Clifford's Tower in the 17th Century


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'Clifford's Tower in the 17th Century', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 2: The Defences (1972), pp. 176-179. URL: Date accessed: 19 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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Among the manuscripts belonging to the Earl of Dartmouth is a large folio volume (fn. 1) containing a detailed report on the state of Clifford's Tower and York Castle made in 1682 by Sir Christopher Musgrave to Colonel George Legge, Master-General of the Ordnance, created first Baron Dartmouth later that year. (fn. 2) Since the plans illustrating this report are dated 1685, and since there is a second report made in 1684 after the fire in Clifford's Tower, the manuscript is probably a fair copy prepared for reference purposes in 1685 and retained with other official Ordnance papers by Lord Dartmouth.

The main report, dated 16 November 1682, is the result of a visit to York made on 18–19 October and mentioned in his memoirs by Sir John Reresby. (fn. 3) Musgrave was accompanied by Martin Beckman, at that time Second Engineer of Great Britain, (fn. 4) who presumably drew the original plans referred to in the text. However, the three plans accompanying the report, of the King's Manor, the Castle (Pl. 62), and the whole city (Pl. 61), are signed by Jacob Richards. (fn. 5) The plan of the city, apart from execution in several colours and greater elaboration and arrangement of the keys, is substantially identical with that in York City Library signed by James Archer (Pl. 60). It is uncertain whether the latter was drawn by Captain James Archer senior, a Catholic Irishman, who made a survey of Castle Cornet, Guernsey, in 1673, worked on fortifications at Kinsale in 1678, and had died by January 1681, (fn. 6) or by his son Captain James Archer junior, (fn. 7) whether it was made on the occasion of Musgrave's visit or whether both it and Richards' plan of York are copies of a lost original. Probably Beckman prepared plans for Musgrave in 1682, Richards copied these in 1685 soon after his appointment to the Ordnance Office, but James Archer senior made the York Library copy, some ten years earlier, perhaps for Charles II since it was 'by His Majesty's speciall command'. It could then have left the King's possesion at or after the revolution of 1688. The bastions around the Castle shown on the plans are, as the text makes clear, part of Beckman's suggestions for modernising its defences.

Musgrave's report starts by reciting Charles II's commission to Legge, dated 1 May 1682, to survey all magazines, castles and forts in England and then quotes Legge's warrant to himself: 'to goe to inspect and survey the Castle of York and Clifford's Tower and to take to my assistance Major Martin Beckman, one of His Majesty's Engineers, and to take an Account of the State of the Fortifications and Repairs of the said Garrison, as likewise of the Governor, Officers and Soldiers, and their severall Entertainements, and alsoe to take an exact Account of all the Ordnance Carriages, Munition and Habilliaments of Warr in the second place, and generally that I should consider of, and Certifie all other Particulars which I should find most advantageous to His Majesty's service touching the said Citty, Castle, and Tower'.

He then quotes Reresby's warrant of appointment as Governor, and gives his pay as £500 per annum. Successive paragraphs deal with the garrison, an infantry company of which the Earl of Mulgrave was Colonel and John Bristow was Captain Lieutenant, their annual pay of £1009. 16s. 8d., the master gunner and storekeeper Edward Baldock, the allowance for fire and candles, the duties of the garrison (one guard of seven men in the Thursday Market and one of four men in Clifford's Tower) and the absence of guards at the city gates. The condition of the King's Manor is summarised and there are a muster roll of the garrison and detailed inventories of the furniture in the Manor and of the artillery and stores in the Tower (see p. 178). Many small arms are listed and a special section deals with arms taken from Papists. Beckman's estimates and costings for new work at the Tower and Castle are set out: the main expense would be on six new bastions. He proposed that, if only the Tower was strengthened, the Castle wall facing it should be taken down and replaced by palisades.

In his final paragraph Musgrave suggests that Hull, when completed, will be a sufficient magazine for the county, and that if another is needed Scarborough can be fitted out at little cost. He therefore recommends that, to save the considerable expense of maintaining a governor and troops at York, Clifford's Tower should be disgarrisoned and demolished. Beckman had also recommended that the city gates should be pulled down. The main part of the report, the description of the fortress and proposals for its modernisation, are given below.

