Clifford's Tower, York

3.5 out of 5 stars 54 Reviews

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  • view from the top is good, however
    view from the top is good, however
    by davesut
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    Views of York Minster from Clifford...
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  • margaretvn's Profile Photo

    Clifford’s Tower.

    by margaretvn Updated Apr 27, 2008

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    This tower is all that remains of York Castle. The castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1086, it was built on top of a conical mound loverlooking the River Ouse. In 1190 this castle was the site of the most horrifying episodes in York's colourful history in 1190.
    A mob of citizens rioted against the Jewish population of York. The Jews took refuge inside the castle. Many of the Jews committed suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured by the bloodthirsty mob outside, and more died when the building was set on fire. The remainder were slaughtered by the mob.
    A second wooden castle was built to replace the burned building, this was blew down in the 13th century. Then Henry III had a stone quatrefoil shaped castle was built in 1270.
    In 1322 the tower got its name because Roger de Clifford was executed by Edward II there for treason. He was hanged from the walls of the tower, he was hanged in 1322 after being captured at the Battle of Boroughbridge.
    The tower we see today dates from the 13th century with some 17th century additions – the debtors Prison, female prison and the Assize Court. If you climb the spiral staircase to the walls you do get wonderful views over the city.

    Clifford���s Tower. Clifford���s Tower. Clifford���s Tower.
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    Rather a good motte.........

    by leics Updated Mar 23, 2008

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    The Normans, when they conquered England in 1066, were very keen on building castles. These all followed the same pattern: first the construction of a motte (a mound) with a 'keep' on top, then of an adjoining defended enclosure for cattle, workhops, barracks etc etc. At first all the keeps were wood, but gradually many (though not all by any means) were replaced by stone (the Tower of London was the first stone keep).

    Cliffor'd Tower stands on a very impressive motte indeed.........in fact, I think it is the best of its type still visible, as many others have been built on/changed/adapted over the centuries. It's a massive mound, built entirely by human labour, dating from 1068, was originally topped by a wooden keep which burnt down twice: once following a local rebellion and again in 1190, when local Jews took refuge there. There is a Jewish memorial to this eveny set into the motte.

    The stone 'keep' on top of the motte is unusual in design. It's more like French castles of the same date, probably because its architect was French (he designed Westminstr Abbey too). It too was affected by fire in 1641, when the roof was lost.

    There is little to see within the walls now, apart from the well, the footings for the masive stone pillar which supported the roof and a small chapel. But it's worth the 3GBP entrance fee for the stunning and extensive views of York from the tower walls.

    Impressive motte...... Inside the walls....... Fire-scorched stone Up a chimney York spires..........
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  • ChartIt's Profile Photo

    Cliffords Tower!

    by ChartIt Written May 14, 2007

    How offten do you get to go into a Norman Castle! THis is your chance! It isnt much but it is still cool to go in, and you can climb all the way to the top of the castle and taken in the view of York.

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    Take a walk on real medieval walls!

    by ChartIt Written May 14, 2007

    The City walls are Free to go on, the close at dusk. They can take a slow and steady pace 2 hours to walk around. They can be very slick when wet. If you enter the wall near the City Art Gallery, There is a brief introduction to the history of York and its walls. They really offer some great views of the city. And for me, well they were the only way when i first moved to York to find my way around! There are two museums also located at the Monks Bar, and Micklegate Bar. There are information points all around the city walls. And you need to be aware the walls go only part way around the city. This is because one of the Rivers provides a natural barrier, and they decided it was enough of a deturent to prevent an invasion.

    The museum located at the Monks bar is the Richard III museum.- please see its own comment section

    City walls
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    THE INNER KEEP

    by DAO Updated Mar 18, 2007

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    Clifford’s Tower is under threat! Yes, the City of York is allowing developers to build a shopping centre – on both sides! Stop the madness! Please follow the lings below to fight for Clifford’s Tower! This castle has seen untold carnage and destruction before- just not for 400 years.

    William The Conquer had trouble keeping the good people of York loyal to him, so he built 2 castles in the centre to keep an eye on the local, and sometimes, rebellious populace. The first Motte (central strong position) was built on the site in 1068. That lasted about 1 year and then the locals rebelled and burned it down. William came back to the area, torched most of the city and exacted bloody reprisals then just built it back. He was the King after all.

    In 1190 the resident Jewish community found themselves in the middle of a mob assault when a local man, Richard Malebisse, incited anti-Jewish feelings within the community. The Jews fled inside the tower for shelter. When they began to run low on food they set fire to the wooded structure so they would not have to surrender to the bloodthirsty mob outside. The few survivors were put to death and their business records recoding debts owed to them were destroyed. A shameless and bloody chapter in York history.

    In the 1200’s the tower was finally built in stone. It was destroyed by a bad storm in 1245. You are starting to get the idea that this tower has a sad history. It was rebuilt in stone again in 1313. About 50 years later subsidence from the ground underneath caused its very noticeable crack down the middle. In 1322 Roger de Clifford was hanged by chains from the walls for opposing King Edward II. Bad career move. This is where the name Clifford’s Tower comes from.

