Barnstaple Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are no visible remains

NameBarnstaple Town Wall
Alternative NamesBarum
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityDevon
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishBarnstaple

No remains of saxon earth and stone wall utilized post-Conquest. Mentioned by Leland as nearly all fallen down. No contemporary documentary evidence. Several small excavations and watching briefs have located the wall and ditch.

A town wall and ditch at Barnstaple is recorded in a charter of Joel (of Totnes), 1107-1137, and is described as decayed in one of about 1140 and by Leland (1535-43). No visible remains exist of it or its four gates (SS 53 SE 23, SS 53 SE 26, SS 53 SE 28 and SS 53 SE 30) but North Walk, Boutport Street, Maiden Street and Castle Street appear to define the outer lip of the town ditch. R D Gould, borough surveyor, exposed some parts of the wall, 7-8 feet thick, between Paternoster Row and Joy Street, north of Joy Street and 200 foot length aligned on the North Gate (Gribble; Cotton). The possible course of the town wall (A: SS 55813346 to C: SS 55903316) was indicated by Bruce Oliver who stated that part of the wall, built on a cobbled base, had been found about 1933 at the County Garage. Nothing could be found to verify this and the wall footing (A: SS 55813346 to B: SS 55813345) is only 8.0m long and 1.5m wide. It is improbable that the wall followed Maiden Street, as stated by Gribble, as the site of the South Gate has since been determined (Field Investigators Comments-F1 GCS 15-OCT-53). (PastScape)

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSS559331
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 28
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 30,151,254
  • Higham, Robert A., 1999, 'Castles, Fortified Houses and Fortified Towns in the Middle Ages' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 136-43
  • 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
  • Haslam, J., 1984, 'The Towns of Devon' in J. Haslam (ed.) Anglo-Saxon Towns in southern England (Phillimore) p. 249-283 esp. 251-56 online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 122
  • 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. 190
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Cotton, R.W., n.d., The Gates and Walls of Ancient Barnstaple (Not unable to identify this reference given in PastScape but see Cotton, R.W., 1889, Barnstaple and the northern part of Devonshire during the great civil war, 1642-1646 p. 3-5 online copy)
  • Gribble, J.W., 1830, Memorials of Barnstaple p. 36-9 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 105
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 169 online copy


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Markuson, K.W., 1980, 'Excavations on the Green Lane access site, Barnstaple, 1979' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 38 p. 67-90
  • Wood, M., 1980, 'Barnstaple, North Gate, east abutment' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 38 p. 123-4
  • Oliver, W. Bruce, 1930, 'Barnstaple Borough' Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol. 62 p. 269-273