Monument record MYO4058 - York Castle

Summary

A motte and bailey castle with an inner and outer bailey, constructed in 1068 or 1069. The initial timber castle on the motte was burned in 1190 in an anti-Jewish riot. There is a reference to the destruction of the castle gate in 1228 by high winds, which may indicate that it was made of wood; this gate was rebuilt in stone after 1244. Unfortunately, there is confusion as to which of the two castle gates this incident refers to. In 1244 Henry III decided to rebuild the castle in stone, replacing the earlier wooden structures. The walls, towers, two halls, a chapel, a kitchen and a prison were either rebuilt or newly constructed. Clifford’s Tower, on top of the motte, was probably added in the 1290s. The northern gateway was first definitely mentioned in the 1320's and it was probably the "great gate" of the castle. During the 12th and 13th centuries various buildings are mentioned as part of the castle, including palisades, gatehouses, houses, stables and stone bridges.

Location

Grid reference SE 6046 5147 (point)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire

Map

Type and Period (1)

Full Description

YORK CASTLE consists of a Norman motte and bailey with a 13th-century quadrilobate stone keep (Clifford's Tower) on the motte and remains of the mediaeval curtain wall and towers round part of the bailey, which now contains the Debtors' Prison of 1701–5, the Assize Courts of 1773–7, and the Female Prison of 1780 and 1803. The two prison buildings now belong to the City of York and house the Castle Museum.

During the past nine centuries the castle has been, like the Tower of London, a fortress, a royal palace, a mint, and a prison, as well as a court of justice and an administrative centre for the county. As a fortress it became obsolete in the 16th century, but the keep was again so used from 1642 to 1684. Its use as a palace was abandoned in the 15th century and the mint was transferred to St. Leonard's Hospital in 1546. It only ceased to be a prison in 1929 and still contains the courthouse for the North and East Ridings. For short periods in the 13th and 14th century it housed the royal treasury and courts, moved from Westminster for convenience in the wars with Scotland. In other ways too it can claim similarity with the Tower of London, for in the 18th century it contained tame deer and a raven as the Tower contained ravens and the royal menagerie. Executions took place here from 1802 to 1896 and intermittently before then of state prisoners, like Lord Clifford and Aske.

'York Castle', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 2, the Defences (London, 1972), pp. 57-86 http://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/york/vol2/pp57-86 [accessed 23 January 2015

William I built the first castle in 1068 as a motte and bailey, but it was destroyed by the Danes in September 1069 and rebuilt before the end of that year. One of the seven shires of the city was laid waste for castle building. The new castle was protected on the S.E. By a damming of the Foss to form the king's fishpond or stew which caused the loss of two new mills and nearly a carucate (about 150 acres) of arable, meadows, and gardens. Access to Fishergate was then by a lane skirting the castle on the W. And crossing by the dam, a route known to have existed in the 12th century.

In 1070 an extension to the castle caused the destruction of a house. In the 12th century there are references to the castle gate and a gaol within the castle as well as to the 'turris'. In 1190 the castle ('turris Eboraci, arx regia') was burnt down in an anti-Jewish riot, killing the Jews who had taken refuge there, and rebuilt again in timber. A reference to the old castle led Drake to assume that the Old Baile was involved.

The initial timber castle on the motte was burned in 1190 in an anti-Jewish riot. There is a reference to the destruction of the castle gate in 1228 by high winds, which may indicate that it was made of wood; this gate was rebuilt in stone after 1244. Unfortunately, there is confusion as to which of the two castle gates this incident refers to. In 1244 Henry III decided to rebuild the castle in stone, replacing the earlier wooden structures. The walls, towers, two halls, a chapel, a kitchen and a prison were either rebuilt or newly constructed. Clifford’s Tower, on top of the motte, was probably added in the 1290s. The northern gateway was first definitely mentioned in the 1320's and it was probably the "great gate" of the castle. During the 12th and 13th centuries various buildings are mentioned as part of the castle, including palisades, gatehouses, houses, stables and stone bridges. (YAT2018)


RCHME, 1972, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Volume II The Defences, pp 57-86 (Monograph). SYO63.

FAS, 2016, Cliffords Tower (Unpublished document). SYO1871.

York Archaeological Trust, 2018, York Castle Museum DBA (Unpublished document). SYO2172.

Sources/Archives (3)

  • --- Unpublished document: FAS. 2016. Cliffords Tower.
  • --- Unpublished document: York Archaeological Trust. 2018. York Castle Museum DBA.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1972. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Volume II The Defences. pp 57-86.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (20)

Record last edited

Feb 5 2021 1:34PM

Feedback?

Your feedback is welcome. If you can provide any new information about this record, please contact us.