. And then it has to be dismantled.

Streets are dominated by the Minster, whilst old shops sell new merchandise. Called The Shambles, this was once the street of butchers. Here, the curing of ham was an art. Not many are to be found today, but York ham is still a much sought after delicacy.

The trick is in the salt, so he says. But he wasn't very forthcoming about the rest of the process.

After literally salting the joint away for a year, it's ready. And when I looked at it, I was ready too.

From the Shambles to College Street is not far, and what looked like houses on the right of the picture are in fact the faculties of Saint William's College, which in 1461 was founded for the priests of the cathedral.

15th century architecture in Stonegate. Mulberry Hall. A statue of Minerva stands high above the junction of Petergate and Minster Gates, whilst higher still ride the ever dominating towers and spires of the Minster.

Back at the Minster, the awe inspiring interior is getting its share of attention. It will finally be breathtaking in its splendour.

Though the church contains an unrivalled collection of treasures and relics of the past, it possesses over half of all the richly coloured medieval stained glass left in England today, and some of it dates back to the 12th century.

So that he will know how to put it back together again, a tracing of the window to be restored is taken. Replacement section is put into an ultrasonic cleaning device.

York Stained Glass Renovation Centre is renowned. Its personnel has in its ranks some of the foremost experts of this craft in the world.

The face of a monk dating back to the Middle Ages, is now crystal clear and ready to form part of a reconstituted window.

The eastern wall of the Minster was almost three feet out of true, and a window the size of a tennis court had started to buckle. Restoration had to be done with all speed.

Peter Gibson, the enthusiastic head of the renovation centre, owns a bank and the bank has deposits of stained glass pieces which have been removed from windows for some reason or another. From this bank he can make withdrawals of the halo of an angel, a section of a disciple, or a dove. In this way, he is able to restore a window to how it looked perhaps 600 years ago.

After the tracing has been taken, sometimes thousands of separate pieces are removed and subjected to the underwater sound waves of the ultrasonic cleaner. Then, by reference to the tracing, replaced. A gigantic jigsaw of priceless pieces.

Soon, the marvelous Minster of York will celebrate 500 years of existence. As we marvel at the exquisite craftsmanship, we might just give a thought to the man hours of back breaking labor with rafts, ropes and oxen that went into its construction.

The great church has come through many a trial. It has withstood time and the elements, fire and wars and its bells have crashed down through the floor of the belfry. A huge 12 ton replacement rings out at 12 noon every day, and no doubt one always will, so long as there is a minster at York. 

[The End]

All music should be cleared with 

De Wolfe Music 
Queen’s House 
180-182 Tottenham Court Road