Bristol Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameBristol Town Wall
Alternative Names
Historic CountryGloucestershire
Modern AuthorityBristol; City of
1974 AuthorityAvon
Civil ParishBristol

Medieval town walls. The earliest defences were constructed of earth and timber, replaced by stone from the 11th century. The outer wall was constructed during the late 12th century, the southern extension during the 13th century.

ST 589730 Old city wall, possibly originating from c.1088 AD.

ST 58737297 to ST 58957312 Tower Lane, Bell Lane and Leonard Lane, probably linear descendents of the lane immediately inside the wall, required by medieval law.

ST 58997313 to ST 59037314 and ST 59067314 to ST 59107316 Sections of wall excavated 1948-1950.

ST 59127317 Probable continuation of wall eastwards

ST 59097315 to ST 59127308 The east section of the old walls is said to have been demolished when the castle was built, and to have been rebuilt slightly west of the original site during civic strife in 1313. No trace of a wall running south from the wall north of Wine Street was found during excavations of 1948/50 (TBGAS 1951).

ST 58837290 Town wall excavated 1957; thought to be 13th century on the line of an earlier wall possibly of earth and timber. Scheduled, SAM 117 (TBCAS 1960).

ST 58867319 to ST 58957312 Line of wall from St John's Arch to Pithay revealed during construction of Fry's factory in 1897; average thickness 6ft (TBCAS 1926).

ST 58887317 Semi-circular tower, mentioned by Seyer; foundations revealed in 1897 (Seyer 1821).

ST 58947293 The city wall, 15ft thick, forms the south wall of the crypt of St Nicholas

Scheduled SAM 117 (Pevsner; CBA Group 12 1972).

ST 58777318 Old City Wall (Remains of) (OS Record).

ST 58817320 Old City Wall (Remains of) (OS Record).

ST 591731 Massive wall of pennant stone found in Dolphin Street during excavations of 1962/3 - possibly 11th century town walls (Med Arch 1969).

Centred ST 588728 Extension of city wall southward, probably constructed AD 1250-1300

ST 58687303 to ST 58627272 The course of the town wall , 6ft thick, with a 13th century doorway, was discovered under the front of the houses on the quay during building works in 1878-80.

ST 58747271 to ST 58867274 Probable line of wall 6ft thick passing behind St Nicholas's Almshouses. Scheduled SAM 119 (Turner 1971).

ST 58617286 Excavations in the cellar of 1-2, Broad Quay located a wall at least 4.25m thick which may be part of the city wall. A 14th century window had been re-used in the west wall.

During building operations at Broad Quay in 1979 a small section of mid 13th century town wall was located (no grid reference given)

Piercing the wall, and probably contemporary with it, were the foundations of a double-arched 'watergate' complex at least 4.8m in length. The north arch covered a slip leading through the town wall down to the River Avon. The south arch was probably smaller and may have served as a large drain. To the east the ground level sloped up sharply, and there appeared to be a metalled approach to the passages defined on one side by a revetment wall. At the interior end of the central pier was a narrow stone-built tube, probably for a lift pump (CBA Group 12 newsletter 1972)

ST 58747314 to ST 59197318 Outer wall built soon after AD 1188 to enclose reclaimed area known as the Pithay, beween the old wall and the Frome. Bridge arches can be detected at various places in the tunnel which now carries the River Frome, and several towers are depicted by Millerd and described by Nicholls.

ST 59097318 Remains of city wall; a short section of wall in Fairfax Street.

ST 591731 A curved section of wall between Castle Mill Street and Fairfax Street was excavated in 1950. It proved to be only one block in thickness, but may follow the line of an earlier and more massive wall (TBGAS 1951). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

C14 St John's Gate only substantial remains. Murage granted almost continuously from 1232 until end of C15, Although some of this in the 1260's was ordered to be spent on repairs of the castle.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 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 ReferenceST587731
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Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image
Photo by Therron Welstead. All Rights ReservedView full Sized Image

