Voted the most picturesque street in Britain and still open for business after 900 years.
Europe’s best preserved and most famous medieval street, the name Shambles derives from the word Flesshammel meaning booth or bench for meat. For most of its life this has been a street of butchers and houses, where animals were slaughtered, prepared and put on sale on shop front benches and hooks still visible today. A spectacular medieval example of the cramped living and working conditions. The exposed drain running down the centre of the street was later added to let the fetid blood, offal, animal and human waste simply tossed out of the windows run away. Even with this latter addition, it's still hard to imagine the sickening miasma of decay, death and filth that would have orginally hung over this street.
Today the number of butcher’s is now down to just one rather fine and thankfully fully public health conscious sausage emporium. Almost a shame in a way as while there is no denying the quaint authenticity of this tightly hemmed street, to my mind the experience is now slightly ruined by some of the gaudier retailers that replaced them and do little to enhance the overall experience. That personal gripe aside, no one should miss this free stroll down the country’s best known medieval thoroughfare.
For an example of extreme religious intolerance, call in at the small shrine to Margaret Clitherow. A butcher’s wife living on the street during the 16th century given martyrdom after being horribly executed for her beliefs and for sheltering those on the run from persecution. More details of her story (and her preserved hand) can be found at The Bar Convent Museum (www.bar-convent.org.uk) on Blossom Street.