Gloucester City Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are masonry footings remains

NameGloucester City Wall
Alternative NamesGloucestre; Gloucestrie
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityGloucestershire
1974 AuthorityGloucestershire
Civil ParishGloucester

The inner defences of medieval Gloucester were based to a considerable extent on those of the Roman town; the walls enclosing the eastern half of the town rested on the remains of the Roman walls. On the south side the defences were continued westwards to the Severn by those of Gloucester castle and on the north side by the precinct walls of Gloucester Abbey and St. Oswald's Priory. The north wall of the abbey precinct was probably rebuilt further north in the early 13th century, and whether it was the town wall or belonged to the abbey was in some doubt before 1447 when the burgess community released their claim to it, the abbey undertaking to repair it and promising not to make any new entrances in it. In the inner circuit of defences there were six town gates. The road from Painswick and the Barton Street suburb entered by the east gate, or Ailes gate; (f the Bristol road entered by the south gate; the road from Wales and Hereford entered across Westgate bridge through the west gate, which stood at the east end of the bridge; Water Street entered by the blind gate, so called by 1447, at the north-west corner of the abbey precinct; the London road entered by the north gate; and Brook Street entered by the postern gate at the north-east corner of the walls. The walls around the eastern half of the town had an outer moat. Between the postern gate and the north gate the moat was provided by the southern branch of the river Twyver, and water diverted from the Twyver filled the ditch along the east and south walls. The ditch along the east wall was known as Goose ditch.

On the north side of the town there were two outer gates built on the north branch of the Twyver at the limits of ancient suburbs. Alvin gate stood on the Tewkesbury road at the north end of Hare Lane and the outer north gate stood in the London road

No evidence has been found of there having been any additional defences apart from the Twyver to defend that outer area.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the town's defensive system was rebuilt soon after the Norman Conquest, the new work being based partly on the Roman defences, which may have been maintained in late Saxon times. The documentary evidence for the defences begins in the next century; the north and south gates were mentioned in the 1140s and Alvin gate in 1181. Murage for the upkeep of the walls and gates was granted at intervals between 1226 and the early 15th century, and the mid 13th century with grants in 1250, 1260, and 1265 saw a major programme of improvements. Excavation has shown that a substantial new east gate and a bastion in the wall north of the east gate were provided at that period, and the postern gate at the north-east corner of the walls was apparently built c. 1250. The southern half of the east wall was probably given similar defensive works at the same period, for a postern at the south end and a tower between it and the east gate were mentioned in 1509. In 1266 or 1267 the burgesses, on the king's orders, enlarged the south ditch of the town, demolishing several houses in the process. Much repair work was done at the end of the century under a murage grant of 1298. In April 1360, when measures were being taken in response to the fear of French invasion, the walls were reported to be in a neglected state and the townspeople were ordered to repair them; when peace was made with France they left the work unfinished and a further order was made two months later. The south ditch was further enlarged in 1377 when French raids on the English coast caused alarm.

In the late Middle Ages five of the town gates — the east, south, west, outer north, and Alvin gates — were the official entrances for such purposes as collecting tolls and were manned by porters. The inner north gate housed the main prison of the town by 1502. In 1590 a gaoler's lodging was built on the east side of it, partly financed with 20 marks given by Richard Pate (d. 1588) for repairing the gates. Two gates were in use as prisons in 1485; the other one was probably the east gate, which housed women prisoners in 1560. From at least 1613 until its demolition in the late 18th century the east gate was used as the bridewell, or house of correction. The rooms in the various gates were also used in the late 16th century as meeting places for some of the trade companies. (VCH)

Gatehouse Comments

First murage grant in 1226 and then frequent until end of C14.

- 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 ReferenceSO833184
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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 68-9
  • Blanchard, Ian, 2007, Twelth Century: A neglected Epoch in British Economic and Social History (Newlees E-book) p. 185-7 (plan) online copy
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 23, 51, 53, 68, 70, 95, 169-70, 174, 177-8, 200, 211, 226, 229, 232-3, 237, 255
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Gloucestershire and Bristol (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 21
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 79
  • < >Herbert, N.M., 1988, 'Bridges, gates, and walls' and 'Gloucester Castle' in Herbert, N.M. (ed), VCH Gloucestershire Vol. 4 (Oxford: OUP for the Institute of Historical Research) p. 242-7 online transcription < >
  • 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
  • Hurst, H.R., 1986, Gloucester, the Roman and later defences: excavations on the E. defences and a reassessment of the defensive sequence (Gloucester: Gloucester Archaeological Publications)
  • Garrod, A.P. and Heighway, C.M.. 1984, Garrod's Gloucester: Archaeological observations 1974-81 (Bristol: Western Archaeological Trust)
  • Heighway, C.. 1983, The east and north gates of Gloucester and associated sites: excavations 1974-81 (Bristol: Western Archaeological Trust Excavation Monograph 4)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 186
  • Heighway, C., 1975, GIoucester 1974 (Committee for Rescue Archaeology in Avon, Gloucestershire and Somerset)
  • 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 plan p. 63 download/view online
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 204
  • < >Lobel, M.D., 1969, 'Gloucester' in Lobel, M.D. (ed), Historic Towns: Maps and Plans of Towns and Cities in the British Isles, with Historical Commentaries, from Earliest Times to 1800 Vol. 1 (London: Lovell Johns-Cook, Hammond and Kell Organization) p. 1-14 < > online copy
  • Fullbrook Leggatt, L.E.W.O., 1952, Anglo Saxon and Medieval Gloucester (Gloucester: John Jennings) p. 6-13
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 243-4


  • Speed, John, 1611-12, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain online copy
  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 171, 188
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 158 online copy


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Heighway, C.M., 1975, 'The North and East Gates of Gloucester' Glevensis Vol. 9 p. 3-6 online copy
  • Hurst, H., 1974, 'Excavations at Gloucester, 1971-73: second interim report' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 54 p. 8-52
  • Hurst, H., 1972, 'Excavations at Gloucester, 1968-71: first interim report' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 52 p. 24-69
  • Williams, A.R., 1969, 'The siege of Gloucester, 1643' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 88 p. 173-83 online copy
  • Fullbrook-Leggatt, L.E.W.O., 1945, 'Medieval Gloucester' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 66 p. 1-48 online copy
  • Baddeley, St. C., 1931, 'The West Wall of Glevum' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 53 p. 237-41 online copy
  • Gloucester Roman Research Committee, 1931, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 53 p. 267-84 online copy
  • Bellows, 1877, Cotteswold Naturalists' Field Club Vol. 6 p. 154-90
  • Bellows, 1876, 'On the Roman Wall of Gloucester' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 1 p. 153-66 online copy

Guide Books

  • Heighway, C.. 1985, Gloucester: a history and guide (Gloucester: Alan Sutton)
  • Heighway, C., 1980, The East Gate of Gloucester (City Museum and Art Gallery)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891-1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1225-1232) p. 61; p. 479; (1232-47) p. 110; p. 225; (1247-1258) p. 73; (1258-1266) p. 67; p. 428; (1292-1301) p. 352; (1301-1307) p. 68; (1307-1313) p. 497; (1343-1345) p. 563; (1358-1361) p. 178; (1367-1370) p. 188 (murage grants)
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants >], [petitions > ] and [other such >]. < >