Norwich City Wall and Cow Tower

Has been described as a Certain Artillery Fort, and also as a Certain Chain Tower, and also as a Certain Urban Defence

There are major building remains

NameNorwich City Wall and Cow Tower
Alternative NamesNorwici
Historic CountryNorfolk
Modern AuthorityNorfolk
1974 AuthorityNorfolk
Civil ParishNorwich

Remains of City Wall. City obtained royal grants of murage in 1297, 1305, 1317, 1337 and 1343 (this one specifically to make a dyke). Defences said, by Dugdale, to date from 1253 (specifically licentiam communes Norwici includendi eandem villam cum fossis ) but northern part of town may have been defended from Saxon times. As early as 1385 Norwich had a substantial arsenal of artillery, more than 40 guns being placed on the walls. Cow Tower (TG23960918) is one of the earliest blockhouses to have been built and is an impressive example of the use of brick in the medieval period. It was originally the toll house for a monastery founded in 1249. It was ruinous by 1378 and converted to form part of the city's defences in the late C14 (completed by 1390). It was further altered in C15. Boom towers, at the southern end of the defences, controlled access along the river.

Only at Ber Street, to the east of the site of the gate, does the wall survive to its full height including the parapet wall of the wall walk with merlons and crenellations. From this section it is possible to get some sense of the scale of the wall, here almost 7 metres high, though even here what has been lost is the effect of seeing the wall rise up from the far side of a wide and deep ditch. The walls must originally have presented an impressive if not ominous view from inside the city as well as out, looming over all domestic buildings and dominating the view along all the streets that led up to the gates. The wall was at least 1.9 metres thick though it is not always possible to determine the full width from the standing sections where extensive areas of facing flint were lost when buildings added against the wall were demolished. The full thickness of the wall has only been revealed when sections have been excavated. The wall through Jarrold's factory at River Lane is thin and completely rebuilt above ground

Excavations by the County Archaeologist revealed that because the outer ditch here was particularly wide and deep where it joined the river, the original wall, surviving below the present ground level, was very substantial. The wide wall allowed for a wall walk at the top protected by a thinner parapet on the outer side. Where this parapet survives at Carrow Hill it rises about 2 metres above the walk, providing full cover for men keeping watch or defending the city from the wall top. (Norwich City Walls Survey 1999-2002)

Gatehouse Comments

The mid C14 work is well described in a charter between Richard Spynk and the town dated 1343. He seems to have directed and part funded the work which included 28 espringalds (large crossbows) each with a hundred gogeons (bolts) in a locked box.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTG239091
Latitude52.6341896057129
Longitude1.30826997756958
Eastings623960
Northings309180
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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 108-13
  • Jary, Leo, R., 2011, Through Ancient Gates. Reliving Norwich History: our medieval city defences (Larks Press)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 46, 421
  • Ayers, Brian, 2010, 'The fortifications of medieval and early modern Norwich' in Lübecker Kolloquium zur Stadtarchäologie im Hanseraum VII: Die Befestigungen (Lübeck: Verlag Schmidt-Römhild) p. 29-46
  • Purton, P.F., 2010, A History of the Late Medieval Siege: 1200-1500 (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press) p. 138, 271
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) passim
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 67
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 161-2
  • Ayers, B., 1994, English Heritage Book of Norwich (London: Batsford/English Heritage)
  • Ayers, Brian, 1994, 'Norwich' in Wade-Martins, P, (ed), An Historical Atlas of Norfolk (2edn Norwich; Norfolk Museums) p. 74-5
  • 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
  • Ayers, B.S., 1987, Digging deeper: recent Archaeology in Norwich (Norwich: Norfolk Museums Service) (esp p. 16–23, Cow Tower and castle keep)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 311
  • Wilton, J.W., 1979, Earthworks and Fortifications of Norfolk (Weathercock Press) p. 28-30
  • Campbell, J., 1975, 'Norwich' 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. 65 download/view online
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 129-38
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1962, Buildings of England: Norwich and north-east Norfolk (Penguin) p. 258-9
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 227
  • Collins, A.E., 1910, The Walls of Norwich, being Report of City Committee as to the City Wall (Norwich)
  • Fitch, Robert, 1861, Views of the Gates of Norwich made in the years 1792-3 by the late John Ninham online copy
  • Blomefield, Francis, 1806, 'The city of Norwich, chapter 13: Of the city in Edward I's time' An Essay towards a Topographical History of the County of Norfolk Vol. 3 p. 63-4, 71 (for old surveys) online transcription

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Anon, 2007, 'Norwich City Walls under Siege' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 20 p. 139 (news report)
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Ayers, B.S., Smith, R. and Tillyard, M., 1988, 'The Cow Tower, Norwich: a detailed survey and partial reinterpretation' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 184–207 download copy
  • Saunders, A.D., 1985, 'The Cow Tower, Norwich: an East Anglian bastille?' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 29 p. 109–19 download copy
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 211-12
  • Atkin, M.W. and Sutermeister, H., 1978, 'Excavations in Norwich, 1977-8: the Norwich Survey, seventh interim report' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 37 p. 19-55
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1977, 'Early Gunports' Fort Vol. 4 p. 83
  • Atkin, M.W. and Carter, A., 1977, 'Excavations in Norwich, 1976-7: the Norwich Survey, sixth interim report' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 36 p. 287-304
  • Atkin, M.W., Carter, A., Baxter, M., Donaldson, P. and Roberts, J.P., 1976, 'Excavations in Norwich, 1975-6: the Norwich Survey, fifth interim report' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 36 p. 39-71
  • Carter, A., Roberts, J.P. and Sutermeister, H., 1974, 'Excavations in Norwich, 1973: the Norwich Survey, third interim report' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 36 p. 39-71
  • Carter, A., Roberts, J.P. and Sutermeister, H., 1973, 'Excavations in Norwich, 1972: the Norwich Survey, second interim report' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 35 p. 443-68
  • Hurst, J.G., 1965, 'Excavations at Barn Road, Norwich 1954-55' Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 33 p. 131-179 esp 139-43
  • 1964, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 267 download copy
  • Hurst and Golson, 1957, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 31 p. 24-48
  • Jope, 1952, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 30 p. 294-300
  • Jope, E.M., 1950-51, 'The Norwich Excavations, 1948' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 106 p. 75-6 online copy
  • Tingey, 1914, Norfolk Archaeology Vol. 18 p. 129-48
  • Pettigrew, T.J., 1858, 'on the walls and gates of the city of Norwich' Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vol. 14 p. 215-22 (plan) online copy
  • Britton, 1847, Proceedings of the Archaeological Institute (at Norwich) p. 132-8

Guide Books

  • Wood, A.A., 1970, Norwich City Walls (Norwich: Norwich City Council)

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1891-1916, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1292-1301) p. 327; (1301-1307) p. 317; (1317-1321) p. 50; (1334-1338) p. 529; (1343-1345) p. 149 (Murage grants) online copies via University of Iowa LibrariesHudson, William, and J.C. Tingey, (eds.), 1910, The Records of the City of Norwich Vol. 2 (notably the charter between the town and Richard Spynk of 1343 p. 216-222 [online copy > http://archive.org/stream/recordsofcityofn02norwuoft#page/216/mode/1up])
  • Hudson, William, and J.C. Tingey, (eds.), 1906, The Records of the City of Norwich Vol. 1
  • - < >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

  • Percival, J.W. and Westall, S., 2007, An Archaeological Evaluation at Anglia Square, Norwich; Phase 1 (NAU Archaeology) online copy