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Clifford's Tower, York

Frank Haes

<plain_text><page sequence="1">CLIFFORD'S TOWER, YORK. By FRANK HAES. Among the many memories that cluster round York, none is sadder than the calamity which befel the York Jewry in 1190. Clifford's Tower, the scene of the terrible incident, is not among the spots usually visited by sightseers. Of the many thousands who halt in York for hours, to visit the splendid Cathedral, or the small but interesting churches; to walk on the fine old walls, all round the city; to visit the bars and gates and inspect the many fine old houses, the beautiful grounds of the Philosophical Society, with the Museum filled with relics of the Roman occupation;?few ever think of seeing Clifford's TowTer in the Castle grounds, or trouble to gain access to it. York is indeed a place where several days may be well spent with profit and pleasure to those interested in the past history of England. Here may be seen what I believe is the only Barbican extant in England. The Guildhall, the quaint old streets, Spurrier's Gate, Parliament Street, the pleasant walk by the banks of the sluggish Ouse, the beautiful old glass in the Cathedral, the priests' college at its eastern end, the many gardens enclosed by the wralls, all tempt one to linger and to take observations from different aspects. The day brings its changing effects of light and shade, but for the Jewish visitor everything is dominated by Clifiord's Tower. This building is in the grounds of the old Castle, of which nothing else remains. The site is now occupied by the Law Courts and the Prison, with a large open space in the enclosure. For permission to visit the Tower, application must be made to the Governor of the Prison, and this is courteously given. The Tower is, in its plan, unique in England, and its structure can be best understood from the accompanying illustration of the ground plan as given in 230</page><page sequence="2">CLIFFORDS TOWER. YORK. THE EXTERIOR AS AT PRESENT.</page><page sequence="3">CLIFFORD'S TOWER, YORK. THE CHAPEL OVER ENTRANCE AS AT PRESENT.</page><page sequence="4">CLIFFORD'S TOWER, YORK. 231 Fragmenta Vetusta, York, 1807. The other three pictures are repro? duced from my own photographs made in 1894 or 1895. They represent the Exterior of the Tower in its present condition, the Interior of the Tower, and the Chapel over the Entrance Gate. In Mr. Joseph Jacobs' "Jews of Angevin England," page 123, may be found a view of the Tower from an old engraving of 1684. It must have much resembled this in earlier centuries, though I am compelled to say that it is doubtful whether any of the identical building of Richard I.'s day was even then extant. Nor can one assert with confidence that the small chamber supposed to be the scene of the massacre is the actual site of the disaster. Still the place cannot but excite interest, and hence the photographs are here reproduced. The Tower stands on the top of a steep conical hill. The old illus? tration shows a dry moat and a drawbridge. The Tower is very close to the river, and may at some period have possessed a wet moat, for an old engraving shows water quite close to it. Here the Jews of York took refuge when the massacres occurred throughout England in 1190. The besiegers of the Tower were led by Richard Malebysse, but it is unnecessary to re-tell the sad tale. Sufficient to recall that when the mob gained access to the Tower, they found not a single soul alive. Among the martyrs was Rabbi Yomtob of Joigny, whom Mr. Jacobs ingeniously identified with the author of a fine Penitential Hymn which occurs in the German Rite for the Eve of the Day of Atonement (the hymn opening p In a Bodleian MS., however, the hymn begins with these lines: -nrho if?)1?? - ty w ? nyo^ ma ibht dv nv Mr. Zangwill thus renders the lines: Day by day Stronghold they Seek in Thee Good One ! let Stronger yet Thy word be " Forgiven." In this rendering (Jacobs, op. cit., p. Ill) the extra lines appear at the end of the hymn, but in the MS. they occur at the beginning. "Good Day" is obviously a play on the Hebrew name " Yom-Tob " (which signifies Good-day), and thus if Mr. Jacobs' probable identi</page><page sequence="5">232 CLIFFORD'S TOWER, YORK. ficatiori be accepted, one of the heroic martyrs of York has left his impress on the prayer-book. The Bodleian MS. belongs, as Mr. Cowley kindly informs me, to the oldest part of the collection, but theie is no record of its previous history. Dr. King, in his Monumenta Antiqua, makes no doubt that the original Tower was one of the Castles built by William I., as mentioned by Stow in his Annals about the year 1068. The building is now a mere shell, thanks to an explosion of the magazine, which occurred on the Festival of St. George, in 1648.</page></plain_text>