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
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  • Essex County Council Field Archaeology Unit, 2008, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 52 online copy
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  • 1894, Transactions of the Essex Archaeological Society Vol. 4 p. 312


  • 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