List of town walls in England and Wales

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Reconstruction of Worcester city walls in 1250, viewed from the north[nb 1]

This list of town walls in England and Wales describes the fortified walls built and maintained around these towns and cities from the 1st century AD onwards. The first town walls were built by the Romans, following their conquest of Britain in 43 AD. The Romans typically initially built walled forts, some of which were later converted into rectangular towns, protected by either wooden or stone walls and ditches. Many of these defences survived the fall of the Roman Empire in the 4th and 5th centuries, and were used in the unstable post-Roman period. The Anglo-Saxon kings undertook significant planned urban expansion in the 8th and 9th centuries, creating burhs, often protected with earth and wood ramparts. These burh walls sometimes utilised older Roman fortifications, and themselves frequently survived into the early medieval period.

The Norman invaders of the 11th century initially focused on building castles to control their new territories, rather than town walls to defend the urban centres, but by the 12th century many new town walls were built across England and Wales, typically in stone. Edward I conquered North Wales in the late 13th century and built a number of walled towns as part of a programme of English colonisation. By the late medieval period, town walls were increasingly less military in character and more closely associated with civic pride and urban governance: many grand gatehouses were built in the 14th and 15th centuries. The English Civil War in 1640s saw many town walls pressed back into service, with older medieval structures frequently reinforced with more modern earthwork bastions and sconces. By the 18th century, however, most town walls were falling into disrepair: typically they were sold off and demolished, or hidden behind newer buildings as towns and cities expanded.

In the 20th century there was a resurgence in historical and cultural interest in these defences. Those towns and cities that still had intact walls renovated them to form tourist attractions. Some of Edward I's town walls in North Wales were declared part of the internationally recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. Urban redevelopment has frequently uncovered new remnants of the medieval walls, with archaeological work generating new insights into the Roman and Anglo-Saxon defences.

List[edit]

