Hastings Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are masonry footings remains

NameHastings Town Wall
Alternative Names
Historic CountrySussex
Modern AuthorityEast Sussex
1974 AuthorityEast Sussex
Civil ParishHastings

The old town was protected towards the sea by a wall which stretched across the mouth of the valley from the castle headland to the East cliff. The wall was provided with towers at each end and had three gates. (PastScape–ref. VCH)

Part of Town Wall between Winding Street and John Street. Built in late C14 to protect town from French. Very scanty remains now exposed by demolition. (Listed Building Report)

The early part of this period coincided with wars with France and Spain, resulting in expansion of coastal defences in the 16th century. Given this context and the lack of earlier evidence for walls, the first record of town defences – a reference in 1556 to the Sea Gate, and in 1558 to the walls themselves – probably relate to what were newly built defences (Martin, Martin and Wittick 1985). The wall stretched across the lower end of the Bourne valley and had three gates (from east to west, the Pulpit Gate, the Bourne Gate, and the Sea Gate). The eastern end of the fort terminated in the East Fort, possibly part of the postulated mid-16th- construction, although a reference to finishing works on it in 1596 could suggest that it was an addition. A west fort, below the castle at the west end of George Street, is first recorded in the mid- 17th century (ibid; Martin, Martin and Chubb 2009). A Survey of the Sussex coast in 1587, in obvious response to the greater Spanish threat, described the ordnance at Hastings including three brass Portugal 'bases', a culverin, two sacres, two minions, and a robinet (Lower). New guns were acquired in 1627, which, after temporary removal in 1645 to 1656, were finally decommissioned in 1660. Both forts were rebuilt in the early 1690s (following a minor bombardment by the French in 1690 (VCH 1937)). By 1715 the corporation had built a storehouse within the east fort and its military function appears to have ceased by 1734. The west fort, however, remained operable

The two eastern town gates remained in use in 1750, but the Sea Gate may have been removed by then, and records of maintenance of the wall suggest that it had become less important – and often neglected – from the mid-17th century (Martin, Martin and Wittick 1985; Martin, Martin and Chubb 2009). (Harris 2010)

Gatehouse Comments

Built in late C14 and usually suggested to be a protection from French. However this coast was very susceptible to coastal erosion, particularly during gales, so likely to have had some sea defence function in reality, as well as allowing toll collection at the gates, expressing civic pride and being a defence from pirate and French raids. The town was not defensible from a serious assault if troops occupied East Hill. Very scanty remains now exposed by demolition. There are no records of murage, or other documentation regarding the walls.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ825095
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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 75
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 129, 156, 173, 203, 260
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Sussex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 40
  • 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 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 476
  • Freke, D., 1978, 'Medieval urban archaeology in Sussex' in Archaeology in Sussex to AD 1500 (CBA Research Report 29) p. 90 (slight) online copy
  • 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 download/view online
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 155 (slight)
  • Salzman, L.F. (ed), 1937, VCH Sussex Vol. 9 p. 4-5
  • Dawson, C., 1909, History of Hastings Castle (London) Vol. 1 p. 4 online copy (NB: this is Dawson, the Piltdown forger, and book is in fact largely the work of William Herbert, about 1824)
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 209
  • Lower, M.A., 1870, A Survey of the Coast of Sussex made in 1587 p. 5


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86


  • Harris, R.B., April 2010, Hastings Historic Character Assessment Report: Sussex Extensive Urban Survey Download copy
  • Martin, D., Martin, B., and Clubb, J., 2009, Hastings Old Town: An Architectural History to 1750 (unpublished Institute of Archaeology, University College London report) p. 23
  • Martin, D., Martin, B. and Wittick, C., 1985, An Archaeological Interpretative Survey of The Old Town Wall, Hastings, East Sussex (University College London Field Archaeology Unit) (Lewes: East Sussex SMR)