Clifford’s Tower is one of the most prominent medieval structures in York. The site of a gaol, royal mint and law courts, the tower has had a long history in the local area. The top of the tower reveals stunning views over the city and it highly valuable strategic position as part of the city’s defences is clear to see. The tower’s four lobe design is not replicated by any other structure in England. However, similarities with the Tour Guinette at Étampes, France hint at where the structure’s design may have originated.
Clifford’s Tower has had a turbulent and difficult history. Archaeological evidence indicated a Roman cemetery is present on the site of the tower. The Norman Mott and Bailey Castle that preceded Clifford’s Tower burnt down in 1190, not long after the horrific massacre of York’s Jewish community. In 1978, a plaque was placed to commemorate this event.
By the middle of the 13th century the stone version of Clifford’s Tower as we now know it was built. York was a key administrative hub for the royal courts in England and the north and the tower played a large role in that. Despite this, the tower fell into disrepair through the 15th and 16th centuries until it was occupied by Civil War forces. Consequently, refurbishment was demanded by Queen Henrietta Maria. The tower was left largely unused after the 17th century until a prison was established that hid the tower from view for several decades. In 1915, Clifford’s Tower was taken into state ownership. It wasn’t long until the remaining prison buildings were demolished and the tower was unveiled for excavation and public appreciation.
Things to see and do:
- Climb to the top of the tower to witness incredible views of York’s skyline.
- Explore the tower and its rooms using restored staircases and purpose built walkways.
- Audio benches allow visitors to sit and listen to the stories the tower holds.
For more information, click here.
There are no accessible toilets on the site.
There are handrails throughout the property. However, there are no lifts.
Assistance dogs are welcome.
Additionally braille guides and braille signage is available to visitors. There are also tactile maps of the property. An audio tour of the site is available to download via QR code in the tower.
Induction loops are embedded into the audio seating on the ground floor. Furthermore, audio installation transcripts are available.
For more information on accessibility, please click here.
Click here for information on another York landmark, York Minster!