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Clifford's Tower (York Castle) - Tower Street, York, UK
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Master Mariner
N 53° 57.344 W 001° 04.792
30U E 625990 N 5980303
Quick Description: Set on a mound in the heart of Old York, the imposing Clifford Tower is almost all that remains of York Castle, which was originally built by William the Conqueror.
Location: Yorkshire, United Kingdom
Date Posted: 1/23/2014 6:32:03 AM
Waymark Code: WMJZYK
Published By: Groundspeak Regular Member veritas vita
Views: 3

Long Description:

The History of York website tells us about Clifford's Tower:

Much of York's layout is the result of Roman and Viking construction but one iconic feature is distinctly Norman.  The original mound of Clifford's Tower, with a timber structure at the top, was constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a statement of his power over the region.  This building stood for just over a century before being burnt down in one of York’s bloodiest and tragic moments, when, in 1190, 150 Jews were massacred on the site.

Between 1190 and 1194, it was repaired at great expense, and the mound was raised to its present height.  The second timber structure was destroyed (this time by a gale) in 1245.  Under pressure from his wars with the Scots, Henry III ordered the tower to be rebuilt and strengthened, this time in stone.  Master Simon of Northampton and Master Henry of Reynes, the senior carpenter and stonemason respectively in Windsor Castle, were sent up to York to consult on the new design of the castle. 

The result was a tower some 50ft (15m) high and 200 ft (61m) in diameter.  Its design is 'quatrefoil', with four overlapping circles, resembling a four leafed clover.  This design pattern was unique in England and has led scholars to compare the tower with one built at about the same time, thirty miles south of Paris, the Chateau d’Etampes.

After being decimated by fire, wind, and even water (the castle sunk into the moat causing the walls to crack in the 1350s) the next challenge came from a very unlikely source - the castle’s jailer, Robert Redhead.  In 1596 he began demolishing the tower and selling the stone as building material 'for his own profit'.  He was only stopped after prolonged protests by the city council.

The tower's last military role began with the Civil War when, in 1642, it was again occupied by troops - first Royalists, then Parliamentarians.  A garrison of soldiers stayed in the tower until it was burnt out in a fire in 1684.

It later became a garden ornament (albeit a large one) until it was incorporated into the extensions of the prison in 1825.  Over the centuries the tower has regularly been threatened by demolition or neglect and yet still it stands, a proud, if somewhat decayed, monument to York’s turbulent and bloody past.

Why Clifford's Tower?
It isn't entirely clear when or why the Tower got its present name.  Originally it was simply known as the King’s Tower, indeed the first recorded use of 'Clifford's Tower' is not until 1596.  The name may well be a reference to the fact that Roger de Clifford was hanged at the tower in 1322 for opposing Edward II, or to the Clifford family’s claim that they were the hereditary constables of the tower.

As would be expected, the tower is a Grade I listed building with the entry at the English Heritage website telling us:

Castle keep. 1245-72; partly dismantled 1596-97; forebuilding largely rebuilt 1642-43; gutted by explosion in 1684. Restorations of 1902, 1915 and 1936. For King Henry III.

MATERIALS: rubble stone faced with magnesian limestone ashlar; roof lost: forebuilding rebuilt in pinkish stone, with hipped roof of tiles. Quatrefoil on plan with rectangular projecting forebuilding.

EXTERIOR: 2-storey tower, originally embattled, with battered base, 3 bartizans, and full-height buttressed forebuilding to south. Forebuilding has hollow-chamfered, elliptical arched doorway of 2 orders: to right, a length of original hoodmould survives. Building largely lit by slits or chamfered rectangular lights: in right return one original lancet survives. Above doorway, a halved panel is carved in low relief with Royal Arms of Charles II above the arms of Henry Clifford, 8th Earl of Cumberland. Two corbelled bartizans, lit by slits, and similar one opposite forebuilding a garderobe tower, lit by chamfered rectangular light. On each side of forebuilding, slits light staircases within tower walls. The lower stage of each tower lobe has two arrow slits with enlarged heads. In upper stage, lobes flanking forehouse have chamfered arched openings, one pointed, one round-headed, blocked later to form arrow slits. Elsewhere, openings are chamfered lights with shouldered heads. Remains of embrasures and arrow slits in merlons survive from original embattled parapet and walkway. A water spout with a grotesque face projects on the west.

INTERIOR: forebuilding has spiral staircase in wall to left, entered through chamfered, shoulder-arched doorway. Inner doorway to tower is pointed and grooved for portcullis. On first floor, in former chapel, arcades of 4 pointed moulded arches remain on 2 adjacent walls; arches are enriched with dogtooth moulding, nailhead capitals to decayed shafts survive, some moulded waterhold bases remain: altered doorway with chamfered lintel in similar wider arch: one original lancet window survives: aumbry in rebated surround. Walls on each side of tower arch contain spiral staircases, entered through chamfered, shoulder-arched doorways. Similar doorways give access to garderobe tower opposite forebuilding, and on upper floor of intermediate bartizans to further spiral staircases to parapet walkway. In all parts, arrow slits and shouldered lights are set in embrasures beneath round or pointed arches of voussoirs, some rebuilt in brick. Two lobes contain hollow-chamfered segment-arched fireplaces with hoods and flues intact. Stone-lined well beneath iron grille.

The "Official Tourism" URL link to the attraction: [Web Link]

The attraction’s own URL: [Web Link]

Hours of Operation:
Monday 10:00 - 16:00 Tuesday 10:00 - 16:00 Wednesday 10:00 - 16:00 Thursday 10:00 - 16:00 Friday 10:00 - 16:00 Saturday 10:00 - 16:00 Sunday 10:00 - 16:00


Admission Prices:
Member Free Adult £4.20 Child (5-15 years) £2.50 Concession £3.80 Family (2 adults, 3 children) £10.90 Overseas Visitor Pass Available


Approximate amount of time needed to fully experience the attraction: Up to 1 hour

Transportation options to the attraction: Personal Vehicle or Public Transportation

Visit Instructions:

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