Warwick Town Defences

Description of this historic site

Warwick defences, consisting of a Town Wall and Ditch. Documentary evidence has suggested the line for the Medieval Defences, which has been subject to excavation; in places it survives a a rock-cut ditch with eroded bedrock backfill.

Notes about this historic site

1 The fortification of Warwick was complicated by the building of a town wall, possibly placed near Ethelfleda’s rampart (PRN 2191). The earth rampart was located during excavation in 1964. This consisted of a rampart inside the line of the town wall, and a ditch in places 7.6m wide and 2.7m deep cut into the sandstone. The wall was built on the top of the rock face. The date of this work is not known. According to Rous, Turchil of Arden, on orders from William the Conqueror, constructed a ditch and gates but did not build walls. Grants of murage in 1305 and 1315 are likely to have been connected with the upkeep of the wall. Outside the wall ran the ‘common ditch’, mentioned as early as the mid 13th century and possibly following the ditch of Ethelfleda. There were three main gates through the walls, on the N, E and W. Most of the wall had already been demolished by the early 16th century. The town ditch survived, at least in part, into the 15th century. The only remaining sections adjoin the N side of the two gatehouses, but the approximate position of the rest is indicated by the layout of streets which encircle the Old Town. Outside the line of the ditch run the street now called Bowling Green Street, Theatre Street, Joyce Pool, Chapel Street, Gerrard Street, and Mill Street. Inside the wall line are Market Street, Barrack Street and the Butts. In the neighbourhood of the castle modern changes have obscured the pattern, but formerly both Brittain Lane and Back Hills seem to have run inside the line of the walls. There is no mention of a town gate to the S.
2 Plan of Warwick in 1965.
3 Observation of the laying of a new water main in 1997 (WA 8216) located the probable outer edge of the Medieval town ditch at the junction of Market Street and Bowling Green Street.
4 Correspondence from a resident of Warwick with a theory about the lost town walls
5 Plan for 4.
6 A trench dug across the garden of no 3 The Butts uncovered a large 13th century quarry which extended across the line of the defences. Observation and excavation at no 17 found two medieval pits, of which one contained part of a 14th century face jug. MWA 1992.
7 Notes relating to 6.
8 Planning letter about no. 17.
9 Watching brief maintained in 1991, during the construction of new almshouse south of 4 Bowling Green Street. A section across the town ditch was recorded, just to the north of Westgate. Immediately in front of the standing town wall there was a ragged, rock cut ditch c.8m wide and over 2.5m deep. The western lip of the ditch was c.6.5m below the level of the top of the wall and there was a berm 14m wide to the west. A pit containing clay pipes, dated to c.1680, the first large group from Warwick of this date, confirms the map evidence of the east side of Bowling Green Street being developed between 1610 and 1711, after the defences fell out of use.
10 Please note that this has not been plotted on a map, yet. It is hoped that the publication of the bus station report will enable an accurate plotting based upon both documentary and excavated evidence. GC 29/03/2010
11 The ditch was also recorded on Castle Hill. The surviving section was 3.5m across by 2m deep, although its original dimensions would have been significantly larger.

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