Secrets of Great British Castles (2015–…): Season 2, Episode 3 - York Castle - full transcript

Built on the orders of William the Conquerer, York Castle has housed a regional seat of government, a royal mint and an infamous jail. It was the scene of the worst Jewish pogrom in British history and the martyrdom of Margaret Cl...

[Dan Jones] For me,
a great British castle is a fortress,

a palace, a home.

And a symbol of power, majesty, and fear.

For nearly 1,000 years,

castles have shaped
Britain's famous landscape.

These magnificent buildings
have been home

to some of the greatest heroes
and villains in our national history.

And many of them
still stand proudly today,

bursting with incredible stories
of warfare,

treachery, intrigue, passion, and murder.

Join me, Dan Jones,
as I uncover the secrets

behind six great British castles.

This time, I'm at York Castle,

at the heart of one of Britain's
most ancient cities.

In its long history, it's witnessed
all sorts of malice and mayhem.

It's where kings like Henry VIII
made a bloody example of their enemies,

where one of the worst religious massacres
ever seen in Britain took place,

and where the most notorious Highway man
in history met his end.

It's a castle packed
with thrilling stories,

that go back nearly 2,000 years.

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This strange stone-tower
built in the shape of a four-leaf clover,

on top of a steep mound of earth
in the middle of an ancient walled-city,

is one of the most unusual fortresses
in Britain.

York Castle, together with
its 19th century jails and courthouse,

has been a centre of royal power

in the north of England
for almost 1,000 years.

In fact, its significance goes back
even further,

for almost 2,000 years.

The Romans, Vikings, Normans,
Kings of Medieval England

have all seized upon
the strategic importance of this site.

All of them left their mark,

which is why the castle and the city
surrounded by two miles of stone walls,

is one of Britain's
most famous historical sites.

The first people to fortify York
were the Romans in 71 AD.

That's why there's a statue
of a Roman Emperor in the city today.

Constantine, the Great converted
the Roman empire into Christianity,

and he was proclaimed Emperor,
here in York.

The Romans called the town, Eboracum.

They built walls around it

and made it the official capital
of the North of England.

But in the fifth century AD,
with their empire crumbling,

the Romans left Britain
and Eboracum for good.

Four centuries later, in 867 AD,

a new set of invaders arrived
from across the sea, the Vikings.

They called the area Jorvik,
over time it became known as York.

With York as their capital,

the Vikings imposed their laws and customs
in the North of England for 200 years.

But it wasn't all rape and pillage.

The Vikings were busy traders,

and under them, York became a boom town.

But soon,
a new conqueror arrived on the scene.

In 1066, a band of ruthless warriors
invaded England,

slaughtering anyone
who stood in their way.

And they would bring
the art of castle-building to York.

When William the Conqueror's
invading army from Normandy

met the army of Harold, King of England's
near Hastings,

a day-long battle saw Harold killed
and William's army victorious.

Marc Morris is a leading expert
on this period.

So Marc, 1066, one of the most
famous dates in British history,

William the Conqueror
crosses the English channel,

beats the Saxon king, Harold,
at the battle of Hastings.

That's usually where the story ends,
but what happens next?

Just because the English
have submitted to him,

doesn't mean they're happy about it.
And in the years that follow,

there are constant uprisings
and rebellions against his rule.

And what they're doing as they move
into each region of England

is cementing their rule
by building castles.

I see.

So, there is a big rebellion early in 1068
in the west country,

and they put a castle in Exeter.

Later that year, in the summer,

there is a much bigger rebellion
in the midlands and the north,

so we get a large castle established
at Warwick.

He then moves onto Nottingham,
which surrenders without a fight.

And then he gets to York,
where he plants a castle in 1068.

So Williams put a castle at York,
does that solve his problems?


William thinks his problems are solved,

by the end of 1068,
he indeed returns to Normandy.

But in his absence,
the north rebels again.

There is a major rising
at the start of 1069,

which prompts William to come back
and it gets worse,

because in the late summer of 1069,
the north rises for a third time,

and this time
they have Vikings supporting them.

[Jones] The Viking and English forces
that rose up against the Normans

in the summer of 1069,

destroyed the first wooden castle

that William the Conqueror
had erected at York.

William was furious
and there would be hell to pay.

