Things to Look Out For - Cats, Clocks and Coats of Arms

Coat of Arms in St Helens Square

Every city has its odd, charming details but York, being York, has more than most.

York's Coat of Arms

It says a lot for a city's sense of civic pride that the most common symbol in its public spaces is the Coat of Arms.

Stand almost anywhere in the city centre and look carefully around you, at the buildings, at the buses, even at the parking meters; chances are you'll see the Arms in one version or another.

For more about the meaning and history of the Arms click here.

The White Rose of York

The Coat of Arms dates from Tudor times and has been used fairly consistently since then. But if you see a White Rose featured on a building it is likely to be 19th Century, give or take a couple of decades.

The white rose does have its own interesting history and has long been associated with the 'House of York' - find out more.

The Crossed Keys of St Peter

Another symbol to look out for in York is St Peter's crossed keys.  The link here is with the Cathedral of St Peter, otherwise known as York Minster.

In medieval times the crossed keys were the mark of the city-within-a-city known as the Liberty of St Peter.  For more about the crossed keys click here.


Before the public fire service existed fires were put out by brigades run by insurance companies.  These marks, high on the side of buildings, indicated that they were insured by a particular company.

Many of York's buildings still carry their firemarks, but you have to look up to notice them.


Not the real thing, but feline statuettes on the buildings.  There are more than twenty of them in the city centre and nobody really knows how the tradition developed.

They could be lucky symbols or designed to scare off pigeons.  There is an excellent website dedicated to the cats: 


York has a surprising number of well-maintained public clocks.  We know that they have been useful ornaments to buildings for over 300 years - the original clock on the church in Coney Street dated from 1668.

Now almost every main street has its own clock.  For more examples see our Chronology page.

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