York Castle: motte and bailey castle, tower keep castle (including Clifford's Tower), and site of part of Romano-British fort-vicus and Anglian cemetery
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1011799
Date first listed: 07-Aug-1916
Date of most recent amendment: 31-Mar-1992
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: York (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference: SE 60514 51419
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the
principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a
defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes
are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of
various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be
defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into
the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a
gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops,
may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout
the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid-
15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were
constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new
creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading
families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are
widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh
border. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. Considerable
diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With
other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to
the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative
centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles
generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a
valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and
defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining
significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally
York Castle is a well-documented example of a tower keep castle overlying an important urban motte and bailey castle, known to have been built specifically to control a rebellious population in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest. The large double baileys of the earliest earthwork castle are unusual and emphasise the strategic importance of York in the Norman conquest of the North. In addition to the well-preserved standing remains, extensive buried deposits pertaining to all phases of the medieval castle survive in the area of the baileys and include moat silts in which organic and environmental material will survive well. Part of Castle Yard Anglian cemetery and part of the road, cemetery and settlement area of the Romano- British fort-vicus also lie largely undisturbed in the vicinity of the castle. These earlier remains are known to survive well and will in themselves retain important information on the evolution of the Roman and early medieval town.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the area occupied by York Castle and Clifford's
Tower which are situated in the heart of York, above the confluence of the
Rivers Ouse and Foss, now the Foss Navigation. The monument comprises several
elements within a single area. These include the eleventh century
motte and bailey castle, the thirteenth century tower keep castle, a Romano-
British cemetery associated with the extramural settlement of the legionary
fortress, part of Castle Yard Anglian cemetery, a length of the Roman road
that ran north-west to south-east past the south-west gate of the fortress,
the remains of part of the Roman and Anglo-Scandinavian river frontages along
the Foss, and the water defences of the medieval castle.
Nationally important remains extend outside the boundary of the scheduling
and, indeed, survive buried in areas throughout York. In the immediate
vicinity of the castle, partial excavation has revealed evidence of Roman
wharves along the Foss and it is believed that further remains of the fort-
vicus, such as taverns, shops and houses, underlie the car-park attached to
Clifford's Tower, in addition to Anglian burials indicative of post-Roman
activity along the line of the Roman road. A large area of the second bailey
to the north-east of the 11th century castle also lies outside the scheduling.
The boundary of the scheduling has been drawn to identify the core area of the
The eleventh century motte and bailey castle, built in 1086 when William the
Conqueror came north to consolidate his power over the country, was of earth
and timber construction and the original motte underlies the thirteenth
century mound of Clifford's Tower. The main bailey lay to the south-east and
extended down to the line of the River Foss. The remains of such buildings as
stables, barracks and workshops will survive throughout. A second bailey, a
large part of which extends beyond the area of the scheduling, is now known to
have existed to the north east of the motte and to include the remains of the
medieval Jewish cemetery and that of the thirteenth century Franciscan
friary. The original timber keep was the scene of the massacre of the York
Jews in 1190.
In c.1089, the Foss was dammed to create a moat around the keep and bailey.
Although infilled, the line of the moat survives beneath the surfaces of the
carpark, footpaths and access roads around the castle. Stone defences were
added round the bailey by Henry III between 1245 and 1262 when the keep was
also rebuilt in stone. The stone keep, known as Clifford's Tower, is
quatrefoil in plan and originally comprised a ground floor with two storeys
above and a forebuilding containing a chapel. The tower became ruinous in the
sixteenth century and the present forebuilding is a seventeenth century
reconstruction. Along with two towers and a length of wall to the south-east,
the keep is all that remains standing of the medieval castle, though buried
features, including those of stone buildings constructed by Henry III, are
believed to survive in the open areas of the bailey. The castle was slighted
during the Civil War and gutted in 1684. Between 1825 and 1915, it became
part of York prison. Most of the prison buildings have since been cleared,
but the former debtors' prison and female prison remain, along with the
eighteenth century Assize Court. The prison now houses the Castle Museum and
all are Grade I Listed. Clifford's Tower and the castle walls are also Grade
I Listed and have been in State care since 1916.
The protected area is bounded by the carpark and Foss Navigation to the east,
by Tower Street to the north and west, and by the castle wall to the south. A
number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These include the
buildings of the Courts and Castle Museum, the surfaces of all roads, drives,
private carparks and footpaths, bollards, all English Heritage fittings
associated with Clifford's Tower such as steps, kiosk, notices and
floodlights, all lamposts, signposts, railings and gates, and all benches and
waste-bins. The ground beneath all these exclusions is, however, included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 13275
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Addyman, P V (ed), The Archaeology of York, (1977)
'Yorkshire Philosophical Society Annual Report' in Yorkshire Philosophical Society Annual Report - 12 Castlegate (excavated by YEG, 1974-77), ()
'Philosophical Society Annual Report' in 1-2 Tower Street/Castle Garage (excavated by YAT, 1981), , Vol. All, (1981)
Addyman, P V, Priestley, J, 'Archaeological Journal' in Baile Hill, York: a report on the Institute's excavation, , Vol. 134, (1977)
Benson, G, 'Yorkshire Philosophical Society Annual Report' in Clifford's Tower (Observations During Underpinning Of Motte), (1902)
O'Neil, B H S, 'Antiq.J.' in York Castle (excavated 1935), , Vol. 19, (1939)
Pagination 173-208, Andrews, Gill, Archaeology in York: an Assessment, Survey prepared for the AM Inspectorate of the D.O.E., (1982)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing