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York Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cliffords Tower; Turris de Euerwich'; Eboraci

In the civil parish of York.
In the historic county of Yorkshire Ainsty & York.
Modern Authority of York.
1974 county of North Yorkshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SE60475158
Latitude 53.95585° Longitude -1.08000°

York Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.

Description

York Castle and Clifford's Tower which are situated in the heart of York, above the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss, now the Foss Navigation. The monument comprises several elements within a single area. These include the eleventh century motte and bailey castle, the thirteenth century tower keep castle, a Romano-British cemetery associated with the extramural settlement of the legionary fortress, part of Castle Yard Anglian cemetery, a length of the Roman road that ran north-west to south-east past the south-west gate of the fortress, the remains of part of the Roman and Anglo-Scandinavian river frontages along the Foss, and the water defences of the medieval castle. Nationally important remains extend outside the boundary of the scheduling and, indeed, survive buried in areas throughout York. In the immediate vicinity of the castle, partial excavation has revealed evidence of Roman wharves along the Foss and it is believed that further remains of the fort-vicus, such as taverns, shops and houses, underlie the car-park attached to Clifford's Tower, in addition to Anglian burials indicative of post-Roman activity along the line of the Roman road. A large area of the second bailey to the north-east of the 11th century castle also lies outside the scheduling. The boundary of the scheduling has been drawn to identify the core area of the castle. The eleventh century motte and bailey castle, built in 1086 when William the Conqueror came north to consolidate his power over the country, was of earth and timber construction and the original motte underlies the thirteenth century mound of Clifford's Tower. The main bailey lay to the south-east and extended down to the line of the River Foss. The remains of such buildings as stables, barracks and workshops will survive throughout. A second bailey, a large part of which extends beyond the area of the scheduling, is now known to have existed to the north east of the motte and to include the remains of the medieval Jewish cemetery and that of the thirteenth century Franciscan friary. The original timber keep was the scene of the massacre of the York Jews in 1190. In c.1089, the Foss was dammed to create a moat around the keep and bailey. Although infilled, the line of the moat survives beneath the surfaces of the carpark, footpaths and access roads around the castle. Stone defences were added round the bailey by Henry III between 1245 and 1262 when the keep was also rebuilt in stone. The stone keep, known as Clifford's Tower, is quatrefoil in plan and originally comprised a ground floor with two storeys above and a forebuilding containing a chapel. The tower became ruinous in the sixteenth century and the present forebuilding is a seventeenth century reconstruction. Along with two towers and a length of wall to the south-east, the keep is all that remains standing of the medieval castle, though buried features, including those of stone buildings constructed by Henry III, are believed to survive in the open areas of the bailey. The castle was slighted during the Civil War and gutted in 1684. Between 1825 and 1915, it became part of York prison. Most of the prison buildings have since been cleared, but the former debtors' prison and female prison remain, along with the eighteenth century Assize Court. The prison now houses the Castle Museum and all are Grade I Listed. Clifford's Tower and the castle walls are also Grade I Listed and have been in State care since 1916. (Scheduling Report)

Cliffords Tower - 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. (City of York HER)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated on Saturday, July 26, 2014

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