York's 800-year-old Clifford's Tower revealed after conservation work

Hidden rooms including a royal toilet revealed for the first time since 1684

30 Mar 2022


This Saturday, 2 April 2022, English Heritage reopens Clifford’s Tower in York to the public, following a major £5 million project to conserve and radically transform the interior of the 800-year-old landmark.

Where previously the tower was an empty shell, the charity has now installed a free-standing timber structure within it, protecting the ruin and creating a new roof deck to provide views over York.

On the tower’s lost first floor, dramatic aerial walkways will open up hidden rooms for the first time since Clifford’s Tower was gutted by fire in 1684.

© Christopher Ison / English Heritage


Jeremy Ashbee, Head Properties Curator at English Heritage, said:

Clifford’s Tower is almost all that remains of York Castle, which was the centre of government for the North throughout the Middle Ages and up to the 17th-century - the place where the whole of the North of England was ruled from. We not only wanted to preserve this incredible building but also do justice to its fascinating and multi-faceted history.


Exposed to the elements for more than 300 years, its historically fire damaged stonework, and the walls, turret stairs, arrow slits and fireplaces have been painstakingly repaired. The chapel has been reroofed, while the carved heraldic plaques above the entrance to Clifford’s Tower, showing the coats of arms of Charles I and Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, have also been conserved.

© Christopher Ison / English Heritage


The new interior and roof deck at Clifford’s Tower has been designed by Hugh Broughton Architects, a contemporary architectural practice. Supported by four slender wooden columns, the structure sits on a raft foundation, which spreads the load without impacting on the archaeological remains beneath the tower. The practice has worked closely with conservation specialists Martin Ashley Architects to produce a scheme which sits respectfully within the heritage structure.

© Christopher Ison / English Heritage


New interpretation will help place the tower in the context of both the historic York Castle and the city of York itself as well as introducing visitors to the tower’s long and turbulent history. Visitors can explore the castle’s founding by William the Conqueror, the tower’s role as the site of the tragic 1190 massacre and suicide of York’s Jewish community – one of the worst anti-Semitic episodes in English history – and the role of the castle as both a medieval royal stronghold and a garrison during the Civil War.


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