About Clifford’s Tower

Clifford's Tower is a stone structure with a long and varied history which sits high atop a mound in York. In fact, Clifford’s Tower has been everything from a royal mint to a prison and only attained its name in the fourteenth century when it was named after Roger de Clifford who was hanged there in 1322.

The current 13th century structure known as Clifford’s Tower is not the first to be built on this site. Originally constructed by William the Conqueror as a castle in 1086, Clifford’s Tower was destroyed by a rebellion early in its life and rebuilt. However, in the 12th century, Clifford’s Tower suffered destruction yet again. This time it followed the accession of Richard I or Richard the Lionheart. At this time, the Jewish community in York, who had been protected during the reign of his father, Henry II, were persecuted in England.

In 1190, the Jews of York took refuge in Clifford’s Tower, trying to escape a mob. Rather than fall into the hands of this mob, most of the inhabitants at Clifford’s Tower committed suicide and burnt the structure down. When the survivors emerged the following day, they were massacred by the mob. This incident is commemorated by a plaque at the foot of Clifford’s Tower.

Managed by English Heritage, visitors to Clifford’s Tower can climb up its steep and winding steps for beautiful views of York.

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