Eventually, William paid the Vikings
to go home, but then,

he unleashed a campaign of terror
known as "The Harrying of the North."

His troops swept across
the nearby countryside,

murdering people, slaughtering animals,

burning crops and homes.

Their aim was to make this area
totally unfit to support human life,

and they were dreadfully successful.

As many as 100,000 people
either died during the Harrying,

or of starvation in the famine
that followed.

Not surprisingly,
after the Harrying of the North,

William's men at York
met with little further resistance.

Norman rule in the north was here to stay.

But entire communities were devastated.

According to the Doomsday Book,

the great land survey
ordered by William the Conqueror,

large areas of Yorkshire
was still lying desolate

seventeen years after the Harrying.

It took decades for them to recover.

The results were so appalling

that even William is said to have repented
on his deathbed lamenting that,

"I have persecuted the native inhabitants
of England beyond all reason,

especially in that county of York.

Innumerable multitudes have perished
through me by famine and by sword,

I am stained by the rivers of blood
that I have shed."

The rebellion against the Normans
was over.

But the population of York felt
its devastating effect for years to come.

The castle was rebuilt as a permanent
reminder of the dominance of the Normans.

But this was not the last time York Castle

would be associated
with death and destruction.

In the centuries to come, it would be
the scene of persecution, torture,

gruesome executions,

and one of Britain's worst ever
religious massacres.

The brutality of the Harrying of the North
had vividly demonstrated

William the Conqueror's ruthlessness
in the face of rebellion.

York Castle was now recognized as his
power base in the north of England.

But in the 11th century,

there was one thing considered
more important

than the might of the King,

the power of God.

Nothing said more about the importance
of York Castle

than the building of a huge cathedral
close by.

Cathedrals were the only
medieval buildings

that could ever rival the scale
and grandeur of castles.

In fact, they were usually built
by the same craftsmen

because they require the same materials,

and the same intricate precision
and workmanship to construct.

This is York Minster,
and it's been a holy site

for 1,400 years,
since the first Christian church

was recorded here in 627 AD.

That one was destroyed
when William the Conqueror

laid York waste in 1070.

But it was rebuilt
by the first Norman Bishop of York,

Thomas of Bayeux.

It was no coincidence

that York Minster stands
just down the road from York Castle.

The one represents
the power of the church,

the other, the power of the crown,

and they've always been closely connected.

Just as the castle protected the city,

so the cathedral protected the castle.

It was a visible reminder of the belief
that kings ruled by the will of God,

and anyone
thinking of attacking York Castle

would do well to remember that.

But just because York was God-fearing,
that didn't mean it was peaceful.

Much of the mayhem the castle faced over
the centuries, centred around religion.

And in 1190, the castle would be the scene
of a hideous massacre

carried out in the name of Christianity.

After William the Conqueror
invaded England in 1066,

he brought a small but influential
community of Jews over from Normandy.

One hundred years later,

York had one of the largest
Jewish communities in England.

But anti-Semitic feeling was rife.

In the early spring of 1190,
writing against Jews broke out in London,

and very soon it spread north to York.

In March, a crowd gathered in the city
and began burning Jewish homes.

The attacks unleashed on York's Jews
had several causes.

For a start, the medieval church
was basically intolerant of other faiths,

branding non-Christians as infidels
or unbelievers,

and then there was money.

In the middle ages,
Jews were heavily involved in finance,

because Christians were forbidden
to lend money and charge interest.

The people of York who'd run up
large debts to the Jews

needed very little encouragement
to join in violence against them.

On March the 16th,
fearing for their lives,

York's 150 Jews fled into the castle

seeking safety and protection
from the Sheriff.

Under medieval law,
the King's representative in the castle,

in this case, the Sheriff,
was duty-bound to offer royal protection

to anyone who sought it here.
But as the mob surrounded the castle,

the Sheriff's officers lost control
of the situation,

and they found themselves on the outside,
with the Jews on the inside.

So the Jews of York came to the castle

seeking royal protection.
What happened next?

At some point, the Jews inside the castle
realized that, actually,

they wouldn't be able to hold out
any longer,

that the attackers
would be able to get in,

and they feared that they would be killed.

It was on the council of someone
among their community advised them

that actually the sacred
and important duty of all of them

was to take their own lives.
And, so, a horrible spectacle took place

in which the heads
of all the different households,

first of all, slit the throats
of their dependent women and children,

and then killed one another,

and finally those that were left
took their own lives.

