Clifford’s Tower – York Castle

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York resident and regular contributor. Fascinated by this historic city and always keen to promote local, independent businesses. The man taking the photographs and tweeting from @Jorvik

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Clifford’s Tower is the last remaining part of one of the two castles built in York in 1068 by William the Conqueror. Originally part of York Castle on the West side of the River Ouse, opposite Baile Hill Castle on the East, the two castles controlled the entrance into the City via the water.

Painting showing the two Norman-buit Castles, York Castle to the right of the River Ouse

The original structure, known as the ‘King’s Tower’ was on a lower mound of earth and was made of wood. After being burnt down in 1190 to try and remove all memory of the Massacre of the Jews the tower was then rebuilt on a higher mound of earth at great expense before being destroyed by a gale in 1245. It was then ordered to be rebuilt in stone in the late 13th Century which produced the larger (15m x 61m) quatrafoil design we have today.

Plaque in memory of the Massacre of the Jews in 1190 at the base of Cliffords Tower

The plaque reads:

On the night of Friday 16th March 1190 some 150 Jews and Jewesses of York having sought protection in the Royal Castle on this site from a mob incited by Richard Malebisse and others choose to die at each others hands rather than renounce their faith.

The castle, built on the site of a Roman cemetery, has always been the centre of law and jurisdiction, being home to the Sheriff of Yorkshire, housing the County Courts within the bailey and operating as a jail, that is until it was found out the jailer, Robert Redhead, was selling off the stone the tower was built from for his own personal gain. It has also served as a Royal Mint and a fort that was garrisoned up until 1690, despite in 1684 losing its wooden roof and most of its internals after a St George’s Day seven-canon salute didn’t quite go to plan.

The tower was also used to display the bodies of enemies and traitors as a reminder by King Henry VIII. In 1322 Roger de Clifford was hanged from the tower by chains in response to his opposition of Edward II, this s thought to be why the name changed to Clifford’s Tower.

Today the tower is managed by English Heritage who allow visitors into the tower and walk around the top perimeter where there are some truly awesome views across the City to be had.

Looking out from the top of Clifford's Tower towards Baile Hill

Looking out from the top of Clifford’s Tower towards Baile Hill

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