Clifford's Tower, York
Clifford's Tower was once the impressive keep of York Castle, which has long since been lost. Perched on a motte that once dominated the city, the keep itself is an unusual design and in a good state of repair to be able to explore the battlements and to look out across to York Minster and the spires that provide a great view from the top.
A visit to Clifford's Tower cannot be complete without a walk around the fabulous city centre sights such as The Shambles and City Walls with their magnificent tower gates.
The history of York goes back to prehistoric times, with much to find out from both Roman and Viking periods of occupation through to Dick Turpin's capture and execution.
~ History ~
71 ~ Following tribal revolts the Roman Ninth Legion marches from Lincoln, erecting an earth and timber castle at York beside the River Ouse.
200's ~The Romans establish a settlement beside the timber castle.
627 ~ The Anglian King Edwin conquers Eoforwic (York), establishing a settlement near to the Roman site.
797 ~ The growing wealth of the city attracts interest from across the North Sea, resulting in the first of many Viking raids.
866 ~ The Vikings capture the city and subsequently name it Jorvic.
1000's ~ Saxon raids increase leading to the control of York.
1068 ~ Following the Norman invasion two years earlier a serious revolt by Saxon Lords threaten King William's hold of his new kingdom in the north. He marches north, building castles as he progresses, including a timber motte and bailey castle at York, garrisoned by 500 men to guard the city. Feeling confident his hold of the north is secure, King William returns south.
1069 ~ The Norman Earl of Northumbria, together with many of his men, is killed at Durham. Northumbrians, under Edgar Aetheling, attack the city and castle of York. William hurriedly returns north, catching the Northumbrian army unaware. Aetheling flees to Scotland but many of his rebel army are slain. William commences the building of a second additional motte and bailey castle on the other side of the Rover Ouse. Before the new castle is completed York is again attacked, but this time between the two castles the city holds out.
1070 ~ A large Danish fleet which had already attacked the ports of Dover, Sandwich, Ipswich and Norwich, sail up the river and join forces with Northumbrians to attack the city. The garrison burn the houses to prevent their timbers being used to bridge the castle ditches. The Danes set fire to the city that remained intact. Despite their efforts, the Norman garrisons are eventually overun and both castles destroyed. William returns once more north to York and laids waste to the countryside, pushing back the Danes and rebuilding his castles.
1149 ~ Henry of Anjou, future King Henry, meets his great-uncle David, King of Scotland, at Carlisle to plot their attack on King Stephen of England. Hearing of this plot King Stephen quickly makes his way to York with his army to meet this invasion, which is then abandoned when the Earl of Chester fails to join the rebellion.
1170's ~ A rebellion against King Henry II is instigated by his wife, Queen Eleanor, through her sons and with the aid of King Louis of France. This crisis triggers Henry to spend money on the castle, including £15 on the keep on York castle. During this rebellion King William of Scotland uses the crisis to invade England but is captured at Alnwick. The terms of his release make William and all future Kings of Scotland vassals to the Kings of England. He is forced to pay homage to King Henry at York castle.
1190 ~ Two prominent Jewish money lenders to King Richard I's crusades, and who were present at his coronation, are horrified to hear that the propaganda surrounding the 3rd crusade against the Muslim non-believers also involved the Jews, who also did not worship Christ. This in turn leads to rumours that the King has ordered Jews to be massacred. One is killed trying to get back to his home in York, where the population had attacked his house, killing everyone inside. The motivation for many was the opportunity to clear their personal debts. The remaining Jews fee to the safety of the castle, where the constable grants them protection. Those found outside the castle are either killed or forcibly baptized. Those sheltering inside are so afraid that they will be betrayed by the constable upon him leaving the castle, they refuse to let him back inside. The constable subsequently reports to the sheriff, who summons his troops to the castle, where they are joined by a large mob. The defending Jews throw rocks from the battlements at their attackers.
After a long siege, a number of Jews realise they would not be let out alive, so they decide to take their own lives rather than be killed by the mob. Each father kills his wife, children and then set fire to the castle. Those Jews, who decide against this action are killed by the mob, following promise of safe passage. 150 Jews die.
1200 ~ King John visits York to ensure the castle is repaired. Due to the people of York deciding not to greet the King upon his arrival, they are fined £100 for disloyalty.
1228 ~ The timber elements of the castle are blown down in a great storm.
1244 ~ King Henry III's visit and growing threat from Scotland prompts the rebuilding of the castle in stone.
1262 ~ The rebuilding of the castle is completed at a cost of £3,700.
1298 ~ The Kings northern treasury is established in Clifford's Tower.
1322 ~ Northern barons rebel against the rule of King Edward II, and his favourite Hugh Despenser clash near York, resulting in the rebel leader being executed at his own castle of Pontefract. His fellow rebel, Lord Roger de Clifford, is hung in chains from Clifford's Tower.
1360 ~ Reports on the condition of Clifford's Tower show serious subsidence in the motte and cracks in the castle walls, following decades of repeated flooding from the River Ouse. The rest of the castle also being in a bad state of repair. Over the next 5 years £800 is spent on repairs.
1484 ~ King Richard III intends to completely rebuild the castle, but with his death at the Battle of Bosworth, all work on the castle stops.
1644 ~ Following retreat of King Charles northern Royalist army to York, Parliamentary forces are soon joined by Scottish forces who lay siege to the city. The arrival of Prince Rupert relieves the Royalist garrison, with the Parliamentary army deciding to concentrate their forces at the Battle of Marston Moor. Their victory see's the siege renewed. Surrender of the city sees the Royalist garrison march out of the city gates with full honours, leaving behind a city destroyed by fire and buildings wrecked by cannon.
1646 ~ The castle's primary use is as an armoury for the city and later a magazine.
1684 ~ Demolition of the tower is undertaken by cannon fire, leaving the castle damaged but still standing.
1699 ~ The Crown sells Clifford's Tower.
1739 John Palmer, notorious horse trader, is staying in an inn in York, when local magistrates become suspicious how he makes his money and he is arrested. Imprisoned in York Castle he sends a letter to his brother-in-law, which is intercepted and his true identity revealved through his handwriting, as wanted highwayman Dick Turpin, who is then tried and executed on accounts of horse theft and murder.