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Northampton Town Wall

In the civil parish of Northampton.
In the historic county of Northamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough.
Modern Authority of Northamptonshire.
1974 county of Northamptonshire.
Medieval County of Northamptonshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SP754604
Latitude 52.23706° Longitude -0.89645°

Northampton Town Wall has been described as a certain Urban Defence.

There are no visible remains.


Northampton town wall and defences. The wall was built by the 1st Earl of Northampton, Simon de senlis I, between 1090-1111. Grants of murage were made in 1224, 1251, and 1301, the latter so large that it suggests a rebuild rather than repair. The four main gates were on the Market Harborough, London, Kettering and Daventry roads. After falling into disuse in the 16th century, it was repaired in 1642-3. Demolished on Royal orders in 1662. Speed's map of 1610 shows two triangular bastions towars the south-east corner on the south side.
Excavations in Green street in 1986-7 recovered the most complete sequence yet found. The earliest defences were a clay bank revetted in timber of early 10th century date. This was later refaced in stone and a gateway ceated. The latter ws blocked in the 12th century when the Mediaeval town wall was built. Evidence of Civil War usage was seen in two ditches cut into the Mediaeval infilled ditch. (PastScape)

The medieval defences pose a number of problems (cf. Williams 1982c). Whellan (1874, 101) and Cox (1898, 427) ascribe the construction of the town walls to Simon de Senlis I, Wetton (1849, 27) more cautiously 'supposed' the same and Cam (VCH Northamptonshire III, 3) and the Ordnance Survey Record Cards refer to a tradition that Simon was responsible but no actual sources are quoted by any of these authorities. The construction of the walls was a massive undertaking which would have increased at an early date (cf. Turner 1971, 21ff) Northampton's intra-mural area to some 100 hectares, an extent only exceeded at London and Norwich (Biddle et al 1973, 11). An Eastgate Street (probably Abington Street) and an Eastgate, almost certainly belonging to the medieval defences, are recorded before c. 1166 (BL Royal 11 B ix f. 144b) and between 1138 and 1154 Earl Simon de Senlis II granted to St. Andrew's Priory 16s. and 14d. rent in exchange for rent lost 'propter murum et ballium quibus villa clauditur' (BL Royal 11 B ix f. 7a). Although the 'murus' is not specified as being Northampton's the context makes this virtually certain. This exchange perhaps suggests construction work at the time and parallels the situation noted above regarding the castle. Charters relating to St. Andrew's Priory add some substance to the tradition of the involvement of Simon de Senlis I in the erection of the town defences. The priory was probably founded in the late 11th century by Simon de Senlis I. There is evidence that the house originally lay probably in Horsemarket and was subsequently transferred to its later site (Cal Pat R 1348–80, 247) but the scope of the endowment by Simon (Mon Angl 5, 190) suggests that it occupied the later site by c. 1100. Two further charters of Simon refer to 'hospites manentes extra vetus fossatum' (BL Cott Vesp E xvii f. 10b) and 'terra ... a fossa eorum {monks of St. Andrew's} usque ad fossam burgi' (BL Cott Vesp E xvii f. 3a). The 'vetus fossatum' in the first charter presumably refers to the Saxon defences but the interpretation of the topographical details in the second is more difficult. According to the Pierce map of 1632 St. Andrew's Priory precinct did not extend as far south as the Saxon defensive line, although the priory did hold some land before 1130 on the site of the medieval castle (Pipe R 31 Hen II, 135). In the north and west boundaries of the medieval precinct are taken as the 'fossa burgi', that is as part of the medieval defensive system and the south boundary as the 'fossa corum' all conditions are satisfied. Alternatively, 'fossa eorum' could be interpreted as the north and west boundaries with 'fossa burgi' as the south boundary and perhaps an 11th-century defensive line predating the priory. The use of 'fossa', possibly suggesting earthworks, contrasts with the 'murus' of a slightly later date which seems to indicate a stone wall. Stone quarries, probably of 12th-century date have been identified in Derngate. With the medieval defensive circuit largely covered by the modern road network it has not been possible to test satisfactorily through excavation the date of the medieval defences and the few ditch sections cut have produced extremely limited dating evidence. Sections of the wall and ditch survived up to the 19th century. (RCHME)

The given map reference is for All Saints Church. This lay approximately in the centre of the Norman town, well within the circuit of the walls but was just outside the circuit of the smaller Anglo-Danish Burh which was more centred on St Peter's church at SP74966037.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:02

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