'The Castle and Clifford's Tower are very well Scituated for that end (for which it is conceived) they were built, the Tower Commanding all parts of the Citty. Nothing but the Walls were Standing when the late Queen Mother Landed at Burlington, and at her Majesty's charge Timbers were brought upon the walls and severall Roomes made in which his Majesty's Stores are now Lodged. (fn. 8)

There is alsoe a Platforme made upon the Top of the Tower, which is Leaded and Covered with Plancks, and about 10 peeces of Ordnance may be planted upon itt. There is no Area in it, or place for drawing up any Men, or conveniency to dispose of Musquetteers to secure the place from Surprize. The Condition of this place at present is such as makes it of little or noe consideration to his Majestie. And to make it in any Sort Usefull to His Majestie the present Battlements being too thyn must be taken downe and a Parrapet of Stone raised of Six foot thick, and att the Bottome of the Tower another Parrapet must be rased of Stone, Six foot thick for Musquetteers in time of Service. A Moate to be made about the Mount (upon which the Tower is placed) Sixty foot broad and Nyne foot deep. It is now a dry Graft. Alsoe a Scarp and Counter Scarp of Stone is to be made Twelve foot high and Seaven foot thick at the Topp; the Foundation of which must by Pyled and Covered with Planck. The Plattforme upon the Tower to be made new, and alsoe a new Drawbridge. These works and Repaires according to the Estimate of Particulars (hereunto annexed) made by Major Beckman Amount to the summe of £6174 besides the Charge of Purchaseing severall Gardens and Summer-houses for enlargeing the Moate, which the Citty layes claime to, and hath disposed of them to severall persons. But Clifford's Tower can never be well Defended and Supported but by Fortifieing the Castle, which ought to be the Maine Body of the Worke and the Tower onely an Out-worke to the Castle.

The Castle is not within the Liberty of the Citty, but in the County, and not under the Command of the Governor, who cannot passe to the Tower but through the Castle Yard, which is a large peece of Ground, in which is Built a large Courthouse for the Judges to keep the Assizes in, And this was Rebuilt in the Yeare 1673, at the Countryes charge, and, as I am informed, they had his Majestie's leave to Rebuild Itt. This Building cost about £900. There is alsoe a handsome Building made for the Grand-Juries to be in att the Assizes, which cost the Country about £400. There are also severall houses in which the Sherriff keeps his Prisoners, The Castle being the County Goale.

To put this Castle into a Condition of Defence and Strength Six whole Bastions ought to be Erected, which together with Building Barracks for Soldiers, and Storehouses requisite for such a Fortification will cost according to Major Beckman's Estimate of the Particulars (hereunto Annex't) £29773. 10s: And the Charge of Fortifieing the Tower being £6174: Amounts in all to the Sume of £35907. 10s. and the General fault of Estimates is to fall short not exceed.'

A supplementary report dated 12 November 1684. was made after a visit by Musgrave on 21 July to investigate the damage caused by the fire of 23 April 1684. He 'found that the Late Fire hath Burnt all the Tower except the Walls, which are Crack't, in some places from Topp to Bottome'. He had had the rubbish cleared away in order to find any stores buried in the ruins, had arranged for the weighing of lead and iron, and had had fallen bricks stacked against the inside walls of the tower. An appendix compares the stores catalogued in 1682, those issued since, those found still existing in 1684 and those destroyed. The first and last columns of this are printed below, being simplified by omitting the classifications of serviceable, repairable and unserviceable (see p. 178). Since the fire had left only the shell of the tower Musgrave again recommended it to be in the king's interest 'to demolish the same and sell the stones'.

In February 1683 Sir John Reresby had met Lord Dartmouth in Whitehall Palace and discussed with him the situation at York. (fn. 9) Dartmouth said that 'he was sorry he could not come down himselfe to take a vewe of the condition of Yorke but sent down the next to himselfe, which was Sir Christofer Musgrave, who had made a state of it and soe represented it that it could not be putt into a condition defensible for soe great a place under the charge of 30,000 l.; that the king had therefore resolved to reduce it'. It is now clear that the figure of £30,000 mentioned by Dartmouth was taken from Musgrave's report. Reresby replied that even if it would be too expensive to strengthen the city and castle defences 'the Tower, which commanded the whole citty, might be made very defensible for a small charge'. Lord Halifax then came up with the king and joined in the conversation. In the end Reresby was kept as Governor of York and the garrison was maintained. Even if the gutting of Clifford's Tower in 1684 might have led to the removal of the troops, Charles II's death and the troubles of his brother's reign caused their retention and reinforcement until the revolution of 1688.

'A Remaine of all the Ordnance, Carriages, Powder, Shott and other Stores and Provisions of Warr at Clifford's Tower in His Majesty's Citty of York taken by the Honourable Sir Christopher Musgrave Knight, Lieutenant Generall of his Majesty's Ordnance the 19th October 1682 together with an Accompt of what Stores have been Expended since the said Remaine, and what have been preserved out of the Late Accidentall Fire there, whereby it may appeare what Losse His Majestie hath Sustained by the said Fire. Videlicet.'

