Artist impression of the new visitor centre at Clifford's Tower

A new perspective on Clifford's Tower

The fascinating story of Clifford's Tower will finally be told thanks to a major investment by English Heritage into this York landmark.

Parts of the tower which have been unseen for decades will be revealed, a new timber deck at roof level will allow visitors to better enjoy the spectacular views of York, while new interpretation will do justice to the monument's centuries-old history.

A new visitor centre, nestling into the mound at ground level, will ensure that visitors are given a warm welcome and will also reveal a section of the tower's substantial 19th-century wall, buried since 1935.

Clifford’s Tower

Why change Clifford's Tower?

Clifford's Tower is perched atop the mighty castle mound raised by William the Conqueror in 1068. It was the keep and chief strongpoint of York Castle, one of the greatest fortresses in medieval England. The castle served as the backdrop for events of national and international significance including, most notoriously, the attack on the Jewish community in 1190 when the Jews of York took refuge from a vicious pogrom in a wooden predecessor to Clifford's Tower and died in the most tragic circumstances.

At present, a visit to Clifford's Tower is far from ideal and does not reflect the site's importance, both nationally and within the city of York. There is very little interpretation, there is an unsightly shop in the centre of the tower, and the steep flight of stairs up to the tower deters many people. Something has to be done. Our project at Clifford's Tower will do justice to both the history and the experience of visiting this important York landmark.

Proposed changes to the inside of Cliffords Tower

What changes are you making?

Our project will reveal parts of the tower which have not been seen for decades (including the 19th century wall buried under the mound and medieval spaces within the tower), provide new interpretation that explores the history of the site, remove the unsightly shop from the tower's centre, and create a platform on the tower's roof so that people can better enjoy the spectacular views over the city.

We'll make it easier to climb the mound, providing a resting and viewing place on the visitor centre roof.

We will also be investing almost half a million pounds to conserve and repair the tower so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.

The view from the top of Clifford’s Tower

What's the latest on the project?

On 27 October 2016 York City Council approved our proposals to enhance the visitor experience at Clifford's Tower. As part of the planning application process, we consulted widely with the public, inviting them to a number of events to hear about our plans for the tower and submit feedback via email.

Once the work begins Clifford's Tower will close to the public while the project is carried out. Further updates on opening times and potential closures will be added soon - please check opening times before planning your visit.

The original retaining wall at Clifford’s Tower which will be exposed as part of the changes

How the castle has changed throughout history

The large stone tower, which we now know as Clifford's Tower, was built in the 1250s during the reign of King Henry III.

For much of the 14th and 15th centuries, Clifford's Tower was used as treasury, exchequer, mint, gaol and seat of royal power. During the Civil War (1642-9), Clifford's Tower was held by the royalists while the city was under siege.

In 1684 the tower was reduced to a shell after a fire. Eventually, most of the castle buildings were swept away when a new prison and court were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, leaving Clifford's Tower as the principal surviving remnant of the York Castle.

As the picture shows, the section of the mound where our new visitor centre will nestle is a relatively recent addition, dating from 1935. We will not be harming any archaeology by installing the visitor centre. Instead, we will be revealing the 19th century wall from the tower's time as the County Gaol.

Clifford’s Tower view from the railings by the Eye of York

We welcome your feedback

You can share any thoughts you have about our plans by emailing cliffordsrevealed@english-heritage.org.uk.

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