Yarmouth Town Defenses

Has been described as a Possible Urban Defence

There are no visible remains

NameYarmouth Town Defenses
Alternative Names
Historic CountryHampshire and the Isle of Wight
Modern AuthorityIsle of Wight
1974 AuthorityIsle of Wight
Civil ParishYarmouth

Bond lists Yarmouth as a site of new urban defensive circuit of 16th/early 17th century being encoded as C16 gates only; no remains visible; circumstantial or secondary evidence only; no archaeological excavation known.

The four gates of the town that are recorded in the early post-medieval period may have had a medieval origin. An illustration of the quay, dated 1801, shows a wall between the castle and a gateway at the end of Quay Street (Cole 1946, opposite p16). The wall, which still survives, appears to continue to the south and may have performed a defensive function. There is no evidence that the wall continued along the south and east side south of the town.

At the time of the building of the castle in the mid-sixteenth century the town had four gates; Quay or Sea Gate which was somewhere between Quay Street and Bridge Street, Outer Town Gate which was near the drawbridge, Inner Town Gate or East Gate near the top of High Street, and Hither Gate at the end of St James' Street (Page 1912, 286; Winter 1981, 22). There is, at present, no indication as to when the gates were built.

In 1662, when a French invasion was once more a possibility, Yarmouth was made into an Island. The Governor of the Island cut a passage around the eastern side of the town with the intention of making the town more defensible. It was two years before a drawbridge was built across the moat, and until its construction the townspeople had to cross the channel by boat (Winter 1981, 19). At least one of the courses of the Thorley Brook to the south of the town is embanked and appears to have been canalised and it may represent part of the seventeenth century moat. Almost connecting the Thorley Brook, and leading to the north-east, is a large drain that may also be part of the moat

The drain, lies in the hollow to the east of the town is located where it could be expected that the moat would lie and is clearly marked on Andrews' map of 1769 and Mudge's map of 1810. It is probable that the drawbridge would have been located where the road to the east from the town crossed this drain. (Hopkins 2004)

Gatehouse Comments

All the references to the gates supposedly present when the castle was built given in the elderly VCH are C17 but some suggest structures of some age (ie. the Inner gate needed repair in 1633). The natural defences of the town, surrounded on three side by water, did not prevent raids by the French in the C14.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSZ354896
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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 157 (listed as gates only)
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 41, 118, 129, 135, 195, 196, 222, 231, 237, 245, 259
  • 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
  • Winter, C.W.R., 1981, The Ancient Town of Yarmouth (Isle of Wight County Press: Newport)
  • Cole, A.G., 1946, Yarmouth, Isle of Wight (Isle of Wight County Press: Newport)
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1912, VCH Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Vol. 5 p. 286 online transcription


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86


  • Dave Hopkins, 2004, Extensive Urban Survey - Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (English Heritage) Download copy