    And now the invaders are back and they have bulldozers! Please follow th link below to stop the crazy idea to build a shopping centre on both sides of this historic and cursed piece of history!

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  • roamer61's Profile Photo

    Cliffords Tower

    by roamer61 Updated Sep 26, 2006

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    Built on the site of a much older wooden keep, this shell keep dates from the period pf 1245-1271 and is located on a hill. The keep later became known as Clifford's Tower after Roger de Clifford, who was hanged there in 1322.

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    Clifford's Tower

    by Sjalen Updated Sep 15, 2006

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    Clifford's Tower is from mid 13th century and is sadly the only standing remains of York's medieval castle. It is however one of the most emotional parts to stand since it is the castle keep, rebuilt in stone during the threat of a Scottish invasion some years after York's Jews commited mass-suicide here in 1190 and then also set fire to the original wooden keep. When faced with having to convert to Christianity during the great European persecution of Jews in the 12th century, many took this drastic measure after seeking shelter in the castle but facing defeat. This as "thanks" after they had bailed out Richard I from his captivity in the German lands...After this event, the castle was used by various regents but somehow was allowed to fall into disrepair. Richard III ordered it to be renovated but died at the Battle of Bosworth before this was carried out. There are debates whether the originally named King's Tower is now named after Roger de Clifford who was a nobleman hung here as a traitor in 1322, or Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland and the last sheriff of the castle (during its royalist Civil War times). Henry is in any case the one whose coat of arms still hang above the entrance and someone we know tried to strenghthen the castle during the Civil War. Nevertheless, the castle still suffered greatly from bombardment. The rest of York was not that damaged which is thanks to the parliamentarian troops being led by Lord Fairfax who was from York and had no intention of ruining his city.

    Today you can visit this "four clover structure" by climbing the many stairs up it. You're not really rewarded with anything interesting inside, but it gives a nice view of the surroundings. In recent years, the tower has been threatened by a car park by the ever non-York council workers but luckily, a campaign stopped the madness. Enough York history is being torn down these days!

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    Sad history, nice view.

    by eschroeder12 Updated Aug 26, 2006

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    In 1068-9, William the Conqueror built two motte and bailey castles in York, to strengthen his military hold on the north. Clifford's Tower, an unusual four-lobed keep built in the 13th century atop the mound of William's larger fortress, is now the principal surviving stonework remnant of York's medieval castle. The sweeping views of the city from the tower still show why it played such an important part in controlling northern England.
    Clifford's Tower also plays host to a piece of history about a Jewish massacre in 1190. All Take a short climb up to the top wall and have a look at the city. It's a nice view.

    Clifford's Tower Inside Clifford's Tower

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  • yooperprof's Profile Photo

    Clifford's Castle

    by yooperprof Written Jul 13, 2006

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    It's worthwhile climbing the walls of what's left of York Castle, to get a sense of the lay of the land. There's not a whole lot of the castle left, but the view is good, and you'll probably enjoy the experience of looking down as the streets below.

    The castle was built during the reign of Henry III, but is on the site of what had long been an important defensive fortification. The Normans certainly built here, and in 1190, the castle was the site of a large scale massacre of York's Jewish population, in which as estimated 150 people were murdered. There's a small commemorative placque at the base of the castle.

    Later, the castle played a role in the English Civil War, but was damaged in fighting, and signifcantly affected by a gunpowder explosion later in the 17th century. For a while the Castle was in private hands, but is now owned and operated by English Heritage.

    Motte and Bailey O'er the ramparts we watched Castle view - spire of St Mary's Castlegate
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  • barryg23's Profile Photo

    Clifford's Tower

    by barryg23 Updated Feb 18, 2006

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    Clifford's Tower dates all the way back to the 11th Century, when it was built by William the Conqueror, as part of York Castle, shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The original building was burned down within a year, though its replacement lasted until 1190, when it was burned down in anti-Jewish riots, an event commemmorated by a plaque at the base of the tower. The stone tower you see today was completed in 1270, though its roof was blown off after a fire in the 17th Century. The tower is named after Sir Richard Clifford, who was hanged here in 1322 after a failed rebellion.

    It costs 2.50 pounds to enter the remains of Clifford's Tower. Inside are a number of information panels, presenting a history of the tower, and a small replica of how the tower and the castle looked in medieval times. There is also a walkway along the top of the tower, from where there are good views over the city. The views were obscured somewhat during my visit by the rain and fog, reducing visibilty to just beyond the Minster.

    Clifford's Tower Interior of the tower Jewish memorial Replica of the tower in medieval times Me at the Tower

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    Clifford's Tower

    by Tom_Fields Updated Jan 26, 2006

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    In 1068, shortly after his victory at Hastings, William the Conqueror built this castle within York's walls. For many years, troops were garrisoned here, to maintain control of the North. At that time, it was a simple wooden fort (called a motte-and-bailey castle).

    The most dramatic incident here occurred on the Jewish feast day of Shabbat ha-Gadol, March 16,1190, On that day, the local populace rioted against the Jews, About 150 Jews took refuge in Clifford's Tower, hoping for protection from the garrison. The soldiers did nothing to help. So, as at Masada, most of them killed their families and then themselves. The few survivors were massacred.

