Stow on the Wold Town Defences

Has been described as a Questionable Urban Defence

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameStow on the Wold Town Defences
Alternative NamesMaethelgeres Byrig
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityGloucestershire
1974 AuthorityGloucestershire
Civil ParishStow on the Wold

Bond lists this as town with no remains of possible defences of Iron Age and Medieval date, possibly of stone.

Excavation of a ditch, thought to be prehistoric, at Parson's Corner. At the time of excavation, it was considered that this may be part of a hypothetical burh, for which no further evidence has been forthcoming. (PastScape 1152631)

A prehistoric fortification situated on top of a hill in the Cotswolds, immediately to the north east of the modern town of Stow-on-the-Wold. The north eastern section of the enclosure is visible as an earthwork bank, about 20 metres wide and 2 metres high, which runs between Well Lane and Shepherd's Way. Excavations by O'Neil in 1972 first revealed evidence for the enclosure with the discovery of an undated ditch. Work by Parry between 1991 and 1992 revealed two further ditches, of defensive proportions, one of which was shown by radiocarbon dating to have been dug during the mid-Bronze Age. The undated ditch discovered by Parry, and that revealed in 1972 by O'Neil share morphological similarities, and it has been suggested that they may be different stretches of the same feature. (PastScape 330170)

The extant part of the defences of the prehistoric enclosure known as Stow Camp survives well, despite some modern development in the area. The monument contains remains of Bronze and Iron Age date relating to the construction and maintenance of the defences as well as to settlement and other activities within the enclosure. It is notable that several large Middle and Late Bronze Age enclosures have been found on sites later used for Iron Age hillforts, and in many cases the Iron Age defensive circuit partly corresponds with the line of the Bronze Age enclosure, as is the case at Stow. The monument will therefore contain evidence relating to the continuity of occupation at the site, providing an insight into changing patterns of settlement, building and manufacturing techniques

The likelihood that the Bronze Age enclosure is similar to that at Ram's Hill in Oxfordshire, of which few examples are known, increases the potential of the site to provide information about Bronze Age defensive constructions and settlement. The continuity of settlement in the area of the camp from the Bronze Age through to the present day is unusual and adds to its value to the local community. Below ground remains will include evidence for the defences, especially the ditches, structures and materials relating directly to the occupation and use of the site. Organic remains in the form of charred grains and seeds will also survive, giving an insight into the diet of the inhabitants as well as the local environment at the time the monument was constructed.

The monument includes the known surviving extent of a prehistoric fortification situated on the top of a hill in the Cotswolds, immediately to the north east of the modern town of Stow-on-the-Wold. The north eastern section of the enclosure is visible as an earthwork bank, about 20m wide and 2m high, which runs between Well Lane and Shepherd's Way. The topography of the site and the curved shape of the property boundaries to the south east of this earthwork suggest that it is part of an oval enclosure which formerly covered an area of about 12ha, running to the east of Kiln Garden and Ashton House, before swinging to the west and north along the line of Park Street and Digbeth Street, through Market Square and returning east to Parson's Corner. The existence of a prehistoric enclosure at Stow has been postulated since the mid-19th century, based on the Saxon place name 'Maethelgeres Byrig' recorded in a charter of AD 714. Excavations by O'Neil in 1972 first revealed evidence for the enclosure with the discovery of an undated ditch. Work by Parry between 1991 and 1992 revealed two further ditches, of defensive proportions, one of which was shown by radiocarbon dating to have been dug during the mid-Bronze Age. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Stow does seem to have been built within the circuit of the pre-historic enclosure but there is no evidence to suggest these earthworks were used as anything other than a boundary marker in the medieval period.

- 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 ReferenceSP194259
Latitude51.931339263916
Longitude-1.71750998497009
Eastings419440
Northings225900
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Books

  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 266
  • 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
  • Leech, R., 1981, Historic towns in Gloucestershire: archaeology and planning (Committee for Rescue Archaeology in Avon) No. 3 p. 79
  • Elrington, C.R. (ed), 1965, VCH Gloucestershire Vol. 6 p. 142- online transcription

Journals

  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Crawford, O.G.S., 1933, Antiquity Vol. 7 p. 349

Primary Sources

  • Grundy, G.B., 1936, The Saxon Charters and field names of Gloucestershire (Bristol and Gloucestershire archaeological society) p. 165

Other

  • Matthew Tilley, Tim Grubb, 2008, Extensive Urban Survey - Gloucestershire Download copy