Those that had chosen
not to take their own lives,

they were brought down out of the tower,

they were set upon by the mob
and murdered every one of them.

[Jones] In total, all 150 Jews died,
the entire Jewish population of the city.

To this day,
it remains the worst Jewish pogrom

in this country's history.

During the pogrom of 1190,

the castle, at this stage,
still a wooden tower,

was burned and badly damaged.

It wasn't fully repaired
for more than half a century.

[Jones] It was only in 1244
that the castle was brought up

to the building standards of the day.

King Henry III visited York,

and he was appalled at the state
he found the castle in.

So he ordered it to be rebuilt.
Only this time, in stone.

Now, Henry III was one of the most
renowned builder kings

of the whole English middle ages,
and he sent one of his best craftsmen

to oversee the job,
Master Henry the Mason.

The budget would eventually
come to more than £2,500.

In today's terms,
that would be more than two million.

What emerged was pretty impressive,

the main castle was completely
reconstructed in stone,

and a hall, a chapel, a prison,
and offices were added.

At the heart
was a very unusual defensive tower

designed as four overlapping circles.

It looks a bit like a four-leafed clover.

Obviously, we only have the tower now,

what would the rest of the castle
have looked like?

Well, a bit like this.

What we're actually standing in

is the area of the bailey
of the medieval castle,

which is the enclosure that
stands at the foot of the castle mound

separated from it, actually,
by a ditch that was filled with water.

And if we'd been here in the middle ages,

what we would have seen here
are lots of different buildings,

the hall, the chamber, workshops, stables,

and I think it would look very busy
and a hive of activity.

[Jones] So here we are,
around the back of the castle,

and there's a very strange
bit of architecture here, isn't there?

What's this?

This is the king's toilet, in fact,
specifically, two levels of toilet,

the King's toilet up above
and the toilet for the ground floor,

in fact there are two, one on that side
and one on that side.

This is actually quite an elaborate
piece of plumbing, I suppose?

It's an elaborate...
Plumbing is exactly the right word,

because in the guard rail
of the high level

which I think must've been for the King,

actually it flushed, and you know,
in the 13th century,

you don't get many that do that.

The water came in from the gutters
on the roof level

and it poured all down this pipe
behind us.

Very necessary, and, also,
very elegant at the same time.

Yeah, that's Henry III for you, yeah.

[Jones] In the 13th century,
the castle's importance grew even further

when Henry III was succeeded
by his son, Edward I.

Edward was one of England's greatest
warrior kings.

In 1283, he marched a conquering army
into Wales.

The next decade,
he turned his sights on Scotland.

While he was fighting the Scots,

Edward didn't want to keep returning
to London to govern his kingdom.

So in 1298,
he moved part of the government

from London to York

to be closer to the battlefront.

As the king's entourage moved north,

York became the temporary capital
of England.

Along with York's status
as a centre of government,

came a greater responsibility
for enforcing law and order.

From about 1300,
the courts for the whole of Yorkshire

were held here every spring and summer.

The prisoners awaiting trial
were held in the castle's dungeons,

sometimes for months on end
and often in terrible conditions.

And few inmates attracted more attention

than a group of men
locked up here in 1308.

They were called the Knights Templar.

A knighthood today is just a nice title
you get from the Queen,

but in the middle ages
it really meant something.

Knights were privileged warriors,
whose titles were bestowed upon them

in return for loyal service.

They pledged to fight in the front line
for the King or the Church,

anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

Tobias Capwell is an expert
on their arms and weapons.

He's gonna help me find out what it was
really like to be a medieval Knight.

[Jones] And what've we got here?
Tell me piece-by-piece.

This is basically the kit
of the medieval Knight.

I mean, you'd be my sort of squire, right?
A knight would have someone

-helping to do all this.
-Yeah, you have to have...

You have to have assistance.

So it doesn't feel that heavy
when it's on, does it?

It felt heavy at first, but actually
the weight is kind of distributed.

So it's not like it's really weighing
on your shoulder.

This is the male hood, or kaufen.

Okay, so now it's getting quite hot.

If you're going to have one piece
of good iron or steel armour,

it's always gonna be the helmet.

That's the power of a knight right there,

the ability to wield three feet of steel
with deadly ability and accuracy.

