Portchester Burghal Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are major building remains

NamePortchester Burghal Defences
Alternative NamesPorchester
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityHampshire
1974 AuthorityHampshire
Civil ParishFareham

The Saxon shore fort at Portchester is a well preserved example of its class. The entire defensive circuit survives with very little later modification. Within and around the fort there is significant evidence for its later use. The tower keep castle is an outstanding and well known example which demonstrates in its fabric a complex history of use and modification, while the 10th century defensive burh and the 12th century priory give the site an unusual dimension in terms of the range of uses to which it was put. Excavations over the years have demonstrated the extent to which remains of all aspects of its use and development survive. Both the shore fort and castle are in the care of the Secretary of State and are open to the public.

Excavations within the fort, primarily those carried out on behalf of the Society of Antiquaries between 1961 and 1979, have shown traces of timber buildings laid out beside a regular grid of streets and provided evidence of both civilian and military occupation up to the end of Roman Britain and beyond. The excavations have also shown evidence of settlement dating to the mid- fifth and to the seventh to ninth centuries AD. Sunken floored huts, timber houses and ancillary buildings were found, after which a break in occupation is marked by the extensive dumping of rubbish in the interior of the fort. In AD 904 Portchester was acquired by King Edward the Elder and became a defended burh. Within it excavations have shown buildings dating to the 10th and 11th centuries, including a large aisled hall, and a rectangular stone building around which a cemetery developed. The Watergate in the east wall was probably rebuilt before the Norman Conquest, with a gatehouse built in the southern half of the Roman opening. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

The Roman fort was adapted as a Saxon Burh. How much of the enclosure remained urban after the building of Portchester castle may be debatable. An adjoining settlement was not fortified and never reached borough status.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceSU624045
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  • Michael G Shapland, 2017, 'Anglo-Saxon towers of lordship and the origins of the castle in England' in Dawn M Hadley and Christopher Dyer, The Archaeology of the 11th Century Continuities and Transformations (Routledge) p. 104-119
  • Mark Gardiner, 2017, 'Manorial farmsteads and the expression of lordship before and after the Norman Conquest' in Dawn M Hadley and Christopher Dyer, The Archaeology of the 11th Century Continuities and Transformations (Routledge) p. 88-103
  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 120
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 23, 57, 216, 234, 257
  • 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
  • Cunliffe, B.W., 1977, Excavations at Portchester Castle 3: Medieval, the outer bailey and its defences (London: Society of Antiquaries of London Research Report)
  • Cunliffe, B.W., 1976, Excavations at Portchester Castle 2: Saxon (London: Society of Antiquaries of London Research Report)


  • Hare, M., 1984, 'The Watergate at Portchester and the Anglo-Saxon porch at Titchfield: a re-consideration of the evidence' Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society Vol. 40 p. 71–80
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1970, 'The later pre-Conquest boroughs and their defences' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 14 p. 99-101 download copy


  • Dave Hopkins, 2004, Extensive Urban Survey - Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (English Heritage) Download copy