Hugh Broughton Architects

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Clifford's Tower

Imaginative intervention within a much treasured Scheduled Ancient Monument

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York, North Yorkshire, England


2015 - 2018


English Heritage

HBA Team

Hugh Broughton, Adam Knight, Shane McCamley, Greg Penate, David Roberts


Martin Ashley Architects
(Conservation Architect)
Ramboll (Structural Engineer)
BDP (Services Engineer)
RNJ Partnership (Cost Consultant)
Simon Leach Design
(Interpretation Designer)

Our work for English Heritage at Clifford’s Tower, in the centre of York, demonstrates our skills in designing technically challenging and appropriate interventions within the context of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, improving access and visitor facilities whilst fostering better interpretation of the site and Monument’s history.

Following a design competition, Hugh Broughton Architects, working with conservation specialists, Martin Ashley Architects, were selected to repair historic fabric and create enhanced visitor facilities at Clifford’s Tower. The brief required an ‘inspiring and sensitively designed new structure within the historic monument’ with improvements to access, interpretation, and facilities for visitors and staff.

Clifford’s Tower, standing on a tall earthen mound, is the largest surviving structure from the medieval royal castle of York. The stone tower was built in the mid-13th century, but has stood as a roofless ruin since a fire in 1684. The Tower sits next to three Grade 1 listed buildings grouped around the Eye of York. One of English Heritage’s most visited buildings, the tower is an evocative survival from the medieval castle, and offers superb views over the city from its wall-walk but its current facilities are poor and visitors often describe their experience as ‘underwhelming’.

To address the shortfalls in experience and facilities, a timber structure will be installed to partially cover the ruin and provide fantastic viewing and activity space at roof level. Suspended metal walkways will give access to previously unseen features at first floor level, enhance access to the roof and help celebrate the ruin. The structure of the intervention will rest on a raft foundation, which spreads load without impact on archaeology within the tower.

CGI view of the timber structure within the Tower

CGI view of the timber structure within the Tower

A new single storey visitor centre at ground level will provide orientation space, a shop, café kiosk, staff offices and facilities. The visitor centre sits on the principal axis of the tower. It nestles into the motte and will reveal part of a substantial wall, which was buried in 1935. Staff facilities, plant and storage will be buried under the motte so that only publically accessible spaces are visible, minimising impact on the setting of both the Scheduled Ancient Monument and the neighbouring listed buildings. The building is simply designed combining formed stone and bronze framed low reflectivity glazing to create a quiet but appropriate visitor entrance.

The design has been developed in consultation with multiple stakeholders both within English Heritage and Historic England and in the wider city community including the Museums Heritage Trust, York Civic Trust, City Council and the Conservation Area Advisory Panel.

The project has been granted planning consent.