Plymouth Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are no visible remains

NamePlymouth Town Wall
Alternative NamesSutton Pryour; Plymmuth
Historic CountryDevonshire
Modern AuthorityPlymouth; City of
1974 AuthorityDevon
Civil ParishPlymouth

The earliest defences for the town were a wall built in the 1530's extending Westwards from the Castle to add strength on the landward side of the Hoe. It extended as far as 'Little How Gate' at the South end of Castle Dyke Lane. Hoe Gate may have been created to give easier access from the town to the Hoe in the 1590's when the new fort was being built.

In 1643, the town was encompassed by a stone rampart and ditch, with six gates giving access to the surrounding district. By 1765, the wall had been demolished, but all gates barring the Coxside Gate remained. (PastScape ref. Pye and Woodward 1996)

C14 stone walls vanished. (Bond)

Gatehouse Comments

The single grant of murage in 1378 may not have resulted in much work. A licence to crenellate was granted to 'the King's lieges lately dwelling at Plymouth' in 1404. Nominally to make building fortifications easier a borough charter, with licence to crenellate, was granted by Parliament in 1439. Town was given large grants of money in 1463 and 1485 and walls may well have been started during the C15 rather than 1530. Leland reports that the then Bishop of Exeter had started to build a high strong wall next to the castle. A complete circuit is not shown on the 1540 plan but is shown, with stone rampart and ditch in Holler's 1643 plan. There were six town gates. The wall had been demolished by 1765. Given map reference for parish church.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSX479544
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 119
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 48, 71, 118, 203, 222, 228, 230, 256
  • Higham, Robert A., 1999, 'Castles, Fortified Houses and Fortified Towns in the Middle Ages' in Kain, R. and Ravenhill, W., Historical Atlas of South-West England (University of Exeter Press) p. 136-43
  • Pye, Andrew and Woodward, Freddy, 1996, The historic defences of Plymouth (Exeter Archaeology) p. 4, 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. 122
  • 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
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 198
  • Bracken, 1931, History of Plymouth (Plymouth) p. 47-8
  • Lysons, D. and S., 1822, Magna Britannia Vol. 6 Devon p. 398-9 online transcription


  • Holler, Wenceslas, c. 1643, A Trve Mapp and Discription of the Towne of Plymouth online copy
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 109-10
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 214 online copy


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Higham, R.A., 1988, 'Devon Castles: an annotated list' Proceedings of the Devon Archaeological Society Vol. 46 p. 142-9
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 215, 218

Primary Sources

  • Plymouth Map of c. 1540 online copy [online copy >]
  • Given-Wilson, C. (ed), 2005, The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England Vol. 11 Henry VI 1432-1445 p. 278 Access via PROME (subscription required)
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Patent Rolls Richard II (1377-81) Vol. 1 p. 81 (murage grant) online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1905, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry IV (1401-05) Vol. 2 p. 346, 353 online copy
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants >], [petitions > ] and [other such >]. < >