Watch: First look around Clifford’s Tower
after radical £5 million transformation
Clifford’s Tower reopens this Saturday – offering an amazing new experience to visitors.
The ancient York castle has undergone a radical transformation, with clutter removed, aerial walkways installed – and a roof deck offering amazing views across the city.
Visitors can get up close to the ancient monument like never before and discover hidden history – including the king’s flushable toilet dating from the 1200s.
It’s been six years since models for the renovated tower were revealed. English Heritage has spent £5 million completing the project.
At its heart are the stairways and roof deck, supported on four immense wooden columns so the structure does not impact the 800-year-old castle itself.
This was designed by Hugh Broughton Architects working closely with conservation specialist architect Martin Ashley
The walkway allows you to explore what would have been the first floor. Visitors can see a royal chapel and that regal loo – opened up for the first time since Clifford’s Tower was gutted by fire in 1684.
The toilet – or garderobe as it was known – was built for King Henry III in the mid-13th century, and came complete with a toiletries cupboard.
“The tower’s designers created a remarkable mechanism for flushing the toilet,” the information board explains.
“Rainwater collected in a cistern on the roof and was directed down the stone channel on the left side of the seat.
“There are no other known examples of this device in England. It pre-dates the supposed invention of the flushing toilet by three centuries.”
New interpretation boards will help place the tower in context, from the castle’s founding by William the Conqueror.
Visitors can learn about the tower’s role as the site of the tragic 1190 massacre 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.
Layers of background sound will help visitors to experience the tower as it would have been at various periods in its long history. An audio description tour can be accessed by QR codes.
Five key moments in that history come to life with the help of local residents, who give voice to characters who represent a different chapter in the tower’s past.
As part of the project, the ancient structure has been conserved. Fire damaged stonework – turned pink in the heat of the blaze – the turret stairs, arrow slits and fireplaces have been extensively repaired.
On the exterior steps up to the tower, additional handrails have been introduced and three resting points created. These give a good vantage point to the restored coats of arms of Charles I and Henry Clifford on the outside of the tower.
And located at the bottom is a new Piaggio – a three-wheeled vehicle, providing information, tickets and guidebooks.
What they said
Jeremy Ashbee, head properties curator at English Heritage said:
One of England’s most important buildings, 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 for generations to come, but also do justice to its fascinating and multi-faceted history.
Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s chief executive, said:
At Clifford’s Tower, new architecture is transforming a centuries-old landmark, opening it up and unlocking its secrets. We’re protecting Clifford’s Tower for future generations and inspiring more people to discover its stories.
Historic buildings conservation architect Martin Ashley told YorkMix:
We’ve not put a roof on the tower – we’ve just stood a shelter into the keep on its four legs with a flat deck that everybody can walk around on now and get most wonderful views over the city.
But it is just a shelter, and it’s very light touch.