The Red Tower

Red Tower

1490AD - 1491AD

The Red Tower, built in 1490, forms the only brick section of York’s famous city walls. Because it was built of brick its construction did not sit well with the local stone masons. So much so that it was the cause of dispute, and even murder.

The masons who worked on the majority of York’s walls and buildings were unhappy about the employment of tilers to build the Red Tower; their unhappiness led to them attempting to sabotage the building of the tower. The tilers had to ask for protection from the city council to stop the masons from threatening them and breaking their tools.

This protection made little difference, however. In 1491, the tiler John Patrik was murdered. Two leading masons, William Hindley and Christopher Homer, were charged with the murder but quickly acquitted. 

The first recorded use of the name “The Red Tower” was in 1511, presumably in reference to its red brick colour rather than its bloody past.

Despite forming an important and unique part of the city walls, the Red Tower fell quickly into disrepair. It had to be repaired multiple times, notably in 1541 and 1545, and was in ruins by 1736. It was roughly restored in 1800 and became known as ‘Brimstone House’ – probably a reference to its former use as a manufactory for gunpowder. It has two storeys, and a garderobe. The way that the tower appears now is thanks to G F Jones’ restorations in 1857-8.


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