Alnwick Town Wall

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameAlnwick Town Wall
Alternative NamesAlnewyke; Bondgate; Hotspur Gateway; Pottergate; Clayport; Narrowgate
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishAlnwick

Berwick and Alnwick were the only towns in Northumberland to receive medieval defensive walls. But above-ground remains of Alnwick?s defences, apart from Bondgate Tower, have not survived and parts of its course remain uncertain. As a feature which for a time defined the extent of the borough town, though, the former course of the walls has left distinct residual marks upon it.

Licence to build a defensive wall around Alnwick was granted in 1433 by Henry VI although 50 years elapsed before they were considered complete or at least functional. Building the walls was largely the responsibility of the burgesses, and difficulty in raising the finances was probably the main reason for the slow progress of the project. From 1452 onwards £20 was received annually from customs for the work and further permission from the crown to raise money was granted in 1472 (Turner 1971, 97). Tate (1866, 99) presents the documentary evidence for the financing of the walls at this time.

Course of the wall

Documentary and cartographic sources, and since 2001 archaeological evidence, can be used to follow the line of most of the length of the defences. From the standing Bondgate Tower - the east gate - it ran along the western side of what is today Hotspur Street. The wall presumably had an external ditch and an open area beyond; and roads beyond the wall such as Hotspur Street will have developed from paths running along the ditch). Archaeological evaluation in Beal's Yard, on the west side of Hotspur Street, in 2002, recovered evidence for what was possibly an earth rampart to the rear of the wall overlying an earlier metalled surface (Event: 13229) Turning west, the wall ran along the northern side of Green Batt (formerly Back Row) to the site of the Clayport Tower-the west gate. The 1709 rental list of the borough includes Clayport Tower 'whereon the Town Wall is built' (Tate 1866, 331-332)

The Tower has gone, but its site is shown on a number of plans including that of Armstrong?s of 1769.

From Clayport, the wall ran up the eastern side of what is today Dispensary Street to Pottergate. Seventeenth-century court records describe the line of Dispensary Street as a church path (to St Michael's) along the old wall (Tate 1866, 344). The present Pottergate Tower was built in the 18th century and presumably sat on the site of the earlier tower. However, Mayson's survey of 1622 shows a gate at the junction with Narrowgate on the line of the Bow Burn, but no gate in the location of the present Pottergate Tower. The implications of this puzzling cartographic presence and absence are uncertain; possibly the map simply got it wrong. That 'a considerable length of the town wall' continued north from the present location of Pottergate Tower and along Northumberland Street is noted by Tomlinson (1888, 374); he added that it survived to 'five feet in height, with the remains of a corner tower'.

From Northumberland Street, the wall is thought to have turned east along the rear of properties along Bailiffgate to Narrowgate, where Tate mentions a tower stood, although there is little other supporting evidence for it. The course of the wall from this point is quite uncertain. It may have carried on to the castle defences, with a spur running on to Bondgate (Skelley 1897, 9-19).

It is also uncertain whether a defensive wall was built along the edge of the Bow Burn south of the castle although this is probably unlikely given the presence of the castle defences beyond. Possibly some means of keying into these defences was effected. Beyond the castle, there would certainly be need for the town wall to continue but no residual topographic features or specific documentary evidence has survived to indicate its course. And until very recently, no traces of the wall itself had been recorded along this line (Conzen 1969, 41). However, in 2001, archaeological monitoring of ground works in Greenwell Road (Event: 13296) located a stretch of the truncated town wall running on a north-east to south-west orientation. It lay at a depth of 1.1m below ground surface and was 1.55m wide (about five feet) and constructed of squared sandstone blocks bonded with lime mortar. The surviving depth of the wall was not established. According to Tate, the wall was six feet (1.8m) thick, and 20ft 6ins (6.15m) high with four towers (Tate 1866: 244).

