Bath City Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBath City Wall
Alternative NamesBathe
Historic CountrySomerset
Modern AuthorityBath and North East Somerset
1974 AuthorityAvon
Civil ParishBath

The Medieval defences re-used the line of the Roman defences and much of the medieval wall was a refacing of existing Roman walls. Parts of the town wall are extant. The walls were extant in 1138 and were removed in the C18. The medieval town covered 23 acres. (PastScape)

East Gate

City gate. Medieval, or possibly C9-C10, restored probably in 1899 when the adjacent Empire Hotel was built.

MATERIALS: Coursed limestone, paved on the top surface over the arch.

EXTERIOR: Narrow archway, now well below street level, approx. 2m in width, 1m deep and 2-2.5m in height. Jambs chamfered on outside face, appear to be medieval. Cranked arch of three stones on corbels, relieving arch above and horizontal courses over. Inner face arch is similar, but segmental. Full extent of reconstruction in 1899 uncertain, but close in appearance to C18 engravings, and to photographs of c1890. The Eastgate of Bath has minor gate on Boat Stall Lane going down to quay and Bathwick ferry, and was left open for the convenience of citizens. Portion of wall with crowning battlements survived alongside until 1899 (qv Upper Borough Walls).

HISTORY: The city wall originated in C4 towards the end of the Roman period. It was repaired in the early C10, and was then kept in use until the Civil War. Pepys reported that it was in good condition in 1668, but it gradually decayed until most was demolished in the C18: the Corporation demolished the north and south gates in 1755, and the south gate followed in 1776. This is also known as the Lot Gate, from the Early English ludeat, or postern gate. Its narrowness suggests that this was never a principal entrance, but is nonetheless of great significance as the only surviving medieval gate in the city. (Listed Building Report)

From the pentagonal plan of the city it has been suggested that the medieval walls were built on the foundations of the Roman city wall (Lewis)

Until recently no serious investigation of this theory had been made except for the observations of Pownall in 1795 during commercial excavations in the Upper Borough Walls. (Pownall). He claimed to have seen the medieval wall superimposed on the remains of the Roman city wall and described it in detail. His theory was contested by Irvine in 1874 (Irvine), but cannot be lightly dismissed.

Several fragments of the medieval wall still survive. The East Gate (ST 76 SE 104) is the only remaining gateway. The length of wall opposite the Mineral Water Hospital is largely a reconstruction of the medieval wall. By far the best length, over 160ft, could until 1963 be seen on the site cleared by an air-raid in 1940. This was the SE corner of the medieval city. The remains of this wall now lie buried below the floor of the new Woolworths store.

By the end of the C18 the wall had become the back walls of tenement houses built on the line of the city ditch. The course of the city wall today is identified by the streets known as the Lower and Upper Borough Walls. Until recent years the N, S, and W walls were known as the 'Rampires'. It is not known when the walls were built. The Saxon defences probably consisted of a bank and ditch, possibly incorporating the remains of the Roman wall. Domesday Book, 1086, makes no reference to fortifications at Bath. The next mention of the defences occurs in 1138, by which time the walls had been built. King Stephen ordered them to be heightened and outworks constructed.

The medieval city wall was located during excavations in 1951 by the Bath and Camerton Archaeological Society, and in 1961 by Michael Owen (PastScape– ref. Wedlake, 1966)

Gatehouse Comments

Site of Anglo-Saxon town burh of 1000 hides. Some repairs recorded in early C13 and in 1369 the mayor and bailiff were given powers to levy the inhabitants and enforce work on the walls.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

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 ReferenceST751648
Latitude51.382511138916
Longitude-2.35787010192871
Eastings375190
Northings164890
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Mark Wheaver All Rights Reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print

Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 29
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 23, 36, 53, 57, 60, 141, 172, 177, 178, 235, 246, 254
  • Davenport, Peter, 2002, Medieval Bath Uncovered (Stroud: Tempus) p. 62-3
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Wessex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 69
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 225 (slight)
  • Dunning, Robert, 1995, Somerset Castles (Somerset Books) p. 23-4 (plan)
  • 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
  • Cunliffe, B., 1986, The City of Bath (Alan Sutton)p. 78-9
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 446, lxvii
  • 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. 190-1
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 218-19
  • Pownall, T., 1795, Descriptions and Explanations of some remains of Roman Antiquities lately dug up in the City of Bath in the year MDCCXC (Bath: Cruttwell) p. 27-9 online copy
  • William Stukeley, 1776 (2edn), Itinerarium Curiosum Vol. 1 plan between p. 146 and 147 online copy

Antiquarian

  • 1727, The citty of Bath (picture) online copy
  • Speed, John, 1611-12, The Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain online copy
  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 406-7
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1907, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 1 p. 140, 141 online copy

Journals

  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • O'Leary, T.J., 1981, 'Excavations at Upper Borough Walls, Bath, 1980' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 25 p. 1-30 online copy
  • (Cuncliffe and Owen), 1966, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 10 p. 199-200 online copy
  • Wedlake, W.J., 1965/6, 'City walls of Bath, the church of St James, South Gate, and the area to the east of the church of St James' Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Vol. 110 p. 85-107
  • Lewis, H., 1877-81, 'The Old Walls of the City of Bath' Proceedings of the Bath Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club Vol. 4 p. 138-49 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Sewell, R.C. (ed), 1846, Gesta Stephani, Regis Anglorum et Ducis Normannorum p. 38 online copy (The newer edition and translation by Potter, K.R. (ed), 1976 (2edn), Gesta Stephani (Oxford University Press) should be consulted for serious study. See also Speight, S., 2000, 'Castle Warfare in the Gesta Stephani' , Château Gaillard Vol. 19 [see online transcription > http://web.archive.org/web/20101229213751/http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/articles/speight.htm])
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol.1 p. 454, 456
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1913, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1367-70) Vol. 14 p. 230 (enforcement power) 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]. < >