Place County Date built Condition Image Notes
Abergavenny Gwent Masonry fragments A small Norman wall was built around the town in the 11th century, linked to Abergavenny Castle. The Norman wall was demolished in the 12th century and a new stone wall was built in the late 13th century, approximately 350 m by 215 m. This was destroyed by the modern period.[1]
Alnwick Northumberland Two gatehouses survive The Bondgate Tower - geograph.org.uk - 1398058.jpg The walls were built in the 15th century to protect Alnwick against border instability and raiding, and commemorated the powerful local Percy family, who controlled the local castle.[2][3]
Bath Somerset Fragmentary remains Medieval Wall - geograph.org.uk - 1716008.jpg Bath's first walls were built by the Romans. The Anglo-Saxons constructed a fortified burh at Bath, utilising the existing city walls, and stone walls were built during the medieval period. Parts of one medieval gatehouse still survive.[4][5]
Beaumaris Gwynedd Vestiges Beaumaris walls in 1610.jpg The town was captured by Owain Glyndŵr in 1400. Once recaptured by English forces, a stone wall with three gates was built around the town, and maintained until the late 17th century.[6][7]
Berwick-on-Tweed Northumberland Substantially intact Brass Bastion, flanker - geograph.org.uk - 1256488.jpg The first walls built in the early 14th century under Edward I were 2 mi (3.2 km) long. Replaced in 1560 by a set of Italian-inspired walls with 5 large stone bastions, the walls are today the best-preserved post-medieval town defences in England.[8]
Beverley East Riding of Yorkshire One gatehouse survives Beverley North Bar Within - geograph.org.uk - 1369970.jpg 12th century Beverley was protected by a "great ditch" rather than a stone wall. In the early 15th century 3 brick gatehouses were built; more ditches and other fortifications were later added, but these failed to protect the town during the Civil War.[9][10]
Brecon Powys Vestiges Captain's Walk, Brecon.jpg Originally constructed by Humphrey de Bohun after 1240, the walls were built of stone, with 4 gatehouses and 10 semi-circular bastions. They were largely destroyed during the Civil War.[11][12]
Bridgnorth Shropshire Vestiges North Gate. Part of the old town wall. - geograph.org.uk - 688713.jpg Bridgnorth's town walls were initially constructed in timber between 1216 and 1223; murage grants allowed them to be upgraded to stone between the 13th and 15th centuries including 5 gates.[13]
Bristol Bristol Fragmentary remains Geograph-2053312-by-Hazel-Stanmore-Richards.jpg The fine St John's Gate is built into the church under its spire; the line of the walls is walkable.[14]
Caerleon Gwent Fragmentary remains Roman wall in Caerleon - geograph.org.uk - 1252561.jpg [15]
Caernarfon Gwynedd 1283–92 Largely intact Geograph-2278392-by-Jeremy-Bolwell.jpg Constructed by Edward I at a cost of £3,500, alongside the castle, the walls are 2,408 ft (734 m) long and include eight towers and two gatehouses. Today they form part of the UNESCO world heritage site administered by Cadw.[16][17]
Caerwent Gwent Substantial remains South Walls, Caerwent - geograph.org.uk - 837588.jpg [18]
Canterbury Kent 3rd-16th centuries Substantial remains Canterbury town walls - geograph.org.uk - 1117994.jpg First built by the Romans in the 3rd century, retained by the Anglo-Saxons, the walls were rebuilt in the late 14th century owing to fears of a French invasion and feature early gunports. Over half of the original circuit, with 17 out of 24 towers, survives.[19]
Cardiff Glamorgan 12th-15th centuries Vestiges Medieval town wall Cardiff.jpg First recorded in 1111, the walls were 1.28 mi (2.06 km) long and 10 ft (3.0 m) high with 5 town gates. Sections collapsed in the 18th century, many stones being reused as building material. The last large section was demolished in 1901.[20]
Carlisle Cumbria Substantial remains West Walls, Carlisle - geograph.org.uk - 486305.jpg [21]
Castle Acre Norfolk Fragmentary remains Castle Acre Bailey Gate - geograph.org.uk - 1718512.jpg [22]
Chepstow Gwent Substantial remains Town Gate, Chepstow.jpg A late thirteenth century stone wall constructed for the twin purposes of defence and tax collection.[23]
