Secrets of Great British Castles

York Castle

Season 2, Episode 3 of 6

In this episode, Dan Jones is exploring the medieval capital of the North: York. Built by William the Conqueror, York Castle was once the regional seat of the British government and was used as a prison and a royal mint. Before William The Conqueror settled into the North however, he had to fight off the Vikings. The Vikings first arrived in York in 866, led by the colorfully named, Ivor the Boneless. Jones visits a Viking village and learns how to fight in the manner of the Vikings. In 1190, York Castle was the site of one of the worst pogroms in English history. A Yorkshire landholder indebted to a Jewish merchant exploited an accidental house fire to incite a mob to attack the Jews. The Jews took refuge in York Castle as the mob surrounded it. Besieged for days, the Rabbi inside proposed an act of collective suicide, rather than give themselves up to the mob. Others burned to death in a fire started in the wooden keep. A few surrendered, promising to convert to Christianity, but they were killed anyway by the angry crowd. One hundred fifty Jews died in total. Jones learns about the life of a medieval knight and tries on armor like a Knight Templar would have worn, a special branch of knights referred to as "warrior monks." Twenty-five Templars were imprisoned in York Castle and interrogated on the charge of heresy, idolatry, and other crimes. Jones visits York Minster where they stood trial to learn more about their story. Dan Jones also visits the cell in which legendary highwayman Dick Turpin was imprisoned. Over the years many myths have grown up around the man but Jones poses the question, who was the real Dick Turpin?

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