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Southampton Town Wall, Bargate and Gods House Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Suthampton; South Castle; The Spur; Millhouse; Bargate; Polymond Tower; Arundel Tower; Windwhistle Tower; Prince Edward Tower; Catchcold Tower

In the civil parish of Southampton.
In the historic county of Hampshire.
Modern Authority of Southampton; City of.
1974 county of Hampshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU41981163
Latitude 50.90269° Longitude -1.40416°

Southampton Town Wall, Bargate and Gods House Tower has been described as a certain Urban Defence, and also as a certain Artillery Fort.

There are major building remains.

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


The original town defences of Southampton comprised a bank and ditch, but these were replaced by circa 1200 by stone walls. Defences were constructed on the south and west sides between circa 1360 and 1385, after attacks from the French. By the late C14 to early C15 the defences included seven gates and posterns. The west wall and parts of south wall survive with bastions and towers. Well preserve Bargate, West gate and South gate also survive. God's House Tower, added in reign of Henry V, projects beyond line of wall, controlled the sluices of the moat and was equipped with 8 gunports.

Bargate and Guildhall - Dates from circa 1180 with addition and alterations of circa 1290, C18 and restored in 1864-5. It was built as a town gateway with Guildhall at first floor level. Breaches were cut in the adjoining Town Walls in the 1930s. Two storeys built of stone and flint. Ground floor has a central round-headed archway of circa 1180-1200 the arch and responds round-chamfered with small square abaci. Two other arches added in 1764 and 1774. Large drum towers were added on the north side circa 1280-90. These retain arrow slit windows. Embattled north front added circa 1400. South side 2 storey portion added probably in late C13 with 4 windows lighting the upper storey room (restored 1864-5). Between the centre 2 windows is a trefoiled niche containing a statue of George III in Roman costume. This replaced a wooden statue of Queen Anne, now in the Bargate Museum. Bell of 1605 attached on the left hand side. This was the curfew and alarm bell. Sundial of 1705. Five panels containing painted shields of C18 date. The interior of the Guildhall contains late C13 stone fireplaces with cinquefoil arch. This is one of the finest town gateways in England. (Listed Building Report)

God's House Gate - A circa 1300 gateway defended by a double portcullis. It was known as the Saltmarsh Gate and God's House Gate after the nearby hospital for poor travellers. The tower above the gate was called Lambcote Tower and was used as a prison. Built of stone rubble. Three storey tower with arched gateway with double portcullis and 3 storey building adjoining. The windows are trefoil or cinquefoil headed lights. (Listed Building Report)

Water Gate Tower - C14 and C15. The remains of the Watergate, the south gate of the town. Built of stone rubble. Drum tower of 3 storeys and part of fourth storey with 3 arched windows. Three storey rectangular tower added to west in early C15. South facade has a central part recessed between buttresses and a parapet with machicolations resting on 3 stepped corbels. Remains of garderobes on each floor. Four centred doorway. Late C15 extension to the north, the west wall retaining a 2 light square-headed window. (Listed Building Report)

