Clun Town Wall

Has been described as a Possible Urban Defence

There are masonry footings remains

NameClun Town Wall
Alternative Names
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishClun

Before the Norman Conquest, Clun was a small Saxon village, its houses clustered near the parish church. In the 12th century a new town was laid out next to the castle by the lords of Clun.

This new settlement was built within a grid of streets, containing regular 'burgage plots' or smallholdings. Defences surrounded the town and these were probably extended as the town grew in the 13th century.

The redevelopment of Clun helped to stabilise the newly conquered area of the Welsh Marches, which was prone to uprisings and revolts. It also provided the lord of the castle with an income as each occupier paid an annual rent. Payments were also collected from the town's weekly market and two annual fairs.

By the mid-13th century Clun was larger than Oswestry, its prosperity based on the wool trade. However, by 1300 some 60 burgage plots were already lying empty. Further decline after the medieval period has led to the survival of the original street grid plan. (English Heritage)

There is no documentary evidence for C12 defences but Bond suggests that there were C12 earthwork defences. The most likely position for such defences would be in the area of Kid Lane and Bridge Street where they would have formed an outer bailey of the castle protecting the bridge head and market place. It should be noted that while topographical analysis may suggest this area for town defences no other evidence for them exists. Bond considers that the C13 stone defences (SA5448) were larger than the earlier ones. Again there seems little evidence for this. (Shropshire HER ref. Buteux and Dalwood 1993/96)

The castle at Clun is not mentioned in the Domesday Book, but it was probably built some time in the next half century. It was in existence by 1140-50 when it was mentioned in the Pipe Rolls (Renn 1973). In 1196 Clun Castle was besieged by Prince Rhys and reduced to ashes (Eyton 1860)

It has been suggested that the laying out of a town at Clun dates from the rebuilding of the castle in stone after this event (Rowley 1972). However it is possible that the town was already in existence before this time, and indeed Beresford notes that the early 12th century was the most fruitful period for the founding of towms in Shropshire (Beresford 1988, 478-479).

The town of Clun was a manorial borough with no royal charter, and as such was similar to the other FitzAlan borough of Ruyton XI Towns (Kenyon 1917). The town enjoyed moderate prosperity in the medieval period and acted as a centre where Welsh and English cultures could meet and mingle (Davies 1978, 20-22; Rowley 1986). The Honor of Clun contained the Tempsiter, an area set aside for the Welsh, to the west of Offa's Dyke (Eyton 1860), and a special Welsh court was held at Clun throughout the medieval period (Rowley 1986).

No town defences survive at Clun but in 1277 the town received a grant of murage (Morriss 1990). A reference in a document of 1589 to the town ditch forming the eastern boundary of burgages in Frog Lane supports the idea that the town defences were actually constructed and confirms observations of possible traces of defences at the back of Newport Street, Frog Street and Bridge Street (SA 6229; SA 5445; Turner 1971; NAR fieldwork reports; Morriss 1990). Bond (1987) suggests that these 13th century defences (SA 5448) may have encompassed an earlier circuit. The curved shape of Kid Lane and Bridge Street may reflect the line of a bank and ditch creating in effect an extra bailey to the castle (SA 5447) and protecting the bridge and market place. It has been suggested that such a circuit dates to the 12th century, but there is no documentary or archaeological evidence for this (Bond 1987). The town defences do not seem to have been in use after the medieval period. (Dalwood and Bryant 2005)

Gatehouse Comments

It is certainly possible that when the new Norman town was laid out below the castle it was defined and enclosed within a bank and ditch, but equally it may have just been a boundary ditch (one also acting as a drain in what may have originally been marsh land). It should be noted that the parish church and the original Saxon settlement were on the other side of the River Clun and outside the line of the suggested defences. The C13 murage grant would not, of itself, in this modestly prosperous town, have generated enough money to fund a stone wall although it is evidence of a desire for a wall, although the desire may well be for the prestige of a wall rather than any concern as to defence. Given map reference for the centre of the triangular market place (now somewhat infilled).

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSO300809
Latitude52.4210586547852
Longitude-3.03010010719299
Eastings330000
Northings280900
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 53
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 24, 131, 266
  • Morriss, R.K., 1990, Clun castle, Shropshire. An outline history (Hereford Archaeology Series report) p. 69
  • Beresford, M., 1988, New towns of the middle ages: Town Plantation in England, Wales and Gascony
  • 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 (plan) online copy
  • Rowley, T., 1986, The landscape of the Welsh Marches (Michael Joseph Ltd)
  • 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. 204
  • Eyton, R.W., 1860, Antiquities of Shropshire (London: John Russell Smith) Vol. 11 p. 225- online copy

Journals

  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Hindle, B.P., 1981, 'The study of medieval town plans with special reference to South Shropshire' University of Salford, discussion papers in Geography Vol. 14
  • Kenyon, R.L., 1917, 'The borough of Clun' Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological Society Vol. 39 p. 127-140

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward I (1272-81) Vol. 1 p. 249 (grant of murage) online copy
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/murindex.html], [petitions > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/mupindex.html ] and [other such > http://www.gatehouse-gazetteer.info/murage/muaindex.html]. < >

Other

  • Dalwood, H. and Bryant, V. (eds), 2005, The Central Marches Historic Towns Survey 1992-6 Download online copy
  • Buteux, V. and Dalwood, H., 1993-96, CMHTS SMR Records Shropshire: Burford to Clun, Clun