Chester Cheshire 70 AD–12th century Largely intact City walls from the Roman Gardens - geograph.org.uk - 824122.jpg Chester's walls were originally built by the Romans between 70 and 80 AD and were used by the burh in 907. The Norman walls were extended to the west and the south to form a complete circuit, which now provides a walkway of about 2 mi (3.2 km).[24][25]
Chichester West Sussex Substantial remains Town Walls from the south - geograph.org.uk - 984365.jpg [26]
Cirencester Gloucestershire 3rd–4th century Vestiges Remnants of the stone walls of the Roman town of Corinium Dobunnorum are visible in the Abbey Grounds.[27]
Colchester Essex Substantial remains Balkerne Gate, Colchester - geograph.org.uk - 189116.jpg [28]
Conwy Clwyd Largely intact Conwy town walls - geograph.org.uk - 695924.jpg Constructed between 1283 and 1287 after the foundation of Conwy by Edward I, the walls are 0.8 mi (1.3 km) long, with 21 towers and 3 gatehouses, and formed an integrated system of defence alongside Conwy Castle.[29][30]
Coventry West Midlands 1350s–1534 Fragmentary remains Swanswell Gate -Coventry -from new footbridge 26m08.jpg With its walls nearly 2.2 mi (3.5 km) around and 12 ft (3.7 m) high, with 32 towers and 12 gatehouses, repaired during the 1640s, Coventry was described as being the best-defended city in England outside London.[31][32]
Cowbridge Glamorgan Substantial remains Old town wall - Cowbridge - geograph.org.uk - 1262724.jpg [33]
Cricklade Wiltshire Fragmentary remains [34]
Denbigh Clwyd Substantial remains Burgess Gate, Denbigh - geograph.org.uk - 1323661.jpg [35]
Durham County Durham Fragmentary remains [36]
Exeter Devon Substantial remains Tower, city walls, Exeter - geograph.org.uk - 1082975.jpg [37]
Gloucester Gloucestershire Vestiges [38]
Great Yarmouth Norfolk Substantial remains Walls and tower at Blackfriars Road - geograph.org.uk - 766416.jpg [39]
Hartlepool County Durham Substantial remains Sandwell Gate - geograph.org.uk - 1606520.jpg [40]
Hastings East Sussex Vestiges [41]
Haverfordwest Pembrokeshire Vestiges [42]
Hay-on-Wye Powys Vestiges [43]
Hereford Herefordshire Fragmentary remains Geograph-2598944-by-Roger-Davies.jpg [44]
Ilchester Somerset Vestiges [45]
Kidwelly Carmathenshire Substantial remains Boot and Shoe pub and Town Gatehouse - geograph.org.uk - 1154701.jpg [46]
Kings Lynn Norfolk Fragmentary remains King's Lynn South Gate - geograph.org.uk - 365129.jpg [47]
Kingston upon Hull East Riding of Yorkshire 14th century Vestiges The Beverley Gate - geograph.org.uk - 624987.jpg Built of brick in the 14th century, with 4 main gates and up to 30 towers, the walls were maintained until the early 1700s. They were demolished during the building of the docks, beginning in the 1770s.[48]
Langport Somerset Fragmentary remains Langport, East Gate - geograph.org.uk - 1002596.jpg [49]
Launceston Cornwall Substantial remains Geograph-1877210-by-roger-geach.jpg [50]
Lewes East Sussex Vestiges [51]
Lincoln Lincolnshire Fragmentary remains The Stonebow - geograph.org.uk - 102533.jpg [52]
London London Fragmentary remains London Wall fragment.jpg Built by the Romans and maintained until the 18th century, nearly 3 mi (4.8 km) long, the wall defined the boundaries of the City of London with the Thames to the south. Short sections remain near the Tower of London and in the Barbican area.[53]
Ludlow Shropshire 1233–1317 Fragmentary remains Broad Gate - broad by name, narrow by design - geograph.org.uk - 1742846.jpg Built to defend this Welsh Marches market town, the walls remain in sections, as does the Broad Gate (shown in photo). The large Ludlow Castle is now a ruin but with substantial remains.[54]
Malmesbury Wiltshire Vestiges [55]
Monmouth Gwent 13th–15th century[56] Only the Monnow Bridge gate survives Monnow Bridge - geograph.org.uk - 1354397.jpg Originally formed a circuit wall with four gatehouses, none of which survive. The fortified Monnow bridge still remains, the only surviving medieval bridge gate in the UK.[57]
Newark on Trent Nottinghamshire Vestiges [58]
Newcastle upon Tyne Tyne and Wear Substantial remains Newcastle town walls along Bath Street.JPG Built during the 13th and 14th centuries the wall was about 2 mi (3.2 km) long, 6.5 ft (2.0 m) thick and 25 ft (7.6 m) high, with 6 main gates. The town was successfully defended twice; but during the Civil War the wall was breached using mines and artillery.[59]
