English Heritage has reopened Clifford’s Tower in York following a major conservation project, highlighting hidden rooms and a new viewing platform on the tower’s roof.
Where previously the tower was an empty shell, English Heritage has now installed a free-standing timber structure within it, protecting the ruin and creating a new roof deck to provide views over York.
On the tower’s lost first floor, aerial walkways will open up hidden rooms for the first time since Clifford’s Tower was gutted by fire in 1684. The £5 million project is said to conserve and radically transform the interior of the 800-year-old landmark.
English Heritage’s chief executive, Kate Mavor, 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.”
English Heritage offers a 15% discount on entry to Clifford’s Tower for groups of 11 or more. Groups also receive free entry for one tour guide and one coach driver.
The Tower’s highlights
Staircases and hanging walkways combine to take visitors ten metres up to a new roof deck from where they can see the York skyline. En-route to the top, visitors will be brought face to face with the tower’s architectural details, a royal chapel and – for the first time since the 17th century – a toilet built especially for Henry III.
The new interior and roof deck is supported by four slender wooden columns; the ingenious structure sits on a raft foundation, which spreads the load without impacting on the archaeological remains beneath the tower.
New interpretation will help place the tower in the context of both the historic York Castle and the city of York itself, as well as introducing visitors to the tower’s long and turbulent history.
It’s said that layers of background sound will take visitors back in time, allowing them to experience the tower as it would have been at various periods in its long history.
Visitors can engage with five key moments in that history with the help of the voices of local residents who bring the stories of fictional characters to life, each representing a different chapter in the tower’s past.
Jeremy Ashbee, head properties curator at English Heritage, added: “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.
“We not only wanted to preserve this incredible building but also do justice to its fascinating and multi-faceted history.”
Exposed to the elements for more than 300 years, its historically fire damaged stonework has been repaired along with the walls, turret stairs, arrow slits and fireplaces.
The chapel has been re-roofed, while the carved heraldic plaques above the entrance to Clifford’s Tower, showing the coats of arms of Charles I and Henry Clifford, Earl of Cumberland, have also been conserved.
To improve access, additional handrails have been introduced to the steps up the mound on which the historic tower sits and three resting points created.
A map and a timeline at the base of the mound provide interpretation while also at street level, English Heritage staff will greet visitors at a new Piaggio, a three-wheeled vehicle, providing information, tickets and guidebooks.
For more information about visiting the tower click here.