Monument record MYO1748 - CLIFFORDS TOWER

Summary

A castle keep, known as Clifford's Tower, built between 1245 and 1272 for Henry III. It stands on a motte, which was originally larger and surrounded by a deep moat. The stone-built tower is quatrefoil in plan and is entered through a buttressed forebuilding to the south. Spiral staircases set within the thickness of the walls once led to the upper floors and the wall walk. The original forebuilding contained a chapel, which documents indicate was reroofed in lead in 1312. The tower was repaired in 1360-65, after subsidence caused cracks to appear in the masonry. The building was allowed to fall into disrepair over the 15th and 16th centuries and the upper portion of the tower was demolished in 1596 by a gaoler, who dismantled it in order to sell the stone. The forebuilding was largely rebuilt between 1642 and 1643 while the tower was garrisoned by the Royalists. The tower was damaged during the seige of 1644 and repaired in 1652, but was gutted by an explosion in 1684 and largely abandoned. By the 18th century, the keep had become an ornamental feature in the grounds of a large house to the north east and in 1818, parts of the structure were altered to serve as dovecotes. In 1825, the tower was included in the grounds of a new prison. Restoration work was carried out in 1902-3, 1915, 1920-23 and 1936.

Location

Grid reference Centred SE 6046 5147 (25m by 27m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire

Map

Type and Period (11)

Full Description

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. Scheduled Ancient Monument. (English Heritage: Guidebook to Clifford's Tower, York: 1987-; An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York: RCHME: The Defences: HMSO: 1972-: 73-74).
Listing NGR: SE6046351467

Derived from English Heritage LB download dated: 22/08/2005

NMR Information:

CASTLE PRECINCT

Clifford's Tower and portions of the outer walls of the Castle.
C12. A roofless massive stone structure standing on a Norman mound. The entrance building with old tile roof was partially reconstructed after being damaged during the seige of York in 1644. The stone panel bearing the Clifford Arms is later C17. The upper floor forms the chapel and has late C13 arcading inside. The tower is of unusual quatrefoil shape. The moats have been filled in and the drawbridge destroyed, but some of the enclosing wall remains. A.M. (RCHM Vol II) (1)

Clifford's Tower SCHEDULED York SE 605515. (2)

SE 60475148. Castle keep, known as Clifford's Tower, built between 1245 and 1272 for Henry III. It stands on a motte, which was originally larger and surrounded by a deep moat. The stone-built tower is quatrefoil in plan and is entered through a buttressed forebuilding to the south. Spiral staircases set within the thickness of the walls once led to the upper floors and the wall walk. The original forebuilding contained a chapel, which documents indicate was reroofed in lead in 1312. The tower was repaired in 1360-65, after subsidence caused cracks to appear in the masonry. The building was allowed to fall into disrepair over the 15th and 16th centuries and the upper portion of the tower was demolished in 1596 by a gaoler, who dismantled it in order to sell the stone. The forebuilding was largely rebuilt between 1642 and 1643 while the tower was garrisoned by the Royalists. The tower was damaged during the seige of 1644 and repaired in 1652, but was gutted by an explosion in 1684 and largely abandoned. By the 18th century, the keep had become a garden feature and in 1818, parts of the structure were altered to serve as dovecotes. In 1825, the tower was included in the grounds of a new prison. Restoration work was carried out in 1902-3, 1915, 1920-23 and 1936. (3-7)

Additional references. (8,9)

NMR aerial photographs (10-13)

The English Heritage members habdbook for 2009/10 includes a brief summary of the tower and details visitor arrangements. (14)

A website, with an overview of the history of the castle, including mention of the wooden castles that preceded the stone keep. The first was begun in 1068 but was destroyed in a rebellion in 1069 and then rebuilt again. In 1190 the wooden castle was again burnt down, this time it was the scene of a terrible pogrom by a mob against the Jewish community in York who had fled to saftey there. (15)

Overview of the relationship between the jews of medieval York and the tower. (16)

1 List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest District of York, 14th March 1997
2 Scheduled Monument Notification EH Scheduling amendment, 31st March 1992
3 An inventory of the historical monuments in the City of York. Volume II: the defences Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, England
4 Clifford's Tower, York Castle by the late B H St J O'Neil
5 Clifford's Tower and the castles of York
6 Clifford's Tower and the castles of York
7 Yorkshire : York and the East Riding 190-191 by Nikolaus Pevsner; with contributions from John Hutchinson
8 Clifford's Tower, York Castle by the late B H St J O'Neil
9 VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION Ministry of Works. 1960. Clifford's Tower, York Castle: Guide (BH St J O'Neil)
10 Aerial photograph SE 6051/1-12 29/04/1970; SE6051/14 (postcard); SE6051/113-16 01/01/1980; SE6051/17, 62 22/07/1983; SE6051/37-8 05/05/1988
11 Aerial photograph SE6051/41-4 03/08/1991; SE6051/45-9, 69-73 29/07/1991; SE6051/50-1 07/08/1991; SE6051/64, 66-8 08/08/1991; SE6051/93-110 24/12/1991
12 Aerial photograph SE6051/40, 51-61 11/01/1992; SE6051/75-8 11/06/1992; SE6051/111-12 31/10/1992
13 Aerial photograph SE6051/80-7, 92 06/03/1993; SE6051/184-5, 190 27/03/2002
14 English Heritage Visitor Handbook 2009/10 201
15 World Wide Web page Clifford's Tower, Tangled Spider, no date. "Clifford's Tower" <<http://www.cliffordstower.com/>> [Accessed 21-MAY-2009]
16 Clifford's Tower and the jews of medieval York English Heritage


FAS, 2006, Clifford's Tower Conservation Management Plan (Unpublished document). SYO1735.

Sources/Archives (1)

  • --- Unpublished document: FAS. 2006. Clifford's Tower Conservation Management Plan.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (7)

Record last edited

Nov 3 2021 2:52PM

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