You know, playing it
like a virtuoso musician.

There is one group of knights

particularly associated with York Castle.

And I wanna ask you about them,
the Knights Templar.

Oh, the Templars were
one of a number of military orders

that were founded to defend the territory
of Christian Palestine.

And a Templar would've been dressed
and armed, more or less, like this?

The only major visual difference
is that they wore the white mantles

that you would've worn over the armour.

But technologically and practically,
this is what they were wearing.

[Jones] Today, this house,
Temple Newsam, is an incredible mansion

dating from the late Tudor period.

But in the middle ages,
this was the Yorkshire headquarters

of the most famous international order
of knights, the Knights Templar,

whose members came from all over Europe.

The Templars were a religious order
of knights founded in the 12th century

in Jerusalem as part of the Crusades,

the medieval wars between Christian
and Muslim armies,

which raged for centuries right across
the Mediterranean.

They were pious and fearsome warriors

famous throughout the Christian world
for their distinctive uniform,

a white mantle
emblazoned with a red cross.

They also owned vast amounts of property
and land

in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal,

and in England, where their presence
was particularly strong

here in Yorkshire.

The Templars also built
an unlikely reputation

as international bankers.

With their profits,
they built castles and churches,

they had their own fleet of ships,

and at one point, even owned
the entire island of Cyprus.

But their extraordinary success
would also be their downfall.

The Templars' power, privilege, and wealth
made them some very powerful enemies.

Among them was King Philip IV of France.

When Philip found himself owing
large amounts of money to the Order,

he took drastic action.

In 1307, he ordered mass arrests
of the Templars in France.

They were tortured and forced to confess
to immorality, and heresy.

It wasn't long before other kings
across Europe took similar action.

In 1308, Edward II issued orders

for all the Templars in England
to be rounded up.

Twenty-five were arrested in Yorkshire,

some of them here at Temple Newsam.

They were taken to York Castle,

where they were thrown in the dungeons
to await trial.

In 1310, legal proceedings finally began.

The Templars were accused
of religious crimes,

so they were tried by a panel of bishops
and other churchmen.

Dominic Selwood is an expert
on the Templars.

[Jones] So the trial of the Templars
in Yorkshire

took place here
in the Chapter House of York Minster.

What were the Templars accused of?

The crimes were framed by Philip of France

and he wanted to shock people
as much as he could.

And he did a very good job.

He said that they were guilty

of urinating and spitting on crucifixes
on the image of Christ.

He said that they worshiped idols
in the form of cats, calves, human heads,

it was a black magic charge in effect,

'cause these idols were said to give them
magical powers.

And he said that they engaged in shocking,
assorted, secret sexual ceremonies.

So as a smear tactic, it really worked.

What happened at the trial?

The outcome was
that they were all found innocent.

The charges didn't stick.

[Jones] Why do you think people
are so fascinated

with the Templars even today?

It's an amazingly cinematic story.

They were supermen,
they were super heroes.

For 200 years, they defended Christendom.

They hammered their enemies.

They also were not prepared

to let the Order be dishonoured.
They would rather face death and prison,

than admit these false charges
against them.

[Jones] Although the individual Knights
were not found guilty,

the trial was a disaster for the Order,

which was stripped of its possessions
and disbanded.

But it could've been far worse.

In France, many of the Templars
were burned to death.

In the future, however,

York Castle would be the scene
of its own horrific executions.

And none was more gruesome
than the hideous punishment dished out

by the most famous British Monarch of all,

King Henry VIII.

York's medieval castle saw invasions,

uprisings, show trials,
and religious slaughter.

By the 16th century,
the fortifications beyond the castle

had been thoroughly extended and updated.

A high stone-wall, over two miles long,

now totally encircled
the entire medieval city.

It was studded with gates known as "bars."

Manned by the King's men,

these kept strict control of the traffic
in and out of York.

This is Micklegate Bar,

one of six gates
in York's old defensive walls

which once controlled access to the city
and to the castle.

This is where kings and queens
would enter York.

It was also where the heads of traitors
would be stuck on spikes and left to rot,

as a warning to anyone who was thinking
of rebelling against the crown.

And no one ever used
these gates to more dramatic effect

than King Henry VIII.

During his reign, York Castle was swept up
in a violent rebellion against the crown,

and the dreadful retribution
that followed.

