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Tower 39 was constructed circa 1345 (at the same time as the adjoining sections of York's City Wall). It was altered to support artillery in the 17th-century.
The wall and associated towers almost certainly replaced an earlier wooden palisade.
Three of the tower's outward-facing walls include arrow slits. The arrow slit in the northeast wall has a simple oblong form. Those in the southeast and southwest wall are cruciform in shape. The style of the latter was commonly used during the 15th century, which suggests that the tower was altered during this period.
The 17th-century alterations included the replacement of the original roof with a stronger vaulted version, built using bricks rather than the magnesian limestone used in the 14th century for the tower's walls. The twin-vaulted design would have enabled the new flat roof to support the weight of at least one large cannon or two, perhaps three smaller cannon. The corner location and height above the surrounding landscape combine to give this gun platform a commanding position.
A fireplace was added as part of the 17th century alterations. This would have helped the guards manning the tower to keep warm.