Enjoy the view from Clifford's Tower, built on a high conical mound that overlooks the River Ouse. Originally built by William the Conqueror, Clifford's Tower is all that remains of York Castle, perhaps the most significant symbol of Norman rule in England. The site has been the host of some of the most dramatic and dreadful scenes in York and Northern England's history.
Seat of power
The stunning panoramic views over Old York, with its medieval churches and buildings, make the top of the tower the ideal starting point for your visit to the city. In the distance, you'll be able to see the North York Moors. Archaeological evidence shows that there was activity in this area in Roman times, including a cemetery, and perhaps even earlier, but it was the famous King William the Conqueror who first established a castle here. During his march north to suppress a rebellion against his rule, he built castles as he went. One such castle was built where Clifford's Tower stands today.This Norman motte-and-bailey castle saw several violent incidents during its earliest years, including further revolts and an attack by Danish invaders. As the revolts settled down in the 1070s, the damage of these early years was repaired, and the castle, built largely of timber, survived unscathed through most of the 12th century. During this time, the castle did not generally act as a royal residence, but rather as a regional administrative center. It was occasionally home for the Exchequer, it served as a prison, and it housed an important royal mint.
In 1190, a group of citizens rioted against the Jewish population of York and the Jewish folk took refuge inside the castle. Many committed suicide, while others burned to death or were slaughtered by the bloodthirsty mob. A stone castle was built in place of the old one and gained the name, "Clifford's Tower" after hosting the hanging of the Baron Roger de Clifford for treason.
The castle fell in and out of repair and public use for many centuries, and was even briefly involved in the English Civil War, but remains a firm favorite for York residents and historians alike. In 1915, the tower was taken into state guardianship to be repaired and made accessible to the public so it can be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. A trip to Clifford's Tower not only allows visitors to step back through more than a thousand years of history, but it also offers fantastic views of the city from the castle walls, making it a must-see landmark.