Great Yarmouth Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are major building remains

NameGreat Yarmouth Town Wall
Alternative NamesGernemuth
Historic CountryNorfolk
Modern AuthorityNorfolk
1974 AuthorityNorfolk
Civil ParishGreat Yarmouth

The Medieval Town Wall of Great Yarmouth runs from the river Bure to the banks of the river Yare and is about 23 ft high, 2238 yards long and encloses an area of 133 acres. The construction of the wall was authorised by the Crown in 1260 but building did not begin until 1284. The method of construction was that a trench, later the moat, was dug to a depth of 5ft. Its base was lines with large flagstones to form a solid level surface. Walling of knapped flint, some 2ft 6ins thick was then built as a revetment containing the loose material forming the trench sides. A 5ft trench was dug along the inner side of the revetment wall and at intervals of about 11ft. heaps of flint were placed to form piers for the brick arcading. The brick work formed the inner walling and knapped flint was built on the basal revetment to form the outer facing. In between the piers arrow slits were placed constructed of Caen stone. The top of the brick arcading was finished off as a wall walk and the flint facing was built up to form the parapet. Towers and gates were constructed at intervals along the wall. The wall was completed in the late C14th. In the C16th an earthen rampart was thrown up against the inner side of the wall as a defense against gunfire from ships. Gun ports were constructed on top of the rampart. The Mount (see TG 50 NW 17) and the South Mound (see TG 50 NW 5) were constructed at this time as emplacements for ordnance.

The town was refortified during the Civil War when the moat was redug. By the late C18th the moat was refilled with soil and rubbish and the wall had ceased its defensive function (Gt Yarmouth Town Wall Report Oct 1969; Turner 1971).

Great Yarmouth Town Wall is in the main visible throughout its entire length. Modern buildings occupy a few short lengths and modern roads now replace the old gates but many of the towers remain. Traces of the internal earthworks are still visible but there is no trace of the moat

Where best preserved the thickness of the wall attains 2.0m with a height of 6.0m (F1 RSC 28-OCT-80).

In the 16th century the Duke of Norfolk ordered that the wall be reinforced. This was done by the building up of a rampart of largely domestic rubbish behind the wall. This reinforcing process was repeated several times in 1557 and 1587. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

11 towers remain of medieval wall. Licensed in time of Henry III (1261) but not commenced until 1276; murage grants renewed on various occasions; completed in the late C14, Strengthened in C16 and ceased having a defensive role in the late C18. Circa 23 ft high, 2238yds long and encloses an area of 133 acres. There are several gunports in the South-East tower and the adjoining wall, dating to circa 1460. The defences were modified in 1587 when it was found that they were poorly kept. A rampart was added outside the walls from the South gate around to Blackfriars Gate.

- 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 ReferenceTG526073
Latitude52.5995597839355
Longitude1.72994995117188
Eastings652670
Northings307340
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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 70-72
  • Potter, J.F., 2008, The medieval town wall of Great Yarmouth: a geological perlustration (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports British Series 461)
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 41, 240, 254, 264
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 57
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 159
  • Kent, Peter, 1988, Fortifications of East Anglia (Lavenham: Ternence Dalton)
  • 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. 2 p. 311-2
  • Wilton, J.W., 1979, Earthworks and Fortifications of Norfolk (Weathercock Press) p. 31-2
  • 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. 139-44
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 227-9
  • Ferrier, 1908, in Astley, Memorials of Old Norfolk (London) 157-60
  • Blomefield, F., 1810, 'East Flegg Hundred: Great Yarmouth' An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk Vol. 11 p. 352-64 (history) online transcription
  • Swinden, 1772, History and Antiquities of Great Yarmouth (Norwich) p. 75-130

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Fyfe, A., 2015, 'Great Yarmouth town wall' Casemate Vol. 102 p. 31
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Ch√Ęteau Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 213
  • Carter, A., 1980, 'Yarmouth - the defences' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 137 p. 303-4
  • Green, C., 1970, 'Excavations on the town wall, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, 1955' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 35 p. 109-117 or p. 167-70
  • O'Neil and Stephens, 1945, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 28 p. 1-6
  • Tingey, 1914, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 18 p. 129-48
  • Palmer, C.J., 1864, 'The Town Wall of Great Yarmouth' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 6 p. 106-24 online copy
  • Palmer, C.J., 1852, 'Remarks on the monastry of the Dominican Friars at Great Yarmouth' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 3 p. 389-93 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891-1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1258-66) p. 177 (licence to crenellate); (1272-1281) p. 315 (audit of murage); (1258-1266) p. 177; (1281-1291) p. 177; (1321-1324) p. 35; (1324-1327) p. 134; (1327-1330) p. 106; (1330-1334) p. 333; (1334-1338) p. 151; CPR (1338-1340) p. 156; (1345-1348) p. 79; (1350-1354) p. 23; (1358-1361) p. 62; (1361-1364) p. 381; (1367-1370) p. 334; (1377-1381) p. 382; (1381-1385) p. 438; (1389-1392) p. 277; (1391-1396) p. 603; (1396-1399) p. 572; (1399-1401) p. 172; (1401-1405) p. 179; (1405-1408) p. 122; (1408-1413) p. 33; (1416-1422) p. 123; p. 304; (1422-1429) p. 411; (1429-1436) p. 112; (1441-1446) p. 180; (1452-1461) p. 468; (1461-1467) p. 200 (murage grants) online copies via University of Iowa LibrariesMaxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1902, Calendar of Close Rolls Edward I (1279-1288) Vol. 2 p. 328 (40 marks for defences) [view online copy (requires subscription but searchable) > http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=1074] [alternative online copy > http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/u?/FHMedieval2,62510]
  • - < >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]. < >

Other

  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk East of England Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 40 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 42 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 45 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 55 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 East of England (London: English Heritage) p. 50 online copy