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Towcester Town Defences

In the civil parish of Towcester.
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: SP69194897
Latitude 52.13464° Longitude -0.99340°

Towcester Town Defences has been described as a Urban Defence although is doubtful that it was such.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


"There are no significant above ground remains of former medieval town defences or gates at …Towcester' (Creighton and Higham).

Bond puts in 'Roman defensive circuit partly or wholly re-utilized in Anglo-Saxon period, but of no post-Conquest importance' list.

Roman, Early Medieval, Medieval and Post Medieval town. Referred to by the Antonine Itinerary as Lactodorum, a ditched and walled town. The Anglo-Saxon chronicle records the fortification of Towcester after a Danish attack in 921. Excavations have found this wall set in the debris of the Roman wall. During the civil war the town was again walled on the Roman line, by Prince Rupert, but was slighted in 1644 and abandoned to the parliamentarians. (PastScape)

Viking raids during the late eighth and ninth centuries led to the establishment of the Danelaw in the east of Northamptonshire. Watling Street formed one of the boundaries of the Danelaw but it is thought unlikely that Towcester fell under Viking control. Mercia was supplanted by the kingdom of Wessex following the battle of Derby in AD918. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states that Towcester, part of kingdom of Wessex, successfully resisted the Danish army, based in Northampton during the early 10th century, sometime between AD917 and AD921. The Chronicle refers to a burh at Towcester and states that following the defeat of the Viking army by King Edward the Elder in the same year, the town's defences were to be strengthened with a stone wall. To date, no evidence for this stone wall has been recovered. There is evidence that the Roman town defences were re-used but the dating remains imprecise. There is also evidence to suggest that the defended area was reduced in size from 29acres in the Romano-British period to 25 acres. Anglo-Saxon ditches and a possible palisade trench uncovered in Allen's Yard suggest that the line of the late Saxon defences ran along the eastern side of Richmond Road. Environmental evidence suggests that the SW corner of the former defended area may have become increasingly marshy, creating an additional, natural, line of defence.
If the defences were capable of being restored in C17 then possible post-Conquest use can not be entirely dismissed. However, Towcester, while important because of its position on Watling Street, was not a significant town in the medieval period.
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:03

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