York Castle

Posted: January 4, 2014 in History, Medieval History, Post medieval history, UK, York

The first castle in York was built following the Norman Conquest in 1068. However it was badly damaged following a Viking raid on York the following year and needed extensive renovation.

York Castle

In 1190, fearing rising anti-Semitic feeling 150 Jews from the city sought refuge in the castle where they were besieged by the townspeople. Fearing that they would be handed over to the mob by the local sheriff many committed suicide, whilst others were killed in a fire which brook out in the keep. The few that survived were set upon by the mob and killed.
In the 13th and 14th centuries the castle was an important military base for wars with Scotland but in the 15th and 16th centuries its military usage declined and the castle was used as a prison. It regained its strategic importance and was refortified during the English civil. The commanding officer responsible for the re-fortification was Henry Clifford (the sole remaining part of the castle is named after him) It was held under siege for the Royalists from 1642 to July 1644 when the defeat of the Royalist army at nearby Marston Moor led to the cities surrender.

Clifford's Tower

Clifford’s Tower

In 1684 an explosion rocked Clifford’s Tower which was badly damaged. the official explanation was an accident but some strange facts emerged. No one was injured in the explosion and many members of the garrison had removed their belongings from the tower prior to the explosion. This has led many to suggest that it was in fact a premeditated act.

In the 18th century the site, except for Clifford’s Tower, was cleared and a new courthouse and prison complex was erected. These building now house the York Castle Museum.

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