Multangular Tower, York


Multangular Tower, Abbey Gardens, York
c.1910
Publisher: Valentine

Google Street View.

The Multangular Tower is the best example of standing Roman remains in York. It is on the northern side of the gardens, between the Yorkshire Museum and St Leonard’s Hospital. You can see the tower and fine stretches of the fortress wall from both sides, inside and out. The tower stood at the west corner of the legionary fortress. It was one of the two corner-towers of the huge stone wall that looked down onto the river. The small stones in the lower half are Roman whereas the upper half was reconstructed in the medieval period. The original Roman parts of the tower probably date from the early third century. Archaeologists can tell that the stone walls replaced timber fortress structures: an immense undertaking. The Romans used several types of stone in their buildings including limestone, tough millstone grit and elland stone, now better known as York stone, which was used for floors and roofs as it splits naturally into flat slabs. But it was not so much the stone but the use of mortar to hold it together that was the real Roman revolution. This allowed for the creation of far larger buildings than ever seen before.

The fortress wall was built 5m (c.15 ft) high. At the west corner stood what we now know as the Multangular Tower, which may have been well over 10m (c.30 ft) high. A matching tower stood at the fortress’s south corner, with six interval towers in between, projecting from the wall. These corner and interval towers were a military innovation, as they enabled soldiers to fire along the sides of the wall as invaders tried to scale them. In practice, the Roman occupiers probably never expected an attack on Eboracum. The fortress was mainly a base from which to control the region.

We know very little about the medieval rebuilding and reuse of the tower but the fortifications were significant during York’s role in the English Civil War and damage from a cannon ball can be seen in the wall to the North of the tower.
York Museums Trust

Clifford’s Tower, York


York, Clifford’s Tower
c.1910
Publisher: Francis Frith

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Much of York’s layout is the result of Roman and Viking construction but one iconic feature is distinctly Norman. The original mound of Clifford’s Tower, with a timber structure at the top, was constructed by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a statement of his power over the region. This building stood for just over a century before being burnt down in one of York’s bloodiest and tragic moments, when, in 1190, 150 Jews were massacred on the site.

Between 1190 and 1194, it was repaired at great expense, and the mound was raised to its present height. The second timber structure was destroyed (this time by a gale) in 1245. Under pressure from his wars with the Scots, Henry III ordered the tower to be rebuilt and strengthened, this time in stone. Master Simon of Northampton and Master Henry of Reynes, the senior carpenter and stonemason respectively in Windsor Castle, were sent up to York to consult on the new design of the castle. The result was a tower some 50ft (15m) high and 200 ft (61m) in diameter. Its design is ‘quatrefoil’, with four overlapping circles, resembling a four leafed clover.
History of York

The large stone tower, which we now know as Clifford’s Tower, was built in the 1250s during the reign of King Henry III.For much of the 14th and 15th centuries, Clifford’s Tower was used as treasury, exchequer, mint, gaol and seat of royal power. During the Civil War (1642-9), Clifford’s Tower was held by the royalists while the city was under siege. In 1684 the tower was reduced to a shell after a fire. Eventually, most of the castle buildings were swept away when a new prison and court were built in the 18th and 19th centuries, leaving Clifford’s Tower as the principal surviving remnant of the York Castle.
English Heritage