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Tower Gardens

Tower Gardens is a small formal garden conveniently located between the River Ouse and Clifford's Tower. It was the first public garden in central York.

A typical year . . .

On a hot and humid day in summer, the bench seating, mature trees and colourful shrubs make the garden a cool and pleasant place to relax and watch the world go by (see Image 1).

On a sunny day in autumn, the deciduous trees become the main attraction as their leaves transform from cool greens to warm and flamboyant reds, yellows and browns (see Images 2 & 3).

On a damp and wet day in winter, the appeal of the garden is somewhat diminished, but the magic returns with a touch of frost or snow. However, beware the power of the River Ouse, which regularly rises to flood the garden and cover its lawns and paths with both water and mud (see Images 4, 5 & 6).

As winter gives way to spring, the mood in the garden begins to lift again as the entire riverside area is colonised by flocks of wild geese and their extremely cute goslings (see Image 7). The parent geese are relatively tolerant of people passing by, but be warned: they WILL bite if you venture too close.)

A brief history . . .

The area that is today known as Tower Gardens was once part of a larger area of open 'citizen's land' known as George’s Close, St George’s Close, and St George’s Field. The 'George' element originates from the 12th century (perhaps earlier), when the area formed part of the curtilage of St. George's Chapel (the original chapel of York Castle).

Over the course of history, the St George’s Field area has been used for a wide range of activities, including:

  • grazing,
  • archery practice;
  • drying laundry;
  • public executions;
  • parades and processions (some of which featured St George and the Dragon);
  • promenading, socialising and gossiping;
  • public celebrations (such as Queen Victoria's accession to the throne in 1837);
  • firework displays;
  • public bathing (originally in the River Ouse then, in the mid-20th century, in St George's Baths);
  • circuses and other public entertainments; and, in modern times
  • car and coach parking.

Part of the area now occupied by Tower Gardens was first laid-out as a public recreation area in the early 1730s (circa 1731-2), when the tree-lined riverside path known as "The Long Walk" (the precursor to the New Walk) was created.

The construction of Skeldergate Bridge (between 1878- and 1881) effectively split the original St George’s Field in two. As part of the bridge-building works, the northern portion was re-landscaped to create the public space known today as St George's Gardens or, more commonly, Tower Gardens.

The area to the south of Skeldergate Bridge is currently used as a car park although, over recent decades, York City Council have suggested a number of different schemes for the redevelopment of this area.

Practical Information

Cost Category (Categories)

Location Information (Where is . . . ?)

Tower Gardens
Tower Street

Latitude: 53.954847000000
Longitude: -1.080710000000

View this location on an interactive map.

The New Walk still links the King's Staith / South Esplanade with the Blue Bridge (and beyond) and this pleasant tree-lined path remains a popular place for a riverside stroll. There are two linking paths from Tower Street (opposite Clifford's Tower) through Tower Gardens to the New Walk.

Please note that Tower Gardens lies within the functional flood plain of the River Ouse and that it may be inaccessible when the river is in flood and for the duration of post-flood clean-up works.