Bleeding Walls of Clifford's Tower

In the center of York, on a high motte, resides Clifford's Tower, the last remnants of York Castle, built in 1068. Over a century later, tragedy would transpire at the castle.

Clifford's Tower of York Castle


As Richard tells the story ...

In March 1190, an anti-Jewish riot erupted in the streets of York, and many of the city's Jews took refuge behind the seemingly impregnable walls of the castle. However, the rioters, led by Richard Malebisse, set fire to the tower. The terror-stricken Jews, faced with either burning to death or taking their chances against the howling mob outside, chose to commit mass suicide.

The caste was rebuilt in timber, and then, during the reign of King John, work was begun on a stone fortress, which was completed by Henry III. In 1322, the royal forces defeated a Lancastrian army at Boroughbridge, and one of the rebel leaders, Roger de Clifford, was hung in chains from the tower. Soon afterward, the building acquired the name by which it is still known: Clifford's Tower.

Not long after the castle's transformation into the impressive stone edifice that overlooks the city today, unsightly red stains appeared on its walls. The people of York quickly connected these to the Jewish suicides of 130 years before and soon whispered in guilty tones that the blood of the dead Jews had caused the blemishes. Although in recent years, it has been shown that the discoloration is caused by the presence of minute quantities of iron oxide, or rust, in the stone, the fact remains that no other stone from the Tadcaster quarry that supplied it contains any trace of such minerals!

- Richard Jones