Winchcombe Town Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameWinchcombe Town Defences
Alternative NamesWinchcomb
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityGloucestershire
1974 AuthorityGloucestershire
Civil ParishWinchcombe

No trace of Anglo-saxon Earthen defences re-utilized by medieval town. Leland recorded some remains.

Part of the defences of the Anglo-Saxon burh survive as a visible earthwork along the southern side of Back Lane which has been sampled and dated by various archaeological investigations from 1892 onwards. No above ground evidence for the rest of the defensive circuit survives; a number of alternative courses have been suggested, but none has been verified by archaeological evidence. Excavations have been undertaken along the course of the rampart by Loftus Brock in 1892, Eric Gee in 1939, Norman Painting in 1947, Brian Davison in 1962 and 1963 and John Hinchliffe in 1972. Evidence for two phases of defensive enclosure have been found; the first took the form of a V-shaped ditch beneath the rampart of the Mercian burh, which may have been accompanied by a bank, similar to the defensive enclosure which was found at Tamworth in Staffordshire (Ellis 1986, 131). The exact function of the feature is uncertain but it has been suggested that it may have been part of the original vallum monasterii or an Offan circuit (Bassett 1977, 70). The second phase of defences comprised a bank, surviving as a low earthwork, which runs for about 240 metres along the southern side of Back Lane, and which has been found to be typologically Anglo-Saxon. Due to the limited nature of the excavations at that time no evidence for the multiple ditches and wide berms which have been recorded at other sites was revealed (Ellis 1986, 131-133). A stone-fronted rampart appears to have been added at a slightly later date, probably in the late tenth or early eleventh century, when Winchcombe formed the centre of its own shire. The wall itself appears to have survived well into the Medieval period (Ellis 1986, 133). (Extensive Urban Survey)

Gatehouse Comments

Part of the burghal works may have been utilised for short-lived Winchcombe Castle and may have still been 'high steeped sloped ramparts' in 1141.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSP021283
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Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 59, 257
  • Verey, D. and Brooks, A., 2002, Buildings of England: Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds (Yale University Press) p. 726
  • 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
  • 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


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 168, 196
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1908, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 2 p. 54 online copy


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Ellis, P., 1986, 'Excavations in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, 1962-1972: A Report on Excavation and Fieldwork by B.K. Davison and J. Hinchliffe at Cowl Lane and Back Lane' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 104 p. 95-138 online copy


  • Matthew Tilley, Tim Grubb, 2008, Extensive Urban Survey - Gloucestershire Download copy
  • Bassett, S.R., 1977, The origins and early development of Winchcombe and its District (Birmingham University unpublished M.A. thesis)