    The prime motivation for this vicious attack was the indebtedness of so many local people to Jewish moneylenders. Also, this took place during the time of the Crusades, which stirred up religious hatred toward all non-Christians.

    The old castle was later rebuilt in stone; most of the present structure dates to the 13th century. About a century ago, archeologists found the charred remains of the original timbers. A memorial was laid in memory of the innocent victims of this atrocity.

    Clifford's Tower Inside Clifford's Tower Memorial plaque, dedicated to the victims Clifford's Tower by night
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  • iandsmith's Profile Photo

    When will they ever learn?

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 26, 2005

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    Being raised in a post WWII world and, in a far off country, I sort of thought when I was young that it was basically the Germans who hated the Jews but, after several trips to Europe, it amazes me that they have survived at all, so persecuted have they been.
    Clifford's Tower was the scene of what was perhaps one of the most terrible events in York's history. In 1190 the Jews of York sought refuge there after being attacked by a local mob, whose anger had been inflamed by a hermit. There are some who will suggest that they were given the choice of being either baptised or killed but they took a third option and committed mass suicide. More informed sources indicate that, after being beseiged for days they were attacked and murdered by some of the local populace and some of the many Christians, who owed money to the Jews, wiped their debts by destroying the records.
    This is something I couldn't help but note is bypassed or glossed over in many references which, to my way of thinking, is a shame. It is only by learning the stupidity of past actions that, maybe one day, humans will learn not to repeat them.
    At that time the tower was built of timber and so it was easily burned to the ground. It was then, rather obviously, rebuilt in the stone that you see today.

    A tragic past
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    Clifford's tower

    by iandsmith Updated Dec 26, 2005

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    For the sheer drama of its setting and, its chequered history, there is little in York to rival Clifford's Tower.
    The tower stands on a high mound erected by William the Conqueror as part of his campaign to overthrow the North. It's not that far away to where King Harold repelled the Vikings before he had to head south to try and stop William.
    William threw up two mottes (mounds) with wooden keeps on top - one became Clifford's Tower and the other, Baille Hill, can be seen on the side of the river, although the tower there has long since disappeared, being razed as a protest.
    The inhabitants of old Northumbria did not abandon York to its fate. There were several uprisings against the Norman invaders. Aided by King Sweyn of Denmark, the north rose in revolt, defeated the Norman garrison and sacked York.
    William retaliated with an unprecedented savagery. He retook York, and for the next two years laid waste to the country, burning crops, and destroying villages and farms.
    The Domesday Book, compiled almost twenty years after William's "Harrying of the North", records that the population of Yorkshire fell from 8,000 to 2,000. More tellingly, it described the region between York and Durham as wasteland.
    The city of York emerged from this devastation as a phoenix rising from the ashes. The city walls were rebuilt and strengthened, and the old woden Viking buildings were reconstructed in stone. Four new fortified gates, or "bars", were built to regulate traffic through the walls. The Foss was diverted to feed the moats of both Norman castles.
    York blossomed under the Normans, and quickly regained its economic importance in the north. This prosperity in trade and commerce is reflected in the imposing Merchant Adventurers' Hall and the Guildhall.

    Still standing after all these years....just
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    Clifford's Tower

    by Dabs Updated Aug 21, 2005

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    I wandered through the entire exhibit at Clifford's Tower, did I miss the section on Clifford? Just who the heck was he?

    The tower is set up on the top of a hill, climb up the 55 stairs to get to the admission booth. After paying the L2.80 to get inside, take a look around at the exhibits inside, I especially liked the model of York back when Clifford's Tower was something besides a tourist attraction so you could see how it related to the security of the town.

    Don't miss going to the top of the Tower for a look around (yep, more stairs!) from a different perspective than the Minster. The stairs were hidden behind a gift shop so be sure to find them.

    Just in case you want a bit of history, the Tower was built between 1245-1260 as a stronghold on top of the mound that was constructed during the reign of William the Conqueror in 1068. The roof and floors were lost in a fire in 1684.

    And if you're still wondering who Clifford was, I looked it up after I got home and it turns out it was named for Roger de Clifford, who was hanged there in 1322, executed by Edward II for treason. Clifford was hanged in chains from the walls of the tower has since been known as "Clifford's Tower". Seems sort of odd to honor someone accused of treason though, doesn't it?

    Clifford's Tower Clifford's Tower Clifford's Tower Clifford's Tower

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    Clifford's Tower

    by JanPeter74 Written Feb 14, 2005

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    Apart from the Minster, one of the most important landmarks of the city is Clifford’s tower, located in the city centre as well. The tower was built by Henry III, around 1300 AD and stands on a high mound erected earlier by William the Conqueror. This mound was the scene of one of the most terrible events in the history of York. In 1190, the Jews of York were attacked by a local mob and took refuge in the then wooden tower. They were given the choice to either be baptised or killed. However, being surrounded, they decided to commit mass suicide. Afterwards the wooden tower was burned and later replaced by this stone tower. From the tower you have a great view over the city with the Minster towering over it. See also the picture on my York intro page.

    Clifford's Tower
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