Cliffords Tower

The conquerers' symbol of power and domination

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The keep of the former York Castle, which was originally surrounded by water by the river and a moat.
This present building dates from the 13th century though the first castle was built two hundred years earlier.

Following the Norman conquest of England in 1066, William the Conquerer began a campaign to dominate the north of the country. Having cleared all the houses in this part of Viking York, in 1068 he built a wooden castle here, strategically located between York’s two rivers, the Ouse and the Foss.
This first building was soon destroyed in an anti-Norman rebellion, however.

The rebuilt wooden keep burned down again in the twelfth century: In 1190 it was the site of a bloody pogrom, when the Jews of the city fled and were besieged in it. Faced with being murdered by the mob, many took their own lives. There was said to be a Jewish curse (Cherem) placed on the city, not lifted before a ceremony in 1990, the 800th anniversary of the event. (See the plaque below the steps.)

The whole castle was rebuilt again – in stone – in the 13th century, and covered the whole area of the Eye of York, where the present-day Crown Courts and the  Castle Museum are (now across the road). The building was modified and rebuilt over the centuries, leaving just the present keep of the castle.

Note that the tower and its two floors are only accessible via steep steps. Once inside, don’t miss the scale model of the original castle, or the garderobe (latrine) in the wall, now a place where visitors throw coins.

Tip A good place to get panoramic views of York. (An alternative to the Minster tower, which gives the best view, if you can’t face the hike up its stairs.)

TIME Allow around an hour

NEARBY Castle Museum, Jorvik, Walls

At A Glance

Tower Street
York YO1 9SA
Visit website →
10-6 (summer), 10-4 (winter),


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