Clifford’s Tower reimagined: Seven pictures that show scale of the changes planned for the castle

The walkways under the timber roof
3 Aug 2016 @ 7.37 pm
| History, News

These pictures show what Clifford’s Tower could look like after a massive makeover.

Radical plans to make York’s remaining castle more accessible and appealing went out to consultation in January.

Now the formal planning application from owners English Heritage is in with City of York Council. And councillors must decide whether these major changes should go ahead.

A side view of the tower
Architect’s key: 1. Visitor centre’s street facade gently curves, following the base of the motte; 2. Visitor centre roof provides a viewing platform, offering rest, orientation and interpretative display before the ascent to the tower; 3. Stairs from the visitor centre street level to the roof follow the line of the motte; 4. Lightweight stair with landing; 5. Handrail and metal netting balustrade of the tower roof deck

So why does it need to change? In their design statement Hugh Broughton Architects and Martin Ashley Architects state:

Despite its popularity, many visitors find the interior of the ruin underwhelming. Many people presently find it hard to climb the steep run of 55 steps to the top of the mound.

Once inside the tower, they find that there is no room for a café, and only a small shop; most of the tower’s interior is open to the elements, with only a few basic displays about the building and its history.

The tower offers commanding views over the rooftops of York, but the wall-walk can only be reached by two narrow spiral stairs. Therefore, to assist with its long term sustainability and ensure its conservation, English Heritage needs to improve the experience for the tower’s visitors, in keeping with the castle’s history and significance.

Timber deck

People can admire the views on the timber decking rook
People can admire the views on the timber decking roof

One of the biggest planned changes is a timber deck on the roof, held up on four columns. The roof deck would have seating and a stepped ‘amphitheatre’ area which could be used as a performance space.

Suspended walkways below the roof would give easier and greater access to the inside of the monument.

At the centre of the deck a large square hole, bordered by a solid timber balustrade, allows shafts of light to penetrate into the tower, adding drama, emphasizing the ruinous state and connecting visitors to the elements.

The walkways will provide access to both the bartizan stairs and the first floor garderobe, all of which have been inaccessible to the public for over 300 years. This will significantly improve the potential for inspiring interpretation and make the ruin far more intelligible to visitors.

– Architect’s report

Visitor centre

Inside the visitor centre and shop
Inside the visitor centre and shop
Contemporary visitor functions – ticketing and membership sales, interpretation, retail, services and staff areas – could be contained within a new building nestling into the base of the motte, and that interventions within the tower could focus on improving interpretation and the overall visitor experience, allowing a celebration of the ruin.

– Architect’s report


The plan would be to increase revenue in the shop. At the moment 67% of visitors go to the shop but only 17% make a purchase.

Food and drink

Architect's key: 1. Three centrally located entrance doors; 2. Columns edges rounded to harmonise with weathered stone of the tower; 3. Shop; 4. Timber framed windows and doors; 5. Gate kept shut during daylight hours; 6. Stairs from the visitor centre street level to the roof follow the line of the motte; 7. Planted border softens edges and profile; 8. Timber handrail with metal netting balustrade set behind planted border; 9. Lightweight stair with landing; 10. Hedge screens visitor centre from car park
Architect’s key: 1. Three centrally located entrance doors; 2. Columns edges rounded to harmonise with weathered stone of the tower; 3. Shop; 4. Timber framed windows and doors; 5. Gate kept shut during daylight hours; 6. Stairs from the visitor centre street level to the roof follow the line of the motte; 7. Planted border softens edges and profile; 8. Timber handrail with metal netting balustrade set behind planted border; 9. Lightweight stair with landing; 10. Hedge screens visitor centre from car park

A proper café would make the visitor centre too big. However, the designs “include a kiosk integrated into the Visitor Centre for the sale of hot and cold drinks, packaged snacks and ice creams with an outside seating area close by”.

The report adds:

The scheme should also include a small catering outlet at roof level of the tower that is sensitively designed and appropriately scaled to suit the setting.
The stairway
Architect’s key: 1. Three centrally located entrance doors; 2. Columns edges rounded to harmonise with weathered stone of the tower; 3. Gate kept shut during daylight hours; 4. Stairs from the visitor centre street level to the roof follow the line of the motte; 5. Planted border softens edges and profile; 6. Timber handrail with metal netting balustrade, set behind planted border; 7. Translucent walkable non-slip roof lights filter light into the visitor centre and emphasise the central axis; 8. Lightweight stair with landing; 9. Top landing formed from yorkstone pavers; 10. Timber framed windows and doors
A view of the visitor centre from the Eye Of York
A view of the visitor centre from the Eye Of York