The fortress now known as Clifford's Tower in York was originally built by William the Conquerer in 1068, as part of his campaign to subdue the North under Norman rule. A century later it became the site of terrible anti-Jewish violence in which many lost their lives.
History of Clifford's Tower
The first fortress to stand on this site was made of wood. Built (along with the mound itself) by William the Conquerer in 1068 as a fortress against anti-Norman rebellion in the north, it was burned down by that rebellion within a year. It was soon rebuilt, however, with the Normans taking harsh reprisals against the rebels and the city of York.
Over a century later, in 1190, the castle became the setting of terrible events. As part of an upsurge of anti-Jewish sentiment related to the propaganda of the Crusades and the accession of the crusading King Richard to the throne, violence broke out against York's Jews. About 150 Jews sought refuge in the wooden keep, but it was soon set upon by the mob.
Rather than fall into the hands of the mob, many of the Jews inside committed suicide and set the castle on fire; the survivors who emerged were massacred. As punishment for this heinous act, the king's chancellor fired York's sheriff and constable and imposed a heavy fine on York's citizens. The ringleaders of the crime were never found.
The fortress was rebuilt in stone between 1245 and 1262, using a unique quatrefoil design that is found nowhere else in England. It came be known as Clifford's Tower after Roger de Clifford, who was hanged there in 1322.
What to See at Clifford's Tower
The outside of Clifford's Tower is well worth viewing, and be sure to visit the plaque in Hebrew dedicated to the Jews who lost their lives here.
However, the price of admission, which simply grants access to the rather empty interior, may be better spent in the Castle Museum just east of Clifford's Tower. This museum houses a fascinating array of domestic and agricultural items collected by the eccentric Dr. Kirk of Pickering in the 1920s, along with two entirely reconstructed Victorian and Edwardian streets.
Quick Facts on Clifford's Tower
|Names:||Clifford's Tower · York Castle|
|Categories:||castles; jewish heritage sites; Grade I listed buildings|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||53.955893° N, 1.080120° W|
North Yorkshire, England
|Hours:||Apr-Sep: daily 10am-6pm|
Oct: daily 10am-5pm
Nov-Mar: daily 10am-4pm
Closed Dec 24-26
|Lodging:||View hotels near Clifford's Tower|
- Personal visit (May 27, 2006).
- Clifford's Tower, York - English Heritage
- Clifford's Tower - Massacre at York
Map of Clifford's Tower, North Yorkshire
Below is a location map and aerial view of Clifford's Tower. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.