Rhuddlan Town Defences

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are earthwork remains

NameRhuddlan Town Defences
Alternative NamesCledemutha
Historic CountryFlintshire
Modern AuthorityDenbighshire
1974 AuthorityClwyd

The defences of the Saxon burgh of Rhuddlan. The town was protected on 3 sides by a bank and ditch with a timber palisade. On the 4th side, the river and the steep cliff provided natural defence. The defence was constructed in 1281 and by 1282, there were barriers and entrances to the town which could be locked at night (Taylor, A J, 1955b). The defences survive today as a broad ditch with an outer bank on the NE corner of the town. Excavation showed that the defences were only completed on the north side. They consisted of a broad, flat-bottomed ditch between 2 low banks. The ditch may originally have been water-filled (Miles, H, 1973). (Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust HER)

Rhuddlan Town Ditch.

Earthworks of a medieval defensive circuit thought to outline the prospective site of a Cathedral city south of the castle of 1277 (NPRN 92914) that was superceded by the more modest borough ramparts to the north (NPRN 300415). The Town Ditch takes in an area of some 30ha compared to the roughly 6.5ha walled borough.

The circuit consisted of two broad ramparts either side of a ditch, up to 20m wide and 2.5m deep. The surving earthworks run for 570m north-south and then south-west for 300m before meeting the Clwyd.

The Town Ditch can be compared to other earthwork circuits of a similar date at Flint borough (NPRN 33160) as well as the Rhuddlan borough ramparts.

An earlier view associated the Town Ditch with a Saxon burg or fortified town.

The earthworks enclose the site ofthe Friary (NPRN157155) as well as the site of the Norman borough (NPRN 303586) below the Twt Hill castle earthworks (NPRN 157156).

Source: Quinnell & Blockley 'Excavations at Rhuddlan' CBA Research Report 95 (1994), 212-3 & 219-20

(Coflein 306672)

Rhuddlan Edwardian Town Defences

The field centred at SJ 0223 7828 is in use as a paddock for both the grazing of horses, and for horse jumping, but neither activity appears to have damaged the remains. The use of the footpath by the public has worn a slight ledge along the crest of the inner ditch bank. A foul-water manhole in the centre of the ditch indicates that a sewer has been laid across the site, but there is no obvious disturbance to show its route or direction. There is some evidence of a trench having been dug across the S ditch bank, NW from the N corner of the Telephone Exchange compound, at SJ 0226 7827. The outer slope at the NE end is becoming less discernable, probably due to filling against the garden walls to the NW.

The portion of the earthwork SE of the public footpath and the hedge/fence on its SE side, is now a grassed extension of a Children's Play Area. Regular mowing has softened the profile considerably and the crests and toes of the banks are now difficult to define with any precision. A filled ditch, of recent origin, runs down the centre of the ancient one, whilst at about 11.0m and 15.0m SE of the NW boundary and parallel to it, the earthworks are crossed by two ridges, probably filled trenches of recent date.

AM action: The NW part of the earthwork has been retained unaltered, but that part lying SE of the hedge/fence has been resurveyed, and the depiction ammended accordingly.

The town was defended on three sides (on the N side of the river) by a bank and ditch of which only the NW corner now substantially survives.

Overall the bank and ditch system is 36m wide. The ditch is up to 1.7m deep, the outer bank 2m high (from the bottom of the ditch) and 0.6m high on its outer side. (Coflein 300415)

Gatehouse Comments

Of those defences previously thought to be the remains of C10 burgh defences, a more recent interpretation compares this work with the known Edwardian late C13 earthwork circuits at Rhuddlan and Flint. It is suggested that the remains are of a circuit constructed in the course of Edward I's initial campaign of conquest in 1277. The town was planned as a major centre for North Wales (it was even intended to move the Cathedral from St Alaphs to Rhuddlan) and the defences were laid out accordingly, but these plans were soon put aside, the earthen defences were never replaced in stone - the wooden palisade was removed and sent to be used a Caernarfon in 1283. The town had some small seaborne trade but was only ever of local importance.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSJ022782
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Guide Books

  • Taylor, A.J., 2004, Rhuddlan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)
  • Taylor, A.J., 1987 (4th rev edn), Rhuddlan Castle (Cardiff: CADW)

Primary Sources

  • < >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]. < >