York Castle (Clifford's Tower)

ll that remains of York Castle is the shell of the stone keep on top of the motte. This keep is known as Clifford's Tower. The tower is constructed from four semi-circular lobes and would have had a roof supported by a central column. The roof and interior have long since disappeared.


York Castle (Clifford's Tower) Key Facts
CountyNorth Yorkshire (11 castles)
CategoriesMotte & Bailey / Stone
RemainsNot complete but much survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times
TimeRef Rating


YearMonthEvent
1069   York captured by the Danes
 An army sent by Sweyn of Denmark landed in the north and captured York. Local rebels joined the Danes and attacked the two castles within the city. 
1190 Mar  Massacre of Jews at York
 Even though the Jews were under special protection from Richard I ,because of their wealth that could help pay for the Crusades, the mob attacked 150 Jews hiding in the castle at York. Most committed suicide rather than be attacked by the mob, but the rest believing promises that they would be spared if they came out left the castle and were promptly massacred.[1] 
1312 Qtr 1  Edward looks to Scotland for help
 Gaveston's return to England forced the Archbishop of Canterbury to honour his threat of excommunication and the Earls to prepare for civil war against the king. Edward and Gaveston travelled to Scotland to seek help from Robert the Bruce but were not welcome.[2]

Episode: Edward II and Piers Gaveston  
 May 19  Gaveston surrenders
 While the Earl of Lancaster set up camp midway between York and Scarborough to prevent Gaveston and the King rejoining, the Earls of Pembroke and Surrey besieged Scarborough castle. The castle was not prepared to withstand the stand-off and Gaveston surrendered after a couple of weeks. The terms of his surrender were generous and Pembroke gave his word that Gaveston would not be harmed until he was presented to Parliament.[2]

Episode: Edward II and Piers Gaveston  
1319 Sep 20  Battle of Myton
 While the best of the English army were at Berwick, a Scottish army led by Sir James Douglas invaded Yorkshire. With an untrained army the Archbishop of York, William Melton, tried to fight off the Scots but was defeated at Myton-in-Swalesdale. With the Scots threatening their lands in the north the earls, with Edward at Berwick, abandoned the siege and returned to their homes. Queen Isabella who was in York at the time managed to escape to safety at Nottingham.

Episode: Robert the Bruce  
1322 May  Parliament at York
 Edward was now back in control of the country and at the Parliament held at York the rebels who had fought against him were punished, many being executed for treason. The Ordinances against Edward were repealed and those who had supported Edward through the bad times were rewarded. The elder Hugh Despenser was made Earl of Winchester. The younger Despenser was given large amounts of land forfeited by the rebels.[2] 
1323 May  Treaty signed
 A thirteen year peace was signed at York between Scotland and England.[2]

Episode: Robert the Bruce  

Motte and Bailey Castles

Virtual reconstruction

The Norman Conquerors built their castles in locations where they could keep control of the local populations of Saxons or at important locations such as river crossings or on key roads. Many motte and bailey castles were built on the border with Wales to try and keep the Welsh at bay. The advantage of this type of castle was that it was quick to construct. Making a fortification from wood was much easier than making one of stone.

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