Bondgate Tower (HER 4830; SM Northumberland 61)

Also known as The Hotspur Gateway, this is the surviving upstanding remnant of the town?s medieval defences. It was built after 1434 (c.1450) by the second Earl of Northumberland and is represented on Norton?s 1624 map. It formed the east gate in the town walls, and was constructed in rough ashlar and was not crenellated. It comprises a central segmental archway with a vaulted passage on four wide ribs. On its east face with its narrow lookout slits there are the remains of large corbels in the centre to support machicolations. On the panel below is a much-eroded lion rampant. The west face is slightly set back above the second stage, with a plain two light mullion window above the archway and a blocked cross window to left. There are portcullis slits to the outer arch.

Clayport Tower (HER 4831)

This was apparently similar in form to Bondgate Tower, but larger (Graham 1994: 18). It formed the west gate. The tower is shown on Norton?s 1624 plan of the town and is marked on Armstrong?s plan of 1769. It was demolished in 1804 but its site is still shown on Wood?s town plan of 1827.

Pottergate Tower (HER 4523)

The present Pottergate Tower is of 18th century date and is thought to lie on the site of the earlier tower, although this remains contentious. There is some uncertainty about whether a gateway was located on the junction of Narrowgate or Pottergate in the 17th century. Any structure on the site, whatever its nature, was demolished when the tower was built in 1768.

Narrowgate Tower (HER 4832)

Although some secondary sources, notably Tate (1866, 244), have assumed the presence of a tower on Narrowgate towards its junction with Bondgate, this is uncertain. There is some uncertainty about whether a gateway was located on the junction of Narrowgate or Pottergate in the 17th century. The site (without any remains) of a tower is indicated on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1860. (Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey)

The Hotspur Gateway or Bondgate Tower NU 1813 SE 1/18 20.2.52. GV 2. Built after 1434 (circa 1450) by the 2nd Earl of Northumberland. East gate in former town walls, polygonal on each side of arched thoroughfare on outside, straight front to west. Not crenellated. Rough ashlar. Three stages. Central segmental. archway with vaulted passage on 4 wide ribs. East face: remains of large corbels in centre, panel below with much faded lion rampant by a sculptor named Matthew, narrow lookouts. West face; slight set back above 2nd stage, a plain 2 light mullion window above the archway and a blocked cross window to left. There are portcullis slits to the outer arch. (Listed Building Report)

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 ReferenceNU188132
Latitude55.4126281738281
Longitude-1.7036999464035
Eastings418855
Northings613228
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved
Photo by Philip Davis All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 26
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 87,139,141,143,192,269
  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 117-8
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 170-2
  • Adam Nicolson and Peter Morter, 1989, Prospects of England: 2000 years seen through twelve English towns p. 36-47
  • 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. 362
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 28-30
  • 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. 97-8 (wrongly calls the licence to crenellate a murage grant, otherwise excellent)
  • Conzen, M.R.G. 1969 (2edn), Alnwick, Northumberland, A Study in Town Plan Analysis (London: Institute of British Geographers 27) p. 1-48
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co) p. 236
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1888, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 374
  • Tate, George., 1866-69, The History of the Borough, Castle, and Barony of Alnwick (Alnwick) Vol. 1 p. 236-44 Vol. 2 p. 43-4
  • Anon, 1822, Descriptive and Historical View of Alnwick (Alnwick) p. 125
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 2 p. 244-52 online copy

Journals

  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • 2001-02, Archaeology in Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 9-10
  • Hodgson, J.C., 1916, 'List of Ruined Towers, Chapels, etc., in Northumberland; compiled about 1715 by John Warburton, Somerset Herald, aided by John Horsley' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser3) Vol. 13 p. 3 abridged transcription
  • Skelly, G., 1897-8, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Vol. 8 p. 19 online copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1907, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry VI (1429-36) Vol. 2 p. 345 (licence to crenellate) 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]. < >

Other

  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 11 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 11 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 12 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 27 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 26 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 25 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 34 online copy
  • Northumberland County Council, 2009, 'Alnwick' Northumberland Extensive Urban Survey doi:10.5284/1000177 [download copy > http://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/northumberland_eus_2011/downloads.cfm?REDSQUIDARCHIVES_7_799BB461-A0C4-488C-B90DF1259EFE2DA8&area=Alnwick]