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 36
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) passim
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of Gloucestershire and Bristol (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 19
  • BaRAS, 2000, Archaeological Excavation of a Medieval Watergate, Temple Quay (Bristol: City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery Report No. 677)
  • Leech, R.H., 1997, 'The Medieval Defences of Bristol Revisited' in L. Keen (ed), 'Almost the Richest City': Bristol in the Middle Ages (British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions 19)
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 79
  • Leech, R.H., 1989, 'Aspects of the medieval defences of Bristol: the town wall, the castle barbican and the Jewry' in Bowden, M., Mackay, D. and Topping, P. (eds), From Cornwall to Caithness: some aspects of British field Archaeology. Papers presented to Norman V Quinnell (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports British Series 209) p. 235-50
  • 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
  • Ralph, E., 1986, 'Bristol circa 1480' in Skelton, R.A. and Harvey, P.D.A. (eds), Local Maps and Plans from Medieval England (Oxford: Clarendon Press) p. 309-16
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 185
  • Williams, B., 1981, Excavations in the medieval suburb of Redcliffe, Bristol, 1980 (Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery)
  • Gomme A, Jenner M and Little B., 1979, Bristol, An Architectural History (Bristol)
  • Price, R., 1979, 'Excavation at the town wall, Bristol, 1974' in N Thomas (ed), Rescue Archaeology in the Bristol Area (City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery) p. 15-27
  • Lobel, M.D. and Carus-Wilson, E.M., 1975, 'Bristol' in Lobel, M.D. (ed) The Atlas of Historic Towns Vol. 2 (London: Scolar Press/Historic Towns Trust) online copy
  • 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 plan p. 61 download/view online
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 191
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1958, Buildings of England: North Somerset and Bristol (Harmondsworth)
  • Whittard, W.F., 1955, Bristol and the Adjoining Counties fig. 23
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 219-20
  • Seyer, 1821, Memoirs History and Topography of Bristol (Bristol) Vol. 1 p. 263-74, Vol. 2 p. 49-54


  • 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. 177-8, 188
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 86-7 online copy
  • Celia Fiennes, 1888, Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary (London: Field and Tuer, The Leadenhall Press) Vision of Britain online transcription


  • Cotswold Archaeology, 2008, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 52 online copy [online copy >]
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Cox, Simon, 1997-98, 'Medieval and Civil War Defences at Bristol' Castle Studies Group Newsletter No. 11 p. 23 online copy
  • Burchill, R., 1996, 'Excavations on the Marsh Wall, King Street, Bristol' Bristol and Avon Archaeology Vol. 14 p. 11-16
  • Youngs, S.M. et al, 1988 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 230 download copy
  • Jones, R., 1987, 'Bristol, Newgate' in Iles, R. and Kidd, A., 'Avon Archaeology 1986 and 1987' Bristol and Avon Archaeology Vol. 6 p. 49
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T.B., 1985, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1984' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 29 p. 162 download copy
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T.B., 1984, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1983' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 28 p. 207 download copy
  • Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T.B., 1983, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1982' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 27 p. 164-5 download copy
  • 1979, CBA: Archaeology in Britain p. 41-2
  • Jackson, R.G., 1972, CBA Group 12: Newsletter Vol. 7 p. 53
  • 1969, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 13 online copy
  • Hebditch, M., 1968, 'Excavations on the medieval defences, Portwall Lane, Bristol, 1965' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 87 p. 131-143 online copy
  • (Hebditch), 1966, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 10 p. 198 download copy
  • Barton, K.J., 1964, 'The excavation of a medieval bastion at St Nicholas's Almshouses, King Street, Bristol' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 184-212 download copy
  • 1961, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 5 p. 322 download copy
  • Rahtz, P.A., 1960, 'Excavation by the Town Wall, Baldwin Street, Bristol, 1957' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 79 p. 221-250 online copy
  • Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, J.G., 1958, 'Medieval Britain in 1957' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 2 p. 197 download copy
  • Marshall, K., 1951, 'Excavations in the City of Bristol, 1948-51' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 70 p. 5-50 online copy
  • Pritchard, J.E., 1926, 'Old Plans and Views of Bristol' Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 48 p. 325-353 online copy
  • Pritchard, 1901, Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Vol. 24 p. 274-6 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891-1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1225-1232) p. 483; (1232-47) p. 36; p. 47; p. 210; p. 250; p. 430; (1247-1258) p. 399; p. 570; (1258-1266) p. 179; (1266-1272) p. 19; (1292-1301) p. 325; (1317-1321) p. 578; (1330-1334) p. 64; (1334-1338) p. 7; p. 568; (1338-1340) p. 527; (1343-1345) p. 241; (1345-1348) p. 285; (1350-1354) p. 350; (1358-1361) p. 357; (1367-1370) p. 436; (1374-1377) p. 430; (1377-1381) p. 32; (1385-1389) p. 235; (1396-1399) p. 21; (1408-1413) p. 449; (1413-1416) p. 171; (1429-1436) p. 183; (1441-1446) p. 416 (murage grants) online copies via University of Iowa LibrariesNeale, Frances (ed), 2000, William Worcestre: The Topography of Medieval Bristol (Bristol Record Society 51) passim [online preview (not with all wall descriptions of 1480) >]
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants >], [petitions > ] and [other such >]. < >


  • Barber, A. Cullen, K., 2008, Redcliffe Village, Bristol. Archaeological Evaluation (Cotswold Archaeology) online copy
  • 2006, Bristol Local Development Framework: Archaeology and Development online copy (has useful plan of medieval Bristol on p. 24)