Arundel Town Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are earthwork remains

NameArundel Town Defences
Alternative NamesSt Mary's Gate
Historic CountrySussex
Modern AuthorityWest Sussex
1974 AuthorityWest Sussex
Civil ParishArundel

Arundel was a borough between 1066 and 1086. The town was defended on the east and south by the marsh and river respectively, but on the north and west a wall was added in 1295 to pre-existing defences. The earthworks consist of a possible promontory fort, an C11 motte and civil war defences. (PastScape)

No remains of C13 stone walls. (Bond)

Domesday Book records the presence of a castrum, church and mill at Arundel in 1066, although there is a debate as to what was meant by castrum. A possible pre-Conquest coffin slab, apparently from the wall of Arundel Castle may indicate the presence of a pre-Conquest church in the area. Beresford regarded Arundel as a probable replacement for the nearby Saxon Burgh of Burpham and suggests that there may have been a civil settlement in the immediate pre-Conquest period. The castle, with its motte and twin baileys was probably erected and the market place developed immediately after the Conquest. Allcroft has suggested that the Domesday river port was probably downstream, perhaps at Ford. The town walls were apparently erected in 1295, although they need not represent the earliest enclosure of the town. The town was redefended during the civil war (1642-9) but the town walls were subsequently demolished in 1659. The Arun may have remained a tidal estuary until the C16. (Aldsworth and Freke) Arundel may have grown as Burpham declined. No port recorded at Arundel in 1066, though the omission may have been a mistake as a harbour and borough are noted in 1086. (Drewett, Rudling and Gardiner)

The Norman town, which seems to have lain chiefly along the track mentioned both inside and outside the Little park, probably had no defences until the late 13th century, the north gateway being then perhaps used less for defence than for collecting tolls. In 1295 a 10-years' grant of murage was obtained for the town by the earl of Arundel

The line of defences created was apparently new and excluded the Little park, the north-westwards continuation of High Street being diverted. Starting from what was apparently a new gate by the outer ditch of the north bailey of the castle the circuit ran west to a second gate, the Marygate, built across the new London road; the earthwork between the two gates may be the re-used southern defence of the putative Anglo-Saxon burh, turned to face outwards instead of inwards, and provided with a ditch on the north side which survived in 1995. From the Marygate the line of the new defences ran south-west, first within the modern castle grounds, and then down Mount Pleasant, Park Place, and School Lane, where a natural cliff was scarped back. Mount Pleasant was known by 1615 as Whitings dyke, possibly from a personal name. A section of earthwork was said to be still visible by the St. Mary's Gate inn in London Road in 1851. At the point where the circuit crossed Maltravers Street was a third gate called the Marshgate or Watergate.

The medieval defences seem only ever to have been of earth, as also happened in some larger medieval towns. It is notable that they protected only the north and west sides of the town. The south side would have been defended by the river, though nothing is known of any gate on the bridge. The sector between the bridge and the castle was undefended, the terrain perhaps making it unnecessary. References to 'the new ditch' in or near Tarrant Street in the early 15th century may suggest either that the south end of the western line of defence was not completed until then, or that it was extended at that date nearer the river.

It is not clear which gate was referred to in 1321, when packing service was owed at Ham manor in Angmering 'beyond the gate of Arundel'. The Marygate probably existed in 1343, when a chapel, apparently dedicated to St. Mary, was said to have been newly founded at the north gate of the town. The name Marygate was in use by the early 15th century. The medieval building is said to have been of ashlar masonry. Besides the chapel over the archway, which had a two-light cusped window and was reached by an external flight of steps, there was a room each side on the ground floor. Part of the gate at least had apparently been converted into a dwelling by 1636, and the structure was certainly used as dwellings later. Only the side piers of the gate next to the north bailey ditch remained in 1781, and only the ivy-covered stump of its east pier, of flint and stone, by 1989. The Marshgate or Watergate is recorded only between 1615 and 1712 and had been demolished by 1785. A postern gate near the Marygate is indicated by the road name Postern Lane recorded in the area in the early 17th century. (VCH 1997)

Gatehouse Comments

Murage granted once in 1295. St Mary's gate survives but rebuilt in C19. The 'rampart' to the NW of the castle is probably Iron Age, redug and enlarged in the Civil War. A decayed and fallen down palisade is recorded in 1275 which may be this outer defence but more likely a line from the castle running west to enclose the town. Presumably the 1295 murage was part of a project to replace this timber defence with one in stone, although a single grant might suggest the work was not fully completed. Town gates and the existing ditches would have been enough to satisfy civic pride and toll collection needs.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ015072
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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 27
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 18,24,49,64,72,262
  • Jones, R., 2003, 'Hastings to Herstmonceux: the castles of Sussex' in Rudling, D. (ed) The archaeology of Sussex to AD2000 (Great Dunham: Heritage Marketing and Publications) p. 171-8
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Sussex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 23
  • Hudson, T.P. (ed), 1997, VCH Sussex Vol. 5.1 online transcription
  • Drewett, P., Rudling, D. and Gardiner, M., 1988, The south east to AD1000 p. 337
  • 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
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 475
  • Fred Aldsworth and David Freke, 1976, Historic towns in Sussex: an archaeological survey Vol. 1976 p. 10-13
  • 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. 147-8
  • Beresford, Maurice, 1967, New towns of the Middle Ages: town plantation in England, Wales and Gascony (New York) p. 492
  • Clark, G.T., 1884, Mediaeval Military Architecture in England (Wyman and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 203 online copy
  • Tierney, M.A., 1834, History of Arundel Vol. 2 p. 711-12 online copy


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Wessex Archaeology, 2008, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 52 [online copy >
  • Allcroft, A.H., 1930, Sussex County Magazine Vol. 4 p. 609-15
  • Round, J.H., 1903, Archaeologia Vol. 58 p. 332

Primary Sources

  • 1086, Domesday Book online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1895, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward I (1292-1301) Vol. 3 p. 137 (murage grant) online copy
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants >], [petitions > ] and [other such >]. < >


  • Harris, R.B., March 2009, Arundel Historic Character Assessment Report: Sussex Extensive Urban Survey Download copy