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Clifford's Tower, York, England
Clifford's Tower, York City, Yorkshire. The stone tower was built on the of a Norman motte-and-bailey. Photographs Taken by Terry Barry.
York Castle is a fortification in the city of York, England. The Castle itself was later dismantled, but the site contains Clifford's Tower, a quatrefoil keep built on top of a Norman motte (grid reference SE605515), the courts, Castle Museum and former prisons. It was the site of a massacre of Jews in 1190.
York is located at a crossing of the River Ouse, and the confluence of Rivers Ouse and Foss. Because of the site's strategic importance the Romans established a garrison there. After the Norman Conquest of 1068–1069, William the Conqueror established two Motte and Bailey wooden castles in York. York Castle between the Rivers Ouse and Foss and what is now Baile Hill on the South Bank.
In 1190 the wooden tower was the last refuge of the 150 Jewish residents in York. Richard de Malbis of York was a debtor of Aaron of Lincoln, an influential Jewish banker of the late 12th century. When a fire broke out in the city of York, De Malbis used the opportunity to incite a mob to attack the home of a recently deceased agent of Aaron of Lincoln named Benedict of York, killing his widow and children and burning the house. Joce (Joseph) the leader of the Jewish community of York obtained the permission of the warden of York Castle to remove his wife and children and the rest of the Jews into the castle, where they were probably placed in Clifford's Tower. This was surrounded by the mob, and when the warden left the castle, the Jews would not readmit him for fear of the mob. He appealed to the sheriff, who called out the county militia, who surrounded Clifford's Tower for several days. On 16 March 1190 the Tower was set on fire, and many Jews either perished in the flames or took their own lives rather give themselves up to the mob; those who did surrender were killed. In all around 150 Jews died. A plaque on the hill on which the tower is placed reads:
"On the night of Friday 16 March 1190 some 150 Jews and Jewesses of York having sought protection in the Royal Castle on this site from a mob incited by Richard Malebisse and others chose to die at each other's hands rather than renounce their faith."
The king's Chancellor dismissed the sheriff and constable for failing to prevent the massacre and imposed a heavy fine on York's citizens. However, the ringleaders had fled and could not be brought to justice.
The tower was rebuilt in stone between 1245 and 1265. The castle's bailey walls, towers, gates, bridges, two halls, a chapel, a kitchen and a prison were all built at this time. The name Clifford’s Tower was first recorded in 1596 and derives its name from Roger de Clifford, who was hanged there in 1322. Before then it was called the Great Tower. Very few examples of this multilobed type of castle tower exist. One is the keep of Pontefract Castle (now badly damaged). An identical example to York can be found at Étampes, France.
In recent times, the surrounding area of Clifford's Tower has been considered for retail development. Some citizens, visitors, academics, environmentalists, local businesspeople and Jewish groups have opposed the development with some success, winning a lengthy and bitter Public Inquiry in 2003. English Heritage owns the castle.
The motte of Clifford's Tower is believed to be the "hill" that the Grand Old Duke of York marched 10,000 men up and down in the nursery rhyme, although there are several other theories.
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