In 1534, Henry VIII declared himself

Supreme head of the Church in England.

And across the country,
all references to the Pope

and the Catholic Church in Rome
were removed.

To some people, this was long overdue
religious reform,

but to others, it was little more than
state-sponsored vandalism.

Henry VIII's Protestant Reformation

was a direct attack
on the Roman Catholic faith.

Some of the biggest symbols of Catholicism
were England's monasteries,

like St. Mary's Abbey,
just across the road from York Castle.

In 1536, Henry's men came here
and tried to shut the Abbey down.

Monasteries like this one
were big employers

and people relied on them for work,
education, and medical care.

But Henry closed this Abbey
and dozens of others like it,

stripped it of its assets
and seized then for the crown.

Eventually, for the conservative
Catholic people of the northern England,

this was all too much.

And they rose up in rebellion
against their king.

This rebellion was led by Robert Aske

from Selby, just 14 miles from York,

who gave his uprising a stirring,
and very deliberately Catholic name,

the Pilgrimage of Grace.

It was the worst revolt
of the whole of Henry VIII's reign,

turning the North upside-down
for three months,

as up to 35,000 people
rose up against him.

Robert Aske was a lawyer
from a well-to-do local family.

He was also a gifted public speaker
and a disciplined organizer.

In October, 1536,

Aske led a procession of 5,000 men
through the streets of York

here to the Minster,
and he posted on the door a petition

calling for the monks and nuns
to be returned to their religious houses.

He also wanted a parliament of the north
held here at York

and a pardon for all those
involved in the rebellion.

Henry VIII's representative
in the North, the Duke of Norfolk,

presented the rebel's petition to the King
who then asked to meet with Aske.

Naively trusting
the King's good intentions,

Aske left Yorkshire and headed to London.

But by the time he arrived,
King Henry had changed his mind.

He had Aske arrested and thrown
into the Tower of London,

where he was charged
and convicted of high treason.

Then, to further drive home the point,

Henry had Aske taken from London
back to York Castle

and paraded in chains
in every town he passed through.

When he arrived at York,
Aske was taken to the Castle

for the final stage
of his ghastly punishment.

His sentence read,

"You're to be drawn upon a hurdle
to the place of execution,

and there you're to be hanged by the neck
and being alive cut down,

and your privy members to be cut-off,

and your bowels be taken out
of your belly and then burned,

you still being alive,
and your head to be cut-off,

and your body to be divided
into four quarters,

and that your head and quarters
to be disposed of

where His Majesty shall think fit."

When they were finished with him,
what was left of Aske's body

was hung in chains
from the walls of the castle,

so the people of the city could see

just what happened to those
who rose up against their King.

Aske's uprising was the bloodiest chapter

of Henry VIII's entire reign.

Over 200 of the rebels across Yorkshire
received similar punishment.

It was intended, Henry said himself,

as a fearful warning to anyone
who dared defy the King.

And Aske wasn't the last
Catholic dissenter

to be imprisoned in York Castle.

Fifty years later, during the reign
of Henry's daughter, Elizabeth I,

a woman called Margaret Clitherow

also defied the monarch's ruling
on religion.

The fate she suffered
after coming to the Castle

was arguably even worse.

This is the Shambles,
one of the oldest streets in York,

and in Tudor-times, there were
as many as 20 butcher shops here.

And this is where, in 1571,
a woman called Margaret Clitherow moved

when she married her husband, John,
a wealthy butcher.

Three years later,
Margaret converted to Catholicism,

and soon she was
one of the leading figures

in York's underground Catholic community.

Margaret was determined
to cling onto her old faith.

Not only did she hold illegal masses
in her house,

she was also suspected of hiding
outlawed Catholic priests.

In this chapel, in York,

I found evidence of just how dangerous
that sort of thing could be.

This is a priest hole, built to hide
Catholic priests from the authorities.

You can imagine just how scary it would be
to be the person inside there.

It's small, it's dark,
I imagine it's pretty cold as well.

But if you were hidden away in this hole,

you'd know that it was better down there
than up here.

Because it the authorities caught you,

then your fate would be very grisly,

Eventually, in 1586,
Margaret's home was raided

and a priest hole was found.

She was arrested and taken to York Castle
to prepare herself for trial.

When Margaret was brought
before the court,

she wouldn't say
whether or not she was guilty.

