Friday, 19 December 2014

A Tower of unknown date, a Cross-Section of York's past and a Tragic Accident

Anglian Tower, York

 York's Anglian Tower

Tucked inconspicuously at the dead end of a narrow path behind the City Library, accessible either from there, or from Museum Gardens, and usually overlooked by the majority of tourists, is the Anglian Tower.

Its date is not known for sure, and the options seem to be that it was either a late Roman edition to the City's defences in the third or fourth century, or constructed under Kind Edwin of Deira in the early 7th century, or that it dates to the mid 9th century. This is because no reliable dating evidence has been found. It sits on top of the old Roman defences, and was buried sometime in the ninth century, so was obviously built sometime between these two time periods.

There is no known secular parallel for this tower in Britain, and therefore, as well as the date, the function is also unknown. There are two doorways at the base, presumably to allow sentries to walk through. The function of the upper part cannot be ascertained - it may have served as a watch tower, or a platform for archers, but no evidence survives.

York Anglian Tower

Discovered in 1839 by workmen constructing a tunnel, it was restored in 1969-1971. There used to be two brass plaques on the tower, the first of which said:

This building is the lower storey of a tower built into a breach in the 4th century Roman fortress wall, perhaps in the reign of Kind Edwin (616 - 632 AD.) It was hidden under the Danish and later ramparts and rediscovered in 1839.

The second plaque commemorated the death of archaelogist Jeffrey Radley in 1970, who died when one of the structures supporting the excavation gave way:

This plaque is erected to the memory of Jeffrey Radley M.A.E.S.A. who carried out the excavation of the tower and was tragically killed in a subsequent accident at the site on July 22nd 1970.

Just behind the tower is an interesting cross-section of wall ramparts showing the relationship between the successive stages of City defences.

York historical cross-section of rampart bank

The different levels are:

Roman 1c - 4c, Dark Ages 5c - 10c, Norman 11c - 12c and Medieval 13c.

Path to Anglian Tower York

A really interesting, poignant and atmospheric place, yet down a narrow, deadend track that I am fairly sure tourists are rarely tempted down. It deserves more attention and is well worth a visit as part of any trip around the City Walls, or as part of a visit to the Museum Gardens. 

York Roman Multangular Tower

The path is accessed through a gate in the Roman Multangular Tower, which is another very impressive structure well worth visiting...

Thanks for reading!


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Sources and further information: 

A detailed article on the Anglian Tower in
Carla Nayland's blog
Article in York Press June 2010
Wikipedia Page 
A touching short piece about the second plaque and Jeffrey Radley can be found on York Stories.

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