Lancaster Town Wall

Has been described as a Questionable Urban Defence

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains

NameLancaster Town Wall
Alternative Names
Historic CountryLancashire
Modern AuthorityLancashire
1974 AuthorityLancashire
Civil ParishLancaster

C14 masonry wall planned but probably never built or never completed. (Bond 1987)

The Wery Wall is a surviving fragment of Roman walling on the east slope of Castle Hill adjacent to the rear of Mitre House. It measures 4.0m by 3.0m by 3.0m high and is situated on a very steep bank running north south. Only the rubble core of the wall remains, with no facing stones. Historical documents suggest that there was considerably more of this wall in existence in the 18th century, but its full course cannot now be traced. The remains represent a section of a bastion of the last Roman fort on the site, which probably dates to the fourth century.

The visible earthwork rampart in Vicarage Field follows the line of the earlier Roman defences but is not itself apparently Roman. In the west, its highest point, it overlies the Roman ditches. The rampart consists of a thick mound of black earth up to 4ft deep, and west of which there had been an attempt to build a stone revetment from material robbed from the Roman wall. Medieval green-glazed pottery found suggests that this rampart is medieval. In 1316 Lancaster had a single grant of Murage and these earthwork defences may be connected with the Priory or Castle, which both stand on the plateau of the hill within part of the area of the Roman fort. (Lancs CC HER)

The old waul of the circuite of the priory cummith almost to Lune bridge. Sum have therby supposid that it was a peace of a waul of the toune. But yn deade I espiyd in no place that the toune was ever waullid. (Leland)

Gatehouse Comments

The grant of murage of 1316 was actually a grant for murage and pavage and was given at the same time as a grant to Leicester, another town held by Thomas, earl of Lancaster. The mention of murage in this context may not actually reflect an intent to build walls in Lancaster (it may be a clerical simplification of two grants; writing the two in the same form). The VCH suggests part of the town (including the priory) was within the circuit of a Roman fort but much of the town, even from a relatively early a period, was outside this circuit and there is nothing to suggest any attempt was ever made to defend this area which probably included the market. The remains of a medieval wall in Vicarage field would seem to be the priory boundary wall.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSD473619
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved
Photograph by Matthew Emmott. All rights reserved

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  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 84
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 182, 269
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Lancashire and Cheshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 33 (where mistakenly reports no ditch)
  • 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
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 250
  • 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. 104
  • Farrer, William and Brownbill, J. (eds), 1914, VCH Lancashire Vol. 8 p. 11- (Town history no mention of defences) online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England  (Sutton Publishing) p. 268
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 11 online copy


  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1898, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1313-17) Vol. 2 p. 512 online copy
  • - < >Also see the Gatehouse murage pages for full details of murage [grants >], [petitions > ] and [other such >]. < >


  • Lancashire County Council and Egerton Lea Consultancy, 2006, Lancashire Historic Town Survey Programme: Lancaster; Historic Town Assessment Report (Lancashire County Council) (no mention of defences) online copy