Tonbridge Town Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameTonbridge Town Defences
Alternative NamesTonebrugg
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishTonbridge

Licence to enclose the town of Tonbridge with a wall, and to crenellate it, was granted by Henry III in 1259. None of the wall survives but parts of the ditch remain and the whole of the course maybe traced. The enclosure is completed by the Medway on the south and a tributary stream on the west. Some of the water from the latter may have been diverted to fill part, at least, of the ditch (Simpson; VCH). Short stretches of the inner bank, sometimes reduced to an outward facing scarp, with traces of the ditch, are visible here and there in open parts of the town (F1 ASP 28-JAN-63). A clay bank c. 10 metres wide and standing c. 4.5 metres high without revetment was uncovered. A shallow ditch, c. 6 metres wide and 2.5 metres deep, lay outside. The presence of more material in the bank than could have been excavated from the ditch suggests that the defences may be contemporary with the diversion of the river, probably in the middle 13th century. The suggested position of the medieval gate, adjacent to High Street, was also excavated and the front face of the bank was located; there was no evidence of the gate, which presumably lies under the present road (various 1970's archaeological reports). (PastScape)

The town might have been walled largely through the efforts of its lord because of its importance as a caput of the honour of Clare rather than a strategic centre. (Turner)

Gatehouse Comments

A town wall was licensed in 1259. Murage granted 1318.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ587467
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 139
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 24, 72, 83, 158, 261
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 130
  • 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
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 239
  • 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. 67 download/view online
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 176
  • Toy, S., 1954, The Castles of Great Britain p. 59 (plan)
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Kent Vol. 1 p. 424-5 online copy
  • Hasted, Edward, 1798 (2edn), The history and topographical survey of the county of Kent Vol. 5 p. 196- online transcription


  • Coulson, Charles, 2007-8, 'On Crenellating, in Kent and Beyond - A Retrospection' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 21 p. 189-201 esp p. 191, 193-4
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Wragg, E., Jarrett, C. and Haslam, J., 2005, 'The development of medieval Tonbridge, Kent' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 125 p. 119-150 online copy
  • Streeten, A.D.F., 1976, 'Excavations at Lansdowne Road, Tonbridge, 1972 and 1976' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 92 p. 105-118 online copy
  • Webster, A., 1976, 'Medieval Tonbridge Examined' Kent Archaeological review Vol. 45 p. 128 (slight) online copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1973, 'Medieval Britain in 1972' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 17 p. 169 download copy
  • Giles, C.B., 1972, 'Investigations and Excavations during the Year' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 87 p. 230 online copy
  • Simpson, W.D., 1940, Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 5 p. 72
  • Wadmore, J.F., 1886, 'Tonbridge Castle and its Lords' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 16 p. 26-7 online copy

Guide Books

  • Anon, 2004, Walking the walls supplement. Historic defences: Tonbridge, Battle of Britain, Ypres and Ostend (Maidstone: Kent County Council)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 190?, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1258-66) Vol. 5 p. 108 (licence to crenellate) online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1317-21) Vol. 3 p. 133 (murage grant) online copy
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants >], [petitions > ] and [other such >]. < >


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk South East Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 53 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk South East Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 54 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 58 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 53 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 63 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 58 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 55 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 South East (London: English Heritage) p. 59 online copy
  • Kent County Council, December 2004, Kent Historic Towns Survey (Kent County Council and English Heritage) view online copy