An ancient York landmark with a very odd name opens for the first time

29 Jan 2016 @ 6.27 pm
| Entertainment, History

It has a peculiar name and a very long history. And now York’s Bitchdaughter Tower is to be opened to the public for the very first time.

Bitchdaughter Tower, near Skeldergate

Sat Jan 30th @ 10am-4pm

Friends of York Walls website

The tower is first mentioned in the city records in 1451. In 1566 some of its stones were used to repair Ouse Bridge after it was damaged by flooding.

Visitors will be able to see inside the tower thanks to the Friends Of York Walls as part of this year’s York Residents’ Festival.

Parts of the interior date from 1645, including a small room with its brick arched roof and stone fireplace, and the adjacent walls which were repaired following damage in the English Civil War.

This room below the gun platform was used as a guardhouse.

Why ‘bitchdaughter’?

A grim place to be imprisoned
The seventeenth-century interior of the tower

The tower’s name is thought to have been used from 1451 or earlier, and refers to the tower’s use as one of the King’s prisons during the Medieval Period.

‘Bitch’ is suggested by the Historical Atlas of York as a derivative of ‘nightmare’, suggesting that the prison was a horrid place to be incarcerated.

The ‘daughter’ part of the name is thought to come from the old French dortour which means a room or monastic dormitory.

It may have originally been part of the Old Baile – York’s second castle which was built in 1069.

A grim place to be imprisoned
A grim place to be imprisoned

There will be a free guided walk from Fishergate Postern Tower to Bitchdaughter Tower at 1.30pm on Saturday.

The tower can be found on the corner of the walls between Skeldergate Bridge and Bishopthorpe road. Access will require walking up the grassy slope from Baile Hill Terrace.

The Residents’ Festival will take place from Saturday 30th-Sunday 31st, allowing free entry to attractions and sites across York.

Pre-booking is not required.