The City of York, along with the York Archaeological Trust, are about to begin work on restoring and stabilising part of the York’s medieval walls.
The focus of the work will take place at Tower Two, which in recent years has deteriorated with cracks and bulges appearing on the external face of the tower and more recently, the condition has begun to worsen faster than expected. This section of the walls remains safe, but work is needed swiftly to stop further deterioration.
Tower Two, assumed to be built in the mid-fourteenth century, is situated on the city walls between Baile Hill, the visible remains of a motte and bailey castle, and Bitchdaughter Tower. It was probably constructed as an addition to the stone city walls, with the walkway constructed much later, in the eighteenth or nineteenth century.
Part of the work will include an archaeological excavation to increase what we know about Tower Two and this area of the city walls. Revealing the interior face of the tower could help us understand more accurately when the tower was built, and also when and how the walkway was added to the walls.
Excavating the infill may also help us understand the relationship between the stone walls, built sometime after 1330, and earlier versions of the walls perhaps built in timber. Evidence might reveal something about the relationship between the stone or timber defensive walls and the abandoned castle, which Baile Hill reminds us once occupied this corner of the city.
“York’s city walls are the most complete and finest in England, making them one of our most treasured historical assets,” says Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council. “That is why it is incredibly important that we continue to maintain and repair the walls, so residents and visitors can enjoy them for many years to come. The original walls were built by the Romans in 71 AD and by carrying out this project, we will better understand when the tower was built and what earlier versions of the walls looked like.”
The Tower Two stabilisation project is part of the city walls capital programme. The project has been supported by Historic England, the statutory body responsible for championing England’s heritage, who has provided structural engineering and heritage advice.
“Walking the city walls is so popular amongst locals and visitors that it will be a surprise to many people that they were never designed to have this kind of walkway – or that sections of the walls were filled in to create the path,” comments Ian Milsted of the York Archaeological Trust. “This will be the first time in 200 years that the inside of this tower will be exposed, and with the infill removed, more of the historic tower will be visible for generations to come – exposing the past to preserve its future.”
The works will begin on October 7th. A secure works area will be set up at the bottom of the rampart adjacent to Baile Hill Terrace. Pedestrian access to the ramparts will be maintained, but space available for recreation will be reduced. It is explected last at least four months, but the exact length of time on site depends on what is revealed during the excavation phase.
People will still be able to walk on the walls and a temporary walkway will be installed, so visitors can see the works in progress. Guided tours at weekends and during the October half-term holiday, where archaeologists and stonemasons will also be on hand to answer questions about the conservation works and archaeology at Tower Two and the walls more generally.
Find out more at https://www.york.gov.uk/citywalls
Top Image: Photo by donald judge / Wikimedia Commons