She knew that under English law,
that meant a trial couldn't go ahead,

and that crucially, her children wouldn't
be called to testify against her.

Unfortunately, English law had a way
of dealing with people

who refused to plead.

It was called peine forte et dure,
better known as crushing.

Margaret was taken from the court,
she was lain on the floor

with a stone the size of a man's fist
beneath her back.

Then a door was placed on top of her.

And onto that was piled about
700 pounds of other stones.

Margaret was literally squashed,

and the stone beneath her back
snapped her spine in half.

It took her about 15 minutes to die.

And even Queen Elizabeth I
was shocked when she heard about it.

[Jones] What was the point of pressing
someone like Margaret Clitherow to death?

[Jessie Childs] It's so horrendous,

so exquisitely savage that, uh,

no one would dream of not entering a plea,

that they would all accept by Jury.
That's the theory, but Margaret didn't.

[Jones] Why?

Well, there are many reasons.

She said that she wanted to preserve
the consciences of her jurors,

so they wouldn't have to make her...
You know, find her guilty.

She also wanted to protect her children
and her servants

from testifying against her.

That's what she said.

Um, some people think that, really,
she was seeking martyrdom.

People, but tried to get her off...
In that ten-day period or so,

between her trial and her pressing,

everyone was going to her cell
trying to get her to plead.

And there was even one stage
when a jury of women examined her

to see if she might be pregnant,

and they came out and said
she probably was pregnant.

So there is a sense that
she's accepted her fate already,

and she's going in as a willing martyr.

[Jones] It's believed that her body
was eventually dug up

and given a secret burial,

or at least, most of it was.

[Jones] So, James, show me
what's inside here.

Okay, Dan, I just have from the cabin

-the hand of Margaret Clitherow.

[Jones] So, this is the hand that was
taken from Margaret Clitherow

just after she'd been pressed to death.

That's right. I understood that,

basically, after her execution,

friends of hers recovered the hand
from the body,

which, in all honesty,
probably was one of the few items left.

You can sort of feel it,
actually, can't you?

Because if this is the hand of this woman,

they've endured such terrible hardship
and brutality,

and here it is right in front of us.

Then it becomes much more than
just a story, doesn't it?

You can't help but be in awe

by looking at something like this,
you know.

-It's amazing.

[Jones] By the start
of the 17th century,

York Castle was being
referred to as Clifford's Tower,

named after the powerful Clifford family,

who were lord lieutenants
of the North of England

and hereditary constables of the castle.

Like all families of the time,
they would take sides in a civil war

that was about to tear the country in two.

In 1642, Charles I fell out violently
with his parliament

and civil war erupted in England.

On one side were the Royalists,
known as Cavaliers,

who supported the King

with what he considered
his God-given right to rule.

On the other side were the Roundheads,

who felt parliament should be
the ultimate power in the country.

The Cliffords were loyal to Charles I.

And in April, 1642,
the city of York and its castle

became the refuge for a king

who was in danger of losing his crown,
his kingdom, and his head.

Fearing for his crown,
as well as for his safety,

Charles I moved his family
and the entire Royal Court north

to what he thought
was the security of York.

To bolster the city's defences,
the castle was reroofed,

its walls repaired,
and sentry boxes were set up.

York was now the effective capital
of England,

but it was also in the firing line.

In April, 1644, York was besieged
by Roundhead forces.

The siege went on
for more than two months.

But on the first of July,

the Royalists inside York
thought their luck had changed

with the arrival of reinforcement troops
led by Charles' glamorous nephew,

Prince Rupert of the Rhine.

But the Royalists were wrong.

The following day, just west of York,
they suffered a bloody defeat

of what's thought to be the biggest battle
ever fought on English soil,

the Battle of Marston Moor.

After the battle, York Castle
held out for a further two weeks.

But finally, on the 16th of July,

the King's remaining supporters,
who were holed up inside, surrendered.

The North was now firmly within
Parliament's and the Roundhead's control,

and York became
their capital of the North.

After being controversially tried
for treason,

King Charles I was executed in London
in January, 1649.

Charles' son, Charles II,
was restored to the throne in 1660,

and York Castle entered a new phase
in its history.

The castle's warring days were over.

But its importance as a site of justice
and punishment would continue.