Northampton Northamptonshire 11th–17th century Destroyed by Royal order in 1662[60]
Norwich Norfolk Fragmentary remains The old Norman defensive walls - geograph.org.uk - 1269897.jpg
Nottingham Nottinghamshire 1267-1334 Vestiges A fragment of the wall is visible in a hotel complex near Chapel Bar.[61]
Oxford Oxfordshire Fragmentary remains Oxford - New College.jpg [62]
Pembroke Pembrokeshire Fragmentary remains The gazebo tower, Pembroke town walls (geograph 3464332).jpg A stretch of wall survives along Common Road, as well as the base of a tower, now surmounted by a 19th-century gazebo.[63]
Poole Dorset Vestiges [64]
Portsmouth Hampshire 14th–18th century Fragmentary remains Portsmouth wall between the round and square tower.JPG First constructed of earth and timber, probably in the late 14th century,[65] the walls were repeatedly repaired and rebuilt until the mid 18th century. They were largely removed in the 1870s and 80s.[65]
Richmond North Yorkshire Fragmentary remains The Bar, Richmond - geograph.org.uk - 620133.jpg [66]
Rochester Kent Fragmentary remains Rochester City Wall - geograph.org.uk - 1339394.jpg [67]
Rye, East Sussex East Sussex Substantial remains Geograph-2210686-by-Graham-Horn.jpg [68]
Sandwich Kent Fragmentary remains Barbican gate, Sandwich - geograph.org.uk - 1566.jpg [69]
Shrewsbury Shropshire 13th–14th century Fragmentary remains Geograph-2005384-by-David-Dixon.jpg Begun in the 13th century after attacks by the Welsh, adding to the natural defences of the Severn, the walls were strengthened by the Royalists during the Civil War. A tower and short sections remain, notably along the street named Town Walls.[70]
Silchester Hampshire 3rd century Substantial remains Calleva Atrebatum - geograph.org.uk - 1341175.jpg The Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum was abandoned around the 5th or 6th century. Much of the walls survive, the area within them largely farmland.[71]
Southampton Hampshire Half the medieval circuit survives Southampton City Walls - geograph.org.uk - 23024.jpg Built after French raids in 1338, the walls were 1.25 mi (2.01 km) long, with 29 towers and 8 gates. They were amongst the first in England to have new technology installed to existing fortifications, with new towers built specifically to house cannon.[72]
Stafford Staffordshire Vestiges Old Town Wall, Stafford - geograph.org.uk - 1060908.jpg
Stamford Lincolnshire Fragmentary remains Geograph-3770644-by-David-Hallam-Jones.jpg [73]
Swansea Glamorgan Vestiges Town wall, Victoria Quay - Swansea - geograph.org.uk - 1459128.jpg [74]
Tenby Pembrokeshire Substantial remains Geograph-2026310-by-Chris-Downer.jpg [75]
Totnes Devon 14th century Fragmentary remains Totnes High Street.jpg Remains include the Baste Walls, South Street and the Eastgate, which was greatly altered in the 19th century.[76]
Verulamium Hertfordshire 2nd-3rd century Fragmentary remains StAlbansRomanWall-PS01.JPG The site of the Roman town of Verulamium was abandoned when the later settlement of St. Albans was established nearby.[77]
Warkworth Northumberland Fragmentary remains Geograph-2126581-by-Humphrey-Bolton.jpg [78]
Warwick Warwickshire Fragmentary remains Warwick gatehouse.jpg [79]
Winchelsea East Sussex Substantial remains Ruined wall near Winchelsea.jpg [80]
Winchester Hampshire Substantial remains St Swithun's Gate - geograph.org.uk - 1162914.jpg [81]
Worcester Worcestershire 1st–12th century Vestiges Remains of Worcester's City Wall - geograph.org.uk - 193319.jpg First built by the Romans, the walls were extended by the Anglo-Saxons to create a walled burh. A longer circuit of stone walls was built in the late 12th century and further fortified during the Civil War.[82][83]
York North Yorkshire 3rd–14th century Largely intact Bootham Bar, York - geograph.org.uk - 608522.jpg 2.5 mi (4.0 km) long, enclosing an area of 263 acres,[84] the defences are the best preserved in England. On high ramparts, retaining all their main gateways,[85] the walls incorporate Roman, Norman and medieval work with modern renovations.[86]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The medieval reconstruction of the city walls is by Worcester City Museums, based on archaeological and historical data available in 2000.

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]