Saffron Walden Town Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameSaffron Walden Town Defences
Alternative NamesRepell Ditches, Battle Ditches; Magnum Fossatum
Historic CountryEssex
Modern AuthorityEssex
1974 AuthorityEssex
Civil ParishSaffron Walden

Earthworks of Medieval or Late Saxon enclosures or town defences. The enclosed area was intensely occupied from circa 1050 to circa 1150 with a falling off in C13. Excavation in 2001 suggested rampart of ditch was probably removed in C18. The late Saxon town lay south west of the castle and the town moved to a new focus around the castle, probably in C12, and the new town originally lay in the castle's outer bailey. However as the town expanded a new large ditch enclosure was constructed, probably by Humphrey de Bohun in mid C13, this enclosure used part of the earlier Saxon defences, however, since these were then and now on the periphery of the town it is these oldest defences which still survive. (Derived from PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

It seems probably there were some pre-Conquest town earthwork defences which were maintained post-Conquest. These initial defences were extended when the town expanded towards the castle on Bury Hill. The mid C13 reconstruction of the earthworks may represent an intent to increase the towns status but there does not seem to be any evidence of stonework or attempts to gain murage grants. (Compare with the development of the Clare town of Tonbridge)

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL535381
Latitude52.0194511413574
Longitude0.234809994697571
Eastings553540
Northings238140
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 125
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 40, 262
  • Medlycott, M., 2000, Origins of Saffron Walden (Essex County Council) p. 4-5, 9-10
  • 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
  • Bassett, S.R., 1982, Saffron Walden: excavations and research 1972-80 (CBA Research Report 45) p. 67-80 online copy
  • Petchey, M.R., 1980, 'The archaeology of medieval Essex towns' in Buckley, D.G. (ed), Archaeology in Essex to AD 1500 (CBA Research Report 34) p. 116 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
  • Bassett, S.R., 1973, Archaeological excavations (DOE) p. 77
  • Bassett, S.R., 1972, Archaeological excavations (DOE) p. 84-5
  • Powell, W.R. (ed), 1963, VCH Essex Vol. 3 p. 195
  • RCHME, 1916, An inventory of the historical monuments in Essex Vol. 1 (north-west) p. 259-60 no. 157 online transcription

Journals

  • Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit, 2008, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 52 online copy
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Andrews, D., Mundy, C. and Walker, H., 2004, 'Recent Archaeology in Saffron Walden Town Centre' Saffron Walden Historical Journal Vol. 7 online copy
  • Andrews, D., Mundy, C. and Walker, H., 2002, Essex Archaeology and History Vol. 33 p. 221-273
  • Couchman, C.R., 1979, Essex Archaeology and History Vol. 11 p. 57
  • Ravetz, A. and Spencer, G., 1962, 'Excavations of the battle ditches, Saffron Walden, Essex 1959' Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society 3rd series, Vol. 1 p. 147
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1904, 'The Repell Ditch, Saffron Walden' Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society Vol. 9.3 p. 224-7 online copy
  • 1894, Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 312

Other

  • Germany, M., 2007, '1 - 3 Fairycroft Road, Saffron Walden, Essex: Archaeological Excavation' Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit online copy
  • 1999, Saffron Walden Historic Town Assessment Report (Essex County Council) Download copy