At the beginning of the 18th century,

a state-of-the-art new prison
was built in the castle grounds.

And it was here

that the most notorious
highwayman in history,

Dick Turpin, would meet his end.

York Castle has witnessed
religious persecution,

torture, execution, and all-out war.

But the English Civil War
in the 17th century,

was the last military action
the castle saw.

By the end of the conflict,
its fighting days were over,

and its main use was now as a jail.

Criminals were held in cells
within the wall

which once encircled a broad area
of the castle

in front of the central tower.

They were waiting for traveling judges
to come and hear their cases.

But that only happened twice a year.

Terrible prison conditions, no heat,
poor food, dirty cells

meant that many of them died here
still waiting for justice.

But plans were in place to bring
the whole complex up to date.

The old medieval buildings
in front of the castle were demolished,

and a new purpose-built prison
was opened in 1705.

This prison was one of the first
in Britain

designed to house both
male and female prisoners.

Its most famous inmate was
one of the most celebrated outlaws

in English history.

In 1738, Dick Turpin,
a notorious gangster and highwayman,

shot and killed a man in London

and fled to Yorkshire to escape the law.

But later that year, he was arrested,

rather bizarrely,
for shooting someone's chickens.

Inquiries soon connected him
to a string of local horse thefts,

and he was imprisoned at York Castle.

This is the cell
that Richard Turpin was held in

before his trial for horse theft in 1739.

Now, at first,
the authorities at York Castle

didn't know that he was Turpin.

They thought he was a man
called John Parmen.

And they only realized their mistake
when Turpin's old school teacher,

back in Essex, recognized his handwriting

on a letter he'd sent
to his brother-in-law.

And the school teacher travelled north
to York to identify Turpin

and claim a £200 reward.

Over the years,
many myths have grown up around him.

But who was the real Dick Turpin?

In the popular fiction of the day,
Turpin was described as a brave,

heroic, and chivalrous character.

A knight of the road,
with a spirited devotion to the fair sex,

sort of Robin Hood character.

But was this really true?

Historian Katherine Prior has studied
the man behind the legend.

[Katherine Prior] Turpin's crimes were

pretty unpleasant,
I mean, highly unpleasant.

They're the sort that you'd get headlines
screaming in the Sun about today.

Uh, torture...
Murder, point-blank murder.

There's absolutely no evidence that Turpin
gave anything to anybody else.

As far as we can establish,
he lived for himself,

so the idea that he gave to the poor
is pretty nonsensical.

So having Richard Turpin as a prisoner,
this was a real boon for York Castle?

It was a real boon for the Jailer.

Because in those days,
jails were commercial enterprises.

They weren't run by the state.

And you got your money back from the fees
that you levied on the people

who were in the jail.
That was a form of accommodation.

So, like, you paid for your accommodation

while you waited to be tried
or waited to be executed.

And Richard Turpin lived it up,
rather grandly, while he was here.

[Prior] And there was a lot of bribery,

and he paid to have a lot of things
brought in, a lot of wine, fine food.

And people paid to come see him.

I mean, it was sort of like a zoo, really.

[Jones] In the 18th century,
horse theft was a capital crime.

So when Turpin was found guilty,
there was only one sentence.


[Prior] A couple of days before he died,

he shelled out some money
and got a new frock,

coat, and new shoes.

And he paid five men to be his mourners,
or pallbearers.

He was seen to be quite calm going out.

There's an account saying
his right leg wobbled a bit

and he slacked it down very firmly

and climbed the ladder in a manly fashion.

And then he stayed talking with the chap
who was going to pull the ladder away

for about half an hour. Everyone...
It's described now as bravado,

but you sort of think
he was probably hoping,

maybe, maybe there'll be
a last minute reprieve.

But there wasn't
and so the ladder was pulled away.

And he died.

[Jones] By the 19th century,
most of this once-great fortress

had either crumbled away,
or being demolished to make way

for new buildings such as the prison.

Eventually, all that was left
were the outer walls of the city,

and this one structure
still standing proudly on the hill,

York Castle, known locally
as Clifford's Tower.

York's famous for its Cathedral
and its city walls.

But I love this curious castle.

Fifty-five steps up on top of its hill.

From Viking raiders,

and Norman conquerors,

to a Tudor saint,
and a notorious highway man,

it's the stories of York Castle

that really put
this historic northern city on the map.