The name Stonegate appears on records as early as 1118. Built on the roman road Via Praetoria and accessed through the gateway Porta Praetoria, which now lies beneath St Helens square. There are a few possibilities as to the origin of the name, the most popular is that the stone used to construct the Minster was brought from quarries near Tadcaster by boat to a landing place where the Guildhall now stands, and taken along this street. Although our present Minster was built much later than 1118, previous Minster’s on this site were also built with stone. Another possibility was simply that the street had retained its roman built paved surface, whereas neighbouring streets had to make do with roads more roughly constructed. Stonegate has two famous signs worth a mention, the chained red devil which sits at the top of the door of no. 33. He is there to remind us that the premise was once a Printers shop and the printer’s devils were the small boys who were used to fetch and carry type. This street was at one time known as the ‘Street of the Printers’
Another curiosity is the ‘Gallows Sign’ which is attached to, and advertises, the Olde Starre Inn. It is also attached to the opposite premises. The public house claims to be the oldest in York, dating back to the time of Henry the V111. Originally the Star, it was managed for a time by a saddler, George Ambler. He built a home in front of the pub and, when the pub changed hands again, access to the pub via a doorway was agreed with the present (and future) owners of the house. It was put up for sale again in 1792. The new landlord had trouble attracting custom into a pub that couldn’t be seen from the street, so on February 5th 1793 he was given permission to display a sign across the width of the street. Because it was attached to another property, a fee of 25 shillings had to be paid annually. The property owner was obliged to spend the money, probably a few hundred pints of ale!, in the company of the Star’s landlord. The landlord decided to retire and sell up two years later, but the sign remains. The Star yard also had a well of pure water which, for many generations, was the only local supply of fresh water.
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