It seems odd that when I’m creating something that will primarily use sound that photographs would be such an important source of information. But it truly is. For example, take a look at this photo from the 1880s:
In the picture, you can see on the building on the left a sign that reads “…School for the Blind”. This is massively important as it shows, at least in the 1880s, the entrance to the Wilberforce Memorial School for the Blind was on Bootham Street next to Bootham Bar.
Photographs like this can also be massively frustrating!! The reason I was looking for photographs of the gate in the first place was because I wanted to know what the gate itself looked like. Was it made of wood or was it just a stone arch like it is today? I will never know as I needed the photographer to move slightly to the left of where this was taken….also, to travel back in time about 30 years but you can’t have it all!
The wall that can be seen here, as well as the gate that I keep harping on about, is all part of the original abbey walls of St Mary’s Abbey that now lies in Museum Gardens, York.
The gate for the Abbey, according to the literature, was built in 1497 to allow easy access for Margaret Tudor (Henry VII’s daughter), when she visited York on her way to marry King James IV of Scotland in 1503. A lot of effort to go to just so she wouldn’t have to walk an extra few feet!
So, why is this gate and all this history so important to the soundscape?
Well it’s important because it tells us how people accessed King’s Manor in the 1850s. It also dramatically changes the sounds that you would hear on the walk up to King’s Manor. If you’re the other side of a wall, then traffic noise will not sound nearly as loud as if you’re stood on the edge of the road.
But regardless, all this research spanned from one photograph taken by an anonymous photographer in 1880 and my infinite curiosity when it comes to making this project as true to the period as possible.