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Malmesbury Town Defences

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Caer-Bladon; Ingleburn

In the civil parish of Malmesbury.
In the historic county of Wiltshire.
Modern Authority of Wiltshire.
1974 county of Wiltshire.
Medieval County of Wiltshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: ST93578734
Latitude 51.58314° Longitude -2.09559°

Malmesbury Town Defences has been described as a certain Urban Defence.

There are masonry footings remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


Malmesbury town wall was extant 1283-4 when arrangements were made for its repair (Bateman and Ballard 1906). Other authorities claim that it was built by Roger, Bp. of Salisbury (d. 1139). Leland saw four gates, called afterthe cardinal points, all ruinous, and the wall in many places standing to full height but 'very feeble'. (Osborn 1919) A north gate is unlikely in view of the Abbey's position and Leland presumably meant the northernmost of two west gates, the other being a postern gate (TBGAS 1922). Brakspear's plan (Brakspear 1930) shows East Gate at the published position. West Gate (ST 93208733); Postern Gate (ST 93228718); South Gate (ST 93388693) (Bateman and Ballard 1906; Osborn 1919; TBGAS 1891-2, 1922; Brakspear 1930)
The only possibly original part of the wall is that comprising East Gate ST 93568734. Much of the remainder of the course is indicated by post medieval boundary and retaining walls. (Manorial Survey of Malmesbury, 1830) (F1 ANK 02-FEB-68).
There are no remains of the south, west or postern gates, though a survey of 1830 suggests that the latter stood at ST 93248721.
Malmesbury must have acquired defences at least by the late 9th century, when it became one of the towns of the Burghal Hidage. To the west, south and east the Medieval defences must have followed the Saxon predecessor, constructed in the form of a double wall with a roadway between. On analogy with Shaftesbury, the earlier Saxon defences to the north, before the construction of the Burghal Hidage fortress, could well have run from the postern gate on the west, eastwards on the north side of Oxford Street. Refortification in the late 9th or early 10th century may have extended the defences to include the monastic buildings, and Mill Lane running north across the promontory could represent the line of the intra-mural road at this stage. The street pattern to the west and the presence of the market-place (Horsefair), implies the existence of a Medieval suburb which may have been defended by a bank and ditch across the promontory neck (Haslam 1976; Turner 1971)
The line of the town defences of Malmesbury on the east side, including the East Gate, is scheduled, WILTS 881. The wall, of various styles of masonry, follows the very edge of the crest of the hill which then falls steeply to the meadow below. surviving parts may date from the time of Bishop Roger (1136-9), although the defences were refurbished in the Civil War. The scheduling includes a strip of land behind the wall, where there is a fair amount of build-up which may seal deposits of all phases (Scheduling Report). (PastScape)

Bond writes Anglo-saxon earthworks of no post Conquest importance. System by which responsibility for the maintenance of the defences was allotted was recorded in late C13.

The medieval town was bounded by defensive stone walls (MM011), believed to have been erected by Bishop Roger of Salisbury (1136-9). Although much repaired and altered above ground at least, the line of the walls still survives for much of the circuit. The best-preserved section is along the east of the town besides the Nun's Walk. (Urban Survey Malmesbury)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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