Trelech Town Defences

Has been described as a Possible Urban Defence

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameTrelech Town Defences
Alternative NamesTrellech; Tryleg; Trelleck; Trillech
Historic CountryMonmouthshire
Modern AuthorityMonmouthshire
1974 AuthorityGwent
CommunityTrellech United

Norman town planted here by the de Clares and flourished in the shadow of the castle. By 1288 its population was larger than that of Chepstow, and at the beginning of C14 it was one of the eight largest towns in Wales. Thereafter it declined and shrank, following a fire started during a welsh attack 1296, although the decline was a prolonged one. Its former success is attested by its large church, which had a fine late medieval cross in the churchyard. (Whittle 1992)

It is possible to detect something of the defences which enclosed the medieval borough. These appear to have been in the form of a ditch and slight bank, perhaps topped with a timber palisade, which followed the rectangular course determined by the four streams. (Soulsby 1983)

The monument consists of a shrunken village dating to the medieval period. This is a settlement where previous house sites are now unoccupied, but visible as earthworks, crop or soil marks. Excavations in 1998 revealed four masonry structures and building debris of two others. The house frontages were on Catbrook Road and Tinker's Lane Street, with a series of boundary ditches and walls associated with the burgage plots. There are also a series of ditches possibly associated with water management. The north west area is waterlogged with pieces of wood appearing in archaeological sections. The pottery associated with the houses was dated from the 12th to 14th centuries. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

There has been some debate about the location of the town but the excavation south of the village seem to be of a suburb of the town not the town itself the defences of which went around the modern village, the church (at given map reference) and the motte castle, but excluded this, clearly large and significant, suburb. Wales was not a place of large towns and the eighth largest town means this was still a small town, certainly in comparison to English towns. Describing it as a 'lost city' is misleading, and not only because this was never the site of a cathedral, Gatehouse is of the opinion that the site is of great interest for what it was and does not need to aggrandised.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO500054
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  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 28, 204, 273
  • Whittle, Elisabeth, 1992, Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Glamorgan and Gwent (Cadw)
  • 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
  • Soulsby, Ian, 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore; Chichester) p. 256-9 (plan)
  • Bradney, J.A., 1913, History of Monmouthshire Vol. 2 Part 2 The Hundred of Trelech p. 150


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Anthony, Mark, 2003, ''I have a cunning plan, my lord': A conjectural approach to the layout and street pattern of medieval Trelech' Gwent County History Association Newsletter Vol. 11 online copy
  • Howell, R., 2000, 'Development by Design: An Investigation of Thirteenth Century Industrialization and Urban Growth at Trelech, Gwent' Studia Celtica Vol. 34 p. 211-222
  • Wilson, J., 1998, 'Trelech: a New Location for the Old Town' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 38 p. 67-70
  • Howell, R., 1997, 'Report on Trelech' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 37 p. 104
  • Soulsby, I., 1981-2, ‘Trelech: a decayed borough of medieval Gwent’ Monmouthshire Antiquarian 4.3-4 p. 41-4