One of the UK’s most history-rich cities, York is a fantastic educational tour destination: friendly and fun, full of learning potential, and easy to access from most places in the country. No matter what era of British history your students have been focusing on, York will have something for them. Read on for a taste of what to expect.
York: A Brief History
Those who visit York on an educational tour will find themselves stepping into a place with a remarkably layered and well-preserved history. The city was founded in 71 CE by the Ninth Legion of the conquering Roman army, on an existing settlement with roots stretching as far back as the Mesolithic era. The Roman city originally consisted of a wooden fortress, later rebuilt in stone – the foundations of which remain today. It was captured during a Viking raid in 866, and under their rule grew in leaps and bounds to become a key river port on the trade routes established by the Vikings across Europe. Called Eboracum by the Romans, it was renamed Jorvik by the Vikings. The English King Edred captured it again in 954, before being taken along with the rest of the country in the Norman Conquest of 1066.
Jorvik Viking Centre
To learn about history from textbooks is one thing, to step into the past is quite another – and the latter is possible on an educational tour of York, thanks to the Jorvik Viking Centre. The rediscovery of large parts of Jorvik in the latter half of the 20th century is one of the most monumental archaeological discoveries to have ever occurred in Britain, and the well-preserved buildings and streets of the Viking city have enabled archaeologists to reconstruct a strikingly vivid and detailed picture of what life was like at the time. All of this can be investigated by school groups at the superb Jorvik Viking Centre, where visitors can journey through lifelike reconstructions of the city’s streets, homes and shops. It is an especially rewarding experience for school groups, thanks to the centre’s comprehensive learning programme, which includes a wide range of interactive workshops aimed at showing students what life was like in Viking York.
Northern Europe’s biggest Gothic cathedral, and one of the oldest such structures in Britain, York Minster is definitely worth a visit for those who visit the city on an educational tour. Its roots reach deep into York’s past, with parts of the Roman walls having been discovered under its foundations. The Minster had a number of earlier incarnations on the same site, but the current building is impressively old in its own right, dating back to the 11th century. As well as being a fascinating building, York Minster provides plenty of great material for school groups, with a programme of high quality exhibitions examining the city’s history and culture.