(in feet)cwt.qrs.lbs.
Iron Ordnance mounted on Ship Carriages12 Pounders:—110342
Saker:— 171415
Serviceable3 Pounders:—2482per estimate
482per estimate
Iron Ordnance mounted on Ship Carriages.Saker:—1127
Ditto Hammered:—1822
Unserviceable3 Pounders:—37156
Brass Ordnance mounted on a Travelling CarriageFalconett:—1212per estimate
Iron Murderers mounted of 2 foot 9 inches eachCulvering bore:— 17per estimate
Saker bore:— 15per estimate

All the Carriages except two belonging to the aforesaid Gunns were destroyed by the Fire in the Tower, since which time the Gunns hereafter mencioned have been new Mounted by Order of Sir John Reresby Baronett Governor of his Majesty's Citty of York. Videlicet. (fn. 10)

Hammered Saker:— 1822
Minion:— 16143
3 Pounder:— 17156
Remaine of Stores 19th October 1682Stores lost by the Fire and Expended
Granado Shells for
11 Inch969
8½ Inch342
7½ Inch13nil
7 Inch2312
Round Shott for Cannon (of) 711
Demy Cannon147nil
24 Pounders55nil
Demy Culvering163nil
Tynn Cases (to be filled with Musquett Shott)32 empty32
Hand Granadoes39nil
Ladles and Spunges
12 Pounders1 spunge1
Minion1 iron ladle, 1 spunge1. 1.
3 Pounders1 spunge1
Powder7¼ Barrellsnil
Match26 cwt. 3 qrs. 6 lb.7 cwt. 1 qr. 11 lb.
Long Pikes6363
Musquett Shott in Barrells46 cwt.25 cwt. 3 qr. 25 lb.
Aprons of Lead99
Centinell Bell11
Crowes of Iron21
Formers small33
Tanned Hydes22
Hand Spikes33
Powder hornes11
Primeing Iron11
Match Lock Musquetts1031952
Snap hance Musquetts108108
Ditto with Wheele Locks2626
Ditto with Wheele Locks2824
Bandaliers52 collers52
Pistolls61½ pairs21½ pairs
Ditto with Wheele Locks27 pairs23 pairs
Carbine Shott in Boxes5¼ cwt.5¼ cwt.
Belts for Carbines6969
Swivells for Ditto5050
Spanners for Ditto2525
Holsters107 pairs107 pairs
Cartouch Boxes1616
Wall peeces2nil
Colour Staves44
Scaleing Ladders2727
Backs and Breasts120 of each18
Bedsteads for Soldiers66
Grates with4 Barrs 2nil
3 Barrs 1nil
Creels for Carrying Armes4 pairs4 pairs
Collers and Hames for Horse Harness1010
Gin and Gin Rope11
Guard Bedds33
Small Table11
Small Copper fix't in the Wall1nil
Brass Shivers3nil
Stores remaineing
Musquett Barrells1040
Pistoll Barrells20
Lead pick't out of the Rubbish72 cwt. 2 qrs.
Iron pick't out of the Rubbish15 cwt. 4 lb.
Armes Received from Papists
Backs and Breasts33
Head peeces22
Holsters2 pairs2 pairs
Fowling peeces1717
Snaphance Musquetts22
Pistolls7 pairs7 pairs
Silver Hilted Sword1nil


1 Staffordshire County Record Office, Stafford: Dartmouth Manuscripts D1778/III/02. The Commissioners are grateful to Lord Dartmouth for his permission to quote from the MS. It came to their notice when the Inventory was going into page proof and, important though it is, has had therefore to be restricted to this appendix. Hist. MSS Com. XV, App. I (1896), Dartmouth iii, 54.
2 See Dictionary of National Biography under Musgrave, Christopher, and Legge, George.
3 Browning, A. (ed), Memoirs of Sir John Reresby (1936), 279–80 and above p. 72.
4 See Dictionary of National Biography, Supplement, 160–2.
5 ibid. under Richards, Jacob, and CSP: Dom. 1685, no. 1357.
6 CSP: Dom. 1672–3, 470, 510, 549; 1673–5, 80–1; 1680–1, 136; 1683–4, 393. Hist. MSS Com. Dartmouth 1, 20; Ormonde n.s. iv, 135, 189–90, 227, 260.
7 CSP: Dom. 1675–6, 509; 1678, 536; 1685, 417.
8 This statement confirms that in Torr, p. 105, and shows that the correct date for the restoration of the Tower during the Civil War is 1643 not 1642 as stated above pp. 22, 64. Queen Henrietta Maria was in York from 7 March to 6 June 1643. The year 1642 was thought more probable since the Earl of Cumberland's arms are on the forebuilding and the fifth and last earl was replaced at York late in 1642 and died without a male heir in 1643. Some have ascribed the 17th-century work in the forebuilding to a period after the siege.
9 Browning, op. cit., 290–1.
10 Reresby wrote to Dartmouth in September 1687 hoping that the '5 small guns which he has remounted at his own charge, and planted upon the Tower hill, may be continued' (Hist. MSS. Com. Dartmouth 1, 134).