The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Launceston Town Wall

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Launceston.
In the historic county of Cornwall.
Modern Authority of Cornwall.
1974 county of Cornwall.
Medieval County of Cornwall.

OS Map Grid Reference: SX331846
Latitude 50.63660° Longitude -4.35954°

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

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Small section and south gate of C13 stone wall survive. Built to form a common defence with the castle. Gate is Grade 1 listed, walls Grade 2-star.

Town gate. C14, slightly remodelled C17, pedestrian gate added 1887. Dressed volcanic agglomerate stone and greenstone to lower half, otherwise slatestone rubble with volcanic agglomerate dressings plus C17 granite dressings; pyramidal rag slate roof behind late C19 embattled parapet; stone stack over left-hand (west) wall removed C20: two square rooms over main gateway approached by stone staircase bridging smaller gateway. 3 storeys; 1-window range outer elevation and similar inner elevation. Both elevations have 2 chamfered pointed arches, the main arch fronting ribbed vaults; C17 three-light granite mullions with hoodmoulds to upper floors. Outer SE front has narrower pedestrian gateway on its left and main gateway with portcullis slots over. To outer side of passage are remnants of arch dated 1639 and fragments of tracery. Water point dated 1825 and inscribed "PCH" for Parr Cunningham Hocking, Mayor of that time, to right of inner elevation; this was the towns first public water supply. HISTORY: until the early C19 the rooms of the South Gate were used as a gaol for petty offenders and a prison for debtors. (Robbins p. 302). (Listed Building Report)

Leland (1506-52) found Launceston town wall, high, strong, defensibly set, but ruinous. Speed (1614) showed the wall extant between West and Southgate and Fiennes (1699) found the town still encompassed. A plan of Launceston Castle (1764) marks the wall from the Westgate to the castle and from the Northgate to the castle. By 1885, the only remains were at Blindhole (SX 3329 8461), near the Southgate, and near the north west entrance to the Castle Green. According to Peter, the total length of the wall was six furlongs (1.2km) and they were 6 ft (1.8m) thick. Sheppard notes that "the bank between Northgate and Southgate is still massive and can clearly be followed. Near the Southgate it is still topped by the wall". The stretch of wall from SX 3326 8455 to SX 3328 8470 is Listed, while King and Sheppard record remains visible from SX 3318 8481 to SX 3328 8458. The OS found the majority of walls in the town following the line shown by Peter are of rag with lime mortar, but without the thickness or height required for a town wall. Only one section, at SX 3329 8461 is of the expected width: it stands 2.3m high, is in reasonable condition, and in part acts as a back wall to a building. A further 6.0m of walling at foundation level is just visible adjoining the wall to the north. Another fragment of the wall at approximately SX 3309 8449 has been located and photographed by CAU. As a result, it is suggested that between the Westgate and the castle the wall did not take a straight line as suggested by Peter (followed by OS), but turned slightly east at SX 3310 8448 to follow property boundaries to a west gate at approx SX 3312 8445. Excavation by CAU in the grounds of the Eagle House Hotel (adjoining the north gate of the castle) revealed a section of the town wall running across a deep infilled area, probably part of the main ditch of the castle. The wall section is 6 ft thick (1.8m) and built of local slate bonded with clay mortar. The structure closely resembles the curtain walls of the castle. (Cornwall & Scilly HER)

There are no murage grants, and the town records, although they are a nearly complete series from 1334, contain only occasional references to the gates and none to the wall. (Turner)

How was the building and maintenance of the walls funded? From the castle's funds? Directly by the Earl of Cornwall?
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:22:04

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact