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Wareham Town Defences

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Wareham Town.
In the historic county of Dorset.
Modern Authority of Dorset.
1974 county of Dorset.
Medieval County of Dorset.

OS Map Grid Reference: SY921870
Latitude 50.68503° Longitude -2.11360°

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

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Anglo Saxon burh of Wareham, defences rebuilt during the 10th and 11th centuries. Fortified from the beginning of Alfred's reign, it was a minor mint from the reign of Athelstan onwards. It is the only burh for which the defences still survive largely intact. The defences of Wareham are first mentioned in 876 in the account of the war between King Alfred and the Danes. Wareham is included in the list of fortresses defending the frontiers of Wessex known as the Burghal Hidage. This list, which was drawn up under Edward the Elder and probably between 910 and 919, represents the full development of the system established by King Alfred and his successor; there is good reason to believe that its outline was laid down by King Alfred in the years preceeding the Danish invasion of 892. In the Burghal Hidage 1600 hides are allocated to the maintenance and defence of Wareham, sufficient according to the annexed document to support ramparts measuring 2200 yards, a figure which approximates very closely to the length of the banks enclosing the town on the West, North and east sides. The town covers a roughly square area of about 91 acres and the earthwork defences surrounding it on the Niorth, East and West sides are known as the 'Walls'; the South side is bounded by the River Frome. The West Walls were scarped against attack by tanks in 1940. (PastScape)

the best preserved Saxon town defences in England. They are a reminder that, 1,000 years ago, this little market town was one of the most important towns in the Saxon Kingdom of Wessex. Alfred 'The Great', King of Wessex, ordered the building of defences around Wareham and other major towns in the 870s, when Danish Vikings were attempting to conquer Wessex. These towns were called 'burhs'. The Danes had already taken the other English kingdoms, and in 876 they attacked Wareham. They captured the town and spent the winter there. Alfred negotiated a deal whereby they left, and two years later he defeated them (at Edington, Wiltshire), ending their dreams of the conquest of England.
The term 'walls' can be confusing, since they were built as banks of earth and gravel, probably topped by a wooden palisade. They enclosed the town on three sides, the River Frome forming the defence along the fourth side. On the east and west sides of the town the ramparts had a ditch in front. Some time later, a stone wall was built along the top of the earth ramparts. Over the centuries, the stones from this wall have been recycled to build the stone keep of the Norman castle and Wareham itself! (Ben Buxton 2010 The Purbeck Gazette online)

Rectangular earth rampart of saxon burgh, was crowned by a stone wall which was removed and the rampart heightened after the Norman Conquest.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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