Section of wall running west from Bargate to Arundel Tower and then south to point just south of Castle Water Gate. It includes Arundel Tower, Catchcold Tower, Garderobe Tower, The 40 Steps, Castle Water Gate and Castle Vault.
Mediaeval City Walls. It includes the Arundel Tower, a round tower built early to Mid C13 with another stage added probably 1377-9 when Sir John Arundel was governor of the Castle Catchcold tower, an early C15 tower with 3 gunports, amongst the earliest in Europe. South of Catchcold Tower are the 40 Steps, a series of stone steps built on to the wall in 1850. The Castle stood to the south of this in mediaeval times. Between 2 buttresses is the entrance to Castle Vault a C12 rectangular tunnel-vaulted undercroft, with some corbels, which was built to store the King's wines. The barrels were unloaded directly from the quay into the vault. Single round-headed window to south of entrance. Immediately to the south is the Castle Water Gate with a blocked segmental-headed C14 doorway. (Listed Building Report)
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 132-5
      Osborne, Mike, 2011, Defending Hampshire: The Military Landscape from Prehistory to the Present (Stroud: The History Press) p. 39, 47-50, 69, 245
      Purton, P.F., 2010, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 135-6
      Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) passim
      Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 52-3
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 89-91
      Robey, T., 1988, 'Southampton — The Arcades, Western Esplanade' Archaeology in Hampshire: Annual Report for 1987 p. 22–3
      Bond, C.J., 1987, 'Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Defences' in Schofield, J. and Leech, R. (eds) Urban Archaeology in Britain (CBA Research Report 61) p. 92-116 (plan) online copy
      Barron, W.G., 1985, The Castles of Hampshire and Isle of Wight (Paul Cave) p. 42-6
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 196-7
      Saunders, A.D., 1976, 'The defences of Southampton in the later Middle Ages' in Burgess, L.A. (ed), The Southampton Terriers of 1454 (Southampton Rec Ser Vol. 15) p. 20-34
      Faulkner, P.A., 1975, 'Gatehouse' in Platt, C. and Coleman-Smith, R. (eds), Excavation in medieval Southampton, 1953-1969 (Leicester: Leicester University Press) p. 56-72
      Wacher, J.S., 1975, 'The town defences' in Platt, C. and Coleman-Smith, R. (eds), Excavation in medieval Southampton, 1953-1969 (Leicester: Leicester University Press) p. 142-8
      Barley, M.W., 1975, 'Town Defences in England and Wales after 1066' in Barley (ed) The plans and topography of medieval towns in England and Wales (CBA Research Report 14) p. 57-71 plan p. 66 download/view online
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 314
      Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 165-76
      Pevsner, N., and Lloyd, D., 1967, Buildings of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (London, Penguin) p. 533-41
      Burgess, L.A., 1964, The Origins of Southampton (Leicester University Press)
      O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1960, Castles and Cannon: A Study of Early Artillery Fortifications in England (Oxford: Claredon Press) p. 11-14, 31, plate 8
      Anon, 1960, Historic Buildings of Southampton (Southampton) p. 5-9, 14-15, 22-6, 31-2
      O'Neil, B.H.St.J., 1951, 'Southampton Town Walls' in Grimes, W.F. (ed), Aspects of archaeology in Britain and beyond (London) p. 243-57
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 210-14
      Page, Wm (ed), 1908, VCH Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Vol. 3 p. 493-530 online transcription
      Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 472-79 online copy
      Davies, J.S., 1883, History of Southampton (Southampton) p. 59-111
      Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 323 online copy
      Englefield, H., 1805, A walk through Southampton (Southampton: Baker and Fletcher) p. 8- online copy
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 2 p. 217-23 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Moffett, R., 2013, ‘Defence schemes of Southampton in the late medieval period, 1300- 1500’ Journal of Medieval Military History Vol. 11 p. 215-57
      Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
      Saunders, A., 2000, 'Southampton: the introduction of gunpowder artillery to the town's defences' Europa Nostra Bulletin Vol. 53 p. 53-8
      Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T., 1987, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1986' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 31 p. 254-5 download copy
      Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T., 1986, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1985' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 30 p. 134, 136, 139 download copy
      Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 210-11, 212-13, 215
      Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1980, 'Medieval Britain in 1979' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 24 p. 201 download copy
      Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1978, 'Medieval Britain in 1977' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 22 p. 174 download copy
      Kenyon, J.R., 1977, 'Artillery and the defences of Southampton circa 1360-1660' Fort Vol. 3 p. 8-14
      Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1976, 'Medieval Britain in 1975' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 20 p. 178 download copy
      Renn, D.F., 1964, 'The Southampton arcade' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 226-8 download copy
      1958, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 2 p. 198 download copy
      Wacher, 1958, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 21 p. 53-4
      193?, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 12 p. 241-70
      Minns, 1898-1903, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 81-95
      Lucas, R.M.D., 1898-1903, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 131-6
      Hope, W.H.St John, 1897-9, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquarians (ser2) Vol. 17 p. 221-4
      Skelton, 1888, Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 1 Part 2 p. 61-4
      Parker, 1872, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 29 p. 370-7 (plan) online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1872, 'The Ancient Defences of Southampton' The Builder Vol. 30 p. 1023-5 (reprinted without plan in MMA)
      1855, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 11 p. 324-31
      I.H.P., 1847, 'On the Building called the King's House, and other Architectural Remains in the Town of Southampton' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 4 p. 7-13 online copy
  • Guidebooks
    • Peberdy, 1961, Bargate Guildhall Museum (Southampton)
      Peberdy, 1960, God's House Tower (Southampton)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • The Great Roll of the Pipe for the fourth year of the reign of King John Michaelmas 1202 (Pipe Roll Society 53) p. 78-9 (grants of money for walls)
      The Great Roll of the Pipe for the fifth year of the reign of King John Michaelmas 1203 (Pipe Roll Society 54) p. 145 (grants of money for walls)
      Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891-1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1258-1266) p. 126; (1266-1272) p. 492; (1281-1291) p. 13; (1281-1291) p. 229; (1317-1321) p. 590; (1327-1330) p. 64; (1334-1338) p. 240-1; (1340-1343) p. 136; (1343-1345) p. 467; p. 279; (1354-1358) p. 254 (murage grants) online copies via University of Iowa LibrariesMaxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Close Rolls Edward III (1339-41) Vol. 5 p. 55 view online copy (requires subscription but searchable) alternative online copy
      Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891-1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1367-1370) p. 229-30; (1370-1374) p. 405-6; (1377-1381) p. 76; (1377-1381) p. 80; p. 448; (1381-1385) p. 184; (1476-1485) p. 76 online copies via University of Iowa LibrariesOriginalia Roll 1 Henry IV, Part. 2, Rot. 27 see National Archives
      Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry IV (1399-1401) Vol. 1 p. 239 online copy
      Strachey, J. (ed), 1767-83, Rotuli Parliamentorum; ut et petitiones, et placita in Parliamento (London: Record Commission) Vol. 4 p. 53 (superseded by Given-Wilson, C. (ed), 2005, The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England Access via PROME (subscription required))

      See the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage grants, petitions and other such.
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
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Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
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*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 on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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