York St. Helen's Square
Welcome to our guide to York St Helens Square. Here you can find information, history and a guide to the best places and things to see and do.
About St. Helen's Square
St Helens Square is in the very heart of York and is usually filled with shoppers and tourists who gaze in wonder at the impressive buildings. Pride of place must go to The Mansion House built in 1725 as an official residence for the Lord Mayor during his/her year of office, and still performing that function today. There had been Lord Mayors in York since the 13th century, but they had always carried out their official duties from their own house. During the summer weekends the building is open to the public.
Directly behind The Mansion House is The Guildhall a wonderful 15th century meeting place for a variety of professional trades. The building had many other uses as well in the medieval period, including a theatre and a courtroom.
On the opposite side of the square is St Helens Church which gives the square its name and between the church and The Mansion House is Betty's world famous tea rooms and café. The business was originally started in Harrogate in 1919 in a tea shop alongside the fashionable Spa Baths. The York branch opened in 1937 and has firmly established itself as the jewel in the crown when it comes to excellence in ambience, quality and service.
Opposite Betty's there used to be another café and this was run by the famous chocolate making company of Terrys. There was also a retail shop selling chocolates and confectionery but they were closed in the 1980’s after 160 years of trading. You can still see the name TERRY in the stonework and beneath the shop window. The shop is currently occupied by crystal specialists Swarovski.
The square in its current form was only created in the 1920’s when a number of buildings were demolished although a smaller square had been created in 1745 when the church graveyard was moved to another city centre site.
Today St Helens Square is a busy crossway for people travelling between the High Street shops on Coney Street and Davygate, the wonderful atmosphere of beautiful Stonegate, and Lendal and Blake Street which link to the Cultural Quarter of Museum Gardens and Exhibition Square. As they pass through, they are often entertained by a variety of street performers.
If you want to learn more about St Helens Square particularly some of the stories surrounding the way people lived and worked in this area, we suggest you join one of the guided walking tours.
(Above text written by Keith Greenwood, tour guide with Exploring York.)
Attractions, Shops, Cafes, Restaurants & Other Businesses Located Here
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