Archaeologists set explore Clifford’s Tower

The second phase of archaeological investigations to better understand the iconic Clifford’s Tower in York is set to begin this month.

cliffords tower york

From January 12th to 23rd, the 11th century fortress will close to the public for two weeks as English Heritage experts investigate the mound on which the tower sits, to better understand both its archaeological make-up and its structural stability. The works carry on from November when an initial assessment of the foundations noted that they were in good shape. They also confirmed concrete underpinning took place in 1902 with new information that additional concrete underpinning was added in the 1920s. The results of both stages of archaeological work will feed into a wider discussion into what might be done to improve the visitor experience at a site that welcomes over 140,000 visitors each year.


Liz Page, Historic Properties Director for English Heritage, explains, “Clifford’s Tower holds an important place in York’s history and is becoming an increasingly popular destination with both locals and visitors. We want to do the tower and its fascinating story justice. Currently there are only three information panels to explain the vast history and significance of Clifford’s Tower which is inadequate. But before we start looking to the future, we need to look at the past and these works are part of that process.”

Clifford’s Tower, also known as York Castle, was first built in 1068 on the orders of William the Conqueror as part of his plans for putting an end to Anglo-Saxon resistance in northern England. The site has been a major tourist attraction since the the early 20th century.


Jeremy Ashbee, the Head Historic Properties Curator at English Heritage, added “The castle’s story has been colourful and sometimes violent, and in its time the tower has been many things, including a prison and a gun-platform. We think that the mound has become taller and wider during successive re-buildings over nine centuries. But since 1915, when Clifford’s Tower was placed in the guardianship of English Heritage’s predecessors, the Office of Works, there have been very few investigations and some quite radical changes. For example, the present profile of the mound, with the steep steps leading up to the tower’s door, only reached this form in 1935.”

“The work in January will involve taking samples of soil from several places in the mound, in order to assess its full stability and understand better its make-up. The stone structure of the tower will also be examined as part of essential conservation work.”

interior cliffords tower

Members of the public interested in the history of Clifford’s Tower and English Heritage’s forthcoming archaeological works can attend a meeting at Quaker’s Meeting House, Lower Friargate, York, on Thursday 8 January 2015 at 6:30pm at which Liz Page and Jeremy Ashbee will outline the Investigating Clifford’s Tower project in more detail.

To attend the meeting on 8 January or to be kept up-to-date on Clifford’s Tower news, please email [email protected]