Monument record MYO4233 - YORK CITY WALLS (TOFTS TOWER) Tower 13


A rectangular tower at the west angle, part of the city walls, built in the 13th century. Rebuilt in 1645 as an artillery tower after it was destroyed in the seige of 1644 and restored in the 1830s.


Grid reference SE 5964 5154 (point)
Map sheet SE55SE
Civil Parish York, City of York, North Yorkshire


Type and Period (3)

Full Description

Tower 13 (NG 59645154. Pl. 24; Fig. next) at the W. angle, was called Tower of the Tofts in 1380 and 1403. (fn. 53) It was probably the tower 'shot down' by the Scots on 4 July 1644 (fn. 54) and rebuilt in 1645 when E. Gyles built, 'a platt forme for a peece of Ordnance and a guard house on Toftegrene which shall be in length five yards and in bredth 3 yards and he to have for doeing the same 60 li' of which 40s. was to be spent on 'repaireing the Walls neere the corner of the Tower at the Toft Grene'. (fn. 55) This reconstruction probably retained the shape of the original tower. The tower has been further altered since c. 1682 when Archer shows the front projecting further than at present with angles in each of the flanking stretches of wall and a semi-hexagonal inner side. It is now rectangular with the W. face almost entirely built of large gritstone blocks of a kind not occurring in the adjacent walls and probably reused from a Roman building. A windowless rectangular room is entered by a doorway in the rear wall. The segmental brick vault is up to 8 ft. 2 ins. high and there is a shallow recess in the centre of the W. wall. There is also a gritstone strainer arch on the E. side presumably inserted when the adjoining arch was pierced for the railway line.

Over 300 ft. of wall N.E. of the W. angle have been rebuilt, being adapted to allow the railway line to pass through to the Station in Toft Green. The first station, opened on 29 May 1839, was outside the walls, but in 1839–40 the northern of the two arches was cut, and in 1841 the new station and offices of the York and North Midland and Great North of England Railway Company were opened; the station is now named the Old Station. The southern arch was made in 1845 to bridge additional lines. There are five buttresses supporting the wall, of which the most northerly replaced Tower 14.

From the W. angle the ground level originally rose to a hill by Tower 16 opposite the Royal Station Hotel and then dropped down towards the Ouse. The ramparts followed this rise and fall but the railway cuttings, the building of Queen Street and bridge, the formation of Station Road, and the raising of the ground beside the river have obscured the original profile. Part of the outer ditch is occupied by the cholera burial ground of 1832. The dimensions of the rampart vary from 58 ft. to 136 ft. in width, from 15 ft. to 28 ft. in height externally, and from 10 ft. to 30 ft. internally.

¶The discoveries made in cutting through the rampart for access to the Old Station are poorly recorded. The rampart covered undisturbed burials in a Roman cemetery and contained disturbed burials from the same, the latter presumably thrown up from the outer ditch. (fn. 56) An earlier wall was found at three places within the rampart and has been thought to be Roman. (fn. 57) It is now clear, however, that one of these finds made under the S. foot-way arch of Station Road was of a stone and clay wall 16 ft. above the Roman level; stones from it, now in the Yorkshire Museum, can be identified as 8th-century and 11th-century. It is possible that this 'wall' was in fact only the footings of the mediaeval wall buried in a raising of the rampart, which was then surmounted by a new wall, to counteract the rise of the adjacent ground level. The stones might have come from the chapel of St. Mary Magdalene in the King's Tofts replaced by the Dominican church after 1227.

NMR: Referred to as the `Tower of the Tofts' in 1380 and 1403. This was probably that tower shot down by the Scots in July 1644, an drebuilt as an artillery tower in 1645 by E Gyles. The reconstruction probably retained the oriinal shape, but has been altered since 1682 when Archer shows the front projecting further than at present with angles in each of the flanking stretches of wall, and a semi-hexagonal inner side. It is now rectangular with the west face almost entirely built of gritstone, possibly reused from a Roman building.

1980s programme of consolidation on the Walls saw signs of structural failure in the foundations evident from a number of cracks in the rear wall and brick vaulted roof. YAT carried out an excavation in late 1985 to gauge the scale of the problem. The tower contains a rectangular chamber awalled and vaulted in post-med brick. The fill between the chamber walls and outer wall limestone skin varies between earth and rubble. The original tower on this site is believed to have been demolished after taking a direct hit during the Civil War. The present rear of Tower 13 does not follow the original wall line (INTERIM 1986).

INTERIM (Serial). SYO36.

RCHME, 1972, An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Volume II The Defences, p102 (Monograph). SYO63.

YAT, 1986, Backs to the Wall in Archaeology in York INTERIM, p16 (Serial). SYO2193.

York Archaeological Trust, 2019, Tofts Tower Tower 13 (Unpublished document). SYO2231.

Sources/Archives (4)

  • --- Serial: YAT. 1986. Backs to the Wall in Archaeology in York INTERIM. 11/1. p16.
  • --- Unpublished document: York Archaeological Trust. 2019. Tofts Tower Tower 13.
  • --- Serial: INTERIM. 3.
  • --- Monograph: RCHME. 1972. An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of York, Volume II The Defences. p102.

Protected Status/Designation

Related Monuments/Buildings (4)

Related Events/Activities (3)

Record last edited

Dec 3 2019 10:11AM


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