Blog, York

A Peek Inside A Norman Castle!


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Clifford's Tower

This week I’m running a series of throwback travel adventures from trips I took in 2018. I’ve written about my time at Middlethorpe Hall – an elegant country house in York – as well as trips I took to York + Oxford in England. Coming up are adventures I had in Lesotho – a self-enclosed Kingdom within the borders of South Africa – as well as New York and Newport, Rhode Island.

Today is all about an outstanding castle in York – a Norman castle with a bloody past built by William the Conqueror. I hope you enjoy this article + please give requests or feedback – any specific travel destinations you want me to write about? Through the last 10 years I’ve give you photos and travel tips + info on over 52 cities – you can browse them by clicking the tab along the top labeled “Blog”. 

Fun Facts About Clifford’s Tower

Much of York’s layout is the result of Roman and Viking construction but one iconic feature is distinctly Norman.  The original mound of Clifford’s Tower, with a timber structure at the top, was constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068

  1. This building stood for just over a century before being burnt down in one of York’s bloodiest and tragic moments, when, in 1190, 150 Jews were massacred on the site
  2. Between 1190 and 1194, it was repaired at great expense, and the mound was raised to its present height.
  3. The second timber structure was destroyed (this time by a gale) in 1245.
  4. Under pressure from his wars with the Scots, Henry III ordered the tower to be rebuilt and strengthened, this time in stone
  5. The result was this tower.
  6. The tower’s last military role began with the Civil War when, in 1642, it was again occupied by troops – first Royalists, then Parliamentarians.  A garrison of soldiers stayed in the tower until it was burnt out in a fire in 1684.
  7. It later became a garden ornament (albeit a large one) until it was incorporated into the extensions of the prisonin 1825.
  8. First recorded use of ‘Clifford’s Tower’ was not until 1596.  The name may well be a reference to the fact that Roger de Clifford was hanged at the tower in 1322 for opposing Edward II, or to the Clifford family’s claim that they were the hereditary constables of the tower.
  9. Its design is ‘quatrefoil’ – four overlapping circles, resembling a four leafed clover.
  10. This design pattern was unique in England and has led scholars to compare the tower with one built at about the same time, thirty miles south of Paris, the Chateau d’Etampes.

Within 5 Mins Walk

  1. York Viking Center
  2. York Castle Museum
  3. York Dungeon
Clifford's Tower York
A spooky room at the north end of the castle
Clifford's Tower, York
A nearby display
Clifford's Tower, York
Entering the tower
York Viking Center
A scene from the Viking Center – 5 mins walk from Clifford’s tower
Ancient coins at York Viking Center
You can get your own coin minted at the York Viking Center
Visit York Viking Center
A typical Viking – all the Vikings in the museum are robotic and move when you move past them
York Taverns
A typical York pub – in the heart of the Shambles
Apothecary shop in The York Castle Museum
An apothecary shop in The York Castle Museum opposite Clifford’s Tower
York Castle Museum
Managed to take this photo inside the York Castle Museum – a very dark + smelly recreation of London in Victorian times! How accurate!
York Castle Museum
One of the many themed rooms – recreations of historical period rooms in England
York Castle Museum
York Castle Museum

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