Approaches to the Anglian Tower – 2

There were bronze plaques on the walls here once. Two of them. One to explain the historical significance of this ruined building, and one to mark the life of an archaeologist who died here, on 22 July 1970.

Commemorative plaque, in bronze, inscription and handwritten graffiti

I was too young, in 1970, to recognise this tragedy. So were the teenagers who later scrawled all over the commemorative plaque. Pictured here in 2004, before it disappeared.

This photo is one of those images from my local wanders which has no artistic merit but which could prompt a whole page of analysis, or at the very least, questions. Like why a group of people – girls, apparently – would write on a commemorative plaque. Whether all surfaces are equal if you want to label another girl as a ’slag’. Whether the lack of respect is due to not having lived long enough to know what death means. And what the relatives and friends of Jeffrey Radley would feel, seeing this. That last question makes me feel a bit uncomfortable about including this photo, as it did at the time I took it.

Closer inspection shows that amongst the scrawl there has been added ’sorry u died Jeffrey’. So a moment of recognition then, and a message written in a rather endearing way, directly to Jeffrey – after they’d written their teenage scribblings all over his plaque.

They’ll be grown up now, and may now know what death means, and may perhaps have been to lay flowers in a specific and important place, precious to them, which they’d want other people to respect.

I’ve taken thousands of photos of York since this one, but this is the most thought-provoking, still.

Here in the layers of earth and stone Jeffrey Radley died when the structures supporting the excavation gave way. On 22 July 1970, 42 years ago today, the local press reported the cave-in and that he was feared buried.

The Yorkshire Evening Press, in April of that year, had reported that a scheme for the opening out and permanent exhibition of the Anglian Tower had been approved.

The plaque commemorating Jeffrey Radley’s work here was unveiled in 1971. It seems to have disappeared sometime in the last couple of years. As have several other valuable bronze plaques placed by York Civic Trust in other city centre locations.

Jeffrey Radley also wrote poetry, my online research revealed. I hoped that the library building overlooking the place where he died would have copies of his poetry, but it doesn’t seem to, so sadly I can’t end this page with any of his work. Perhaps someone out there can assist.

I climbed up the banks nearby recently, and looked down on this area, and saw the excavated layers from a new angle, and lined them up, framed in photographs. It was only later, looking at them again on another screen, back at home, that I remembered that I’d meant to mention the Anglian Tower again – its sealed-up state, and that bronze plaque.

So thought I’d do that today, 42 years to the day since Jeffrey Radley died here, in recognition of his work in opening it up.

I can’t offer a bronze plaque, just a website page.

I am fully aware that I’m writing this as someone who didn’t know Mr Radley, and that I’m only an observer, decades on, of our city’s more recent layers. Comments are welcome below, and on the associated pages on the Anglian Tower.

Links

Scarred Temple, by Jeffrey Radley, at abebooks.co.uk

Ebooks from York Stories

Book cover Chocolate and Chicory: York and beyond, by bicycle
An exploration of the local landscape, its stories and histories, via themed journeys along the cycle tracks outside the city walls and the country lanes beyond the ring road. This exploration of local history and landscape can also be enjoyed from the comfort of your sofa. Read more ...

Book cover When the suburbs burned: a walk around 17th century York
A short ebook taking us to the places still bearing the scars of a 17th century siege, to where the king once played The Balloon and where his printers printed pamphlets, meeting a hero we've forgotten to remember and his son-in-law the unfortunate Villiers. Saddened chaplains and other observers guide us on our way. Read more ...

8 comments

  1. I’d love to see this area opened up to the public, its a neglected corner of York, but, as i said in a previous post, with a tangible sense of history..

    And it would be good to let others see the work of Jeffrey Radley, let him have a corner of York which is visited and appreciated. I’m not sure how to achieve this, or who to approach, but i think i may have a try..

    and as a long standing ‘user’ of this area, i’d like to think we always left the place as we found it when we used this area for post-pub socialising in my teenage years. If not, maybe i can do something now to help others discover this secluded little corner

  2. YorkStories

    It’s difficult, isn’t it, to know how much and in what way to open things up – as discussed on the 3rd page of these thoughts on the Anglian Tower. But something needs doing here, doesn’t it. I imagine there are already plans to improve the area, as it’s such an important site.

  3. Andy Robinson

    My grandfather Leonard B. Cooper (a dedicated amateur archaeologist) was a friend of Mr Radley. He visited with him at the Anglican Tower days before the tragic accident, he urged his friend to shore up the trench.
    My grandparents would often take me and my sister by train to York for the day. We’d always go and visit Jeff’s memorial. My grandfather died many years ago and since when I visit York I always make a point of visiting the spot where is friend died. I’m saddened to hear that the plaque is no longer there!
    I’d like to thank you for your webpage I know my grandfather would have approved.

    Andy Robinson. Chesterfield.

  4. Really appreciate your comment Andy. It’s nice to know your grandfather would have approved.

    I’ll try to find out if there are plans to replace the plaque, or at least to tidy/improve the area.

  5. We (FYW) should look into getting this plaque replaced.
    Keith

  6. Maybe something in slate, at ground level, would be appropriate? Was admiring the rounded slate, with inscription, around the statue of John Betjeman at London St Pancras.

    Having a marker at ground level seems appropriate for an archaeologist, and perhaps less likely to be vandalised …

  7. Andy Robinson

    I visited York just last weekend and made my little pilgrimage to the spot where my granddad’s friend had died. I was only months old when the tragedy occurred. As a child I visited the spot several time with my granddad when he would go to pay his respects. Somehow to go back there renews the memory of my granddad, he passed away back in 1984.
    I have added a link to my Photographic archive. Both Mr Radley and my granddad appear in the image of Glebe Low Cist.
    I hope that it is of interest.

    https://sites.google.com/site/thecooperrobinsonarchive/prehistoric-derbyshire

    Andy Robinson

  8. YorkStories

    Really nice to see the photo Andy, thank you, and to hear you’ve been back to the Anglian Tower recently, since your earlier comment above. When I compiled this page I hoped someone out there would remember more about Jeffrey Radley and add a comment, and you have, and it’s much appreciated.

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