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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Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;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*.


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
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 13, 15-19, 46-7, 187, 266, 295, 383
      Purton, P.F., 2009, A History of the Early Medieval Siege c. 450-1220 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 167 (sieges 1068-9)
      Dean Gareth, 2008, Medieval York (The History Press)
      Wilson, B. and Mee, F., 2005, The city walls and castles of York: the pictorial evidence (York: York Archaeological Trust - The archaeology of York supplementary series; 1/3)
      Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) passim
      Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 114-8
      Ingham, Bernard, 2001, Bernard Ingham's Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 44-7
      Richard Hall, 1996, English Heritage book of York (London: English Heritage) p. 15, 21, 40, 43, 48, 58-9, 73, 91
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 282-5
      Pevsner, Nikolaus and David Neave, 1995, Buildings of England: Yorkshire: York and the East Riding (London) p. 190-191
      Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford) p. 138, 184, 358
      McNeill, Tom, 1992, English Heritage book of castles (London: English Heritage) p. 128
      Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 237-9
      Drage, C., 1987, 'Urban castles' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 117-32 online copy
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 528-9
      Ryder, P.F., 1982 (paperback edn 1992), The Medieval Buildings of Yorkshire (Ash Grove Book) p. 87-107
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 209-10
      Harvey, J., 1975, York (London: Batsford)
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 351-2
      RCHME, 1972, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York Vol. 2: The Defences (London, HMSO) p. 59-86, 176-9
      Garlick, Tom, 1972, Yorkshire Castles (Dalesman) p. 26-7
      Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 889-894
      Tillott, P.M. (ed), 1961, VCH Yorkshire: City of York p. 521-8 online transcription
      Toy, Sidney, 1953, The Castles of Great Britain (Heinemann) p. 125-7
      Toy, Sidney, 1939, Castles: A short History of Fortifications from 1600 BC to AD 1600 (London) p. 132-5
      Illingworth, J.L., 1938 (republished 1970), Yorkshire's Ruined Castles (Wakefield) p. 116-22
      Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 8
      Armitage, Ella, 1912, The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles (London: John Murray) p. 242-8 online copy
      Armitage and Montgomerie, 1912, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Yorkshire Vol. 2 p. 43-4
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Cooper, T.P., 1911, History of the Castle of York (London: Elliot Stock)
      Cooper, T.P., 1904, York, the Story of its Walls and Castles (London) p. 3-214
      Camidge, Wm., 1904, Clifford's Tower, York (York) (history)
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 277-9 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 534-48 online copy
      Twyford and Griffiths, 1880, Records of York Castle (London) p. 3-45 (weak)
      Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 3 (London) p. 169-71 online copy
      Grainge, W., 1855, Castles and Abbeys of Yorkshire p. 196-207 online copy
      Lockwood and Cates, 1834, History and Antiquites of the Fortifications of the City of York (London) p. 43-4
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 6 p. 78-80 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Guy, Neil, 2011-12, 'The Rise of the Anti-clockwise Newel Stair' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 113-174 online copy
      Mesqui, Jean, Renn, Derek and Smals Laurens, 2008, ''The Portcullis in Medieval Great Towers: An Impression' Château Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 289-95
      Harfield, C.G., 1991, 'A Hand-list of Castles Recorded in the Domesday Book' English Historical Review Vol. 106 p. 371-392 view online copy (subscription required)
      Taylor, A.J., 1986, 'The date of Clifford's Tower, York' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 111 p. 153-9 (reprinted in Taylor, A.J., 1986, Studies in castles and castle-building, (London: Hambledon Press) p. 241–7)
      Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 311
      King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
      Renn, D.F., 1964, 'The first Norman Castles in England 1051-1071' Château Gaillard Vol. 1 p. 125-132
      Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
      Brown, R. Allen, 1955, 'Royal Castle-building in England 1154-1216' English Historical Review Vol. 70 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press)) p. 19-64
      O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1939, 'Excavations at York Castle, 1935' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 19 p. 85-9 (on dating)
      O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1934, 'A note on the date of Clifford's Tower, York' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 91 p. 296-300, 362-3 online copy
      Armitage, E., 1904, 'The Early Norman Castles of England' English Historical Review Vol. 19 p. 209-245, 417-455 esp. 443-7 online copy
      Hope, W.H.St J., 1903, 'English Fortresses and Castles of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 60 p. 87 online copy
      Benson, G. and Platnauer, H., 1902, 'Notes on Clifford's Tower, York' Yorkshire Philosophical Society Report p. 68-74 and plates VI, VII
      Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 216 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1875-6, The defences of York' Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 4 p. 2-42 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1874, 'The defences of York' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 31 p. 221-61 esp. 255-9 online copy
      King, E., 1782, 'A Description of Clifford's Tower' Archaeologia Vol. 6
  • Guidebooks
    • Clark, J., 2010, Clifford's Tower (London: English Heritage)
      Butler, L.A.S., 1997, Clifford’s Tower and the Castles of York (London: English Heritage)
      Anon, 1987. Clifford’s Tower and the castles of York. (London: English Heritage)
      1981, York Castle (RCHME)
      O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1979 (2edn), Clifford's Tower, York Castle (HMSO)
      1973, York Castle: an illustrated history (RCHME)
      Renn, D.F., 1971, Clifford's Tower and the castles of York
      O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1936, Clifford's Tower, York Castle (HMSO)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • 1086, Domesday Book online copy
      Ingram, James, (ed) 1912, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (Everyman Press, London) Worcester Chronicle AD1067 Worcester AD1069 view online transcription (Ingram's translation and notes date from 1823. More recent translations of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles should be consulted for serious study)
      le Prevost, A. (ed), 1840, Orderici Vitalis, Historiae Ecclesiaticae Vol. 2 p. 184, 185 online copy
      1895 The Great Roll of the Pipe for the nineteenth year of the reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1172-3 (Pipe Roll Society Publications 19) p. 2 online copy
      Stubbs, W. (ed), 1870, Chronica Magistri Rogeri de Houedene (Rolls Series 51) Vol. 3 p. 34 online copy
      Stubbs, Wm. (ed), 1867, Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi Benedicti Abbatis; Chronicle of the Reigns of Henry II and Richard I. A.D. 1169-1192 (London: Rolls Series 49) Vol. 2 p. 107 online copy
      Stenton, D.M. (ed.), 1925, The Great Roll of the Pipe for the second year of the reign of King Richard the First, Michaelmas 1190 (Pipe Roll 36) (Pipe Roll Society Publications 39)
      Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 440 online copy
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 503-8
      C145/76(23) (Survey of 1315) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 59 No. 244 online copy)
      C145/102(13) (Survey of 1326) The National Archives reference (calendared in Maxwell Lyte, H.C., 1916, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 2 p. 225 No. 903 online copy)
      C145/180(10) (Survey of 1360) The National Archives reference (calendared in Stamp. A.E. (ed), 1937, Calendar of Inquisitions Miscellaneous (Chancery), preserved in the Public Record Office (H.M.S.O.) Vol. 3 p. 130-2 No. 366 online copy)
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
    • Speed, John, 1611-12, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain online copy
      Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
      Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 540
      Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 54 online copy
  • Other sources: Theses; 'grey' literature; in-house reports; unpublished works; etc.
    • Fradley, Michael, 2011, The Old in the New: Urban Castle Imposition in Anglo-Norman England, AD1050-1150 (University of Exeter PhD Thesis) available via EThOS
      Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online
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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.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
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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, November 15, 2014

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