Swansea Town Walls

Has been described as a Certain Urban Defence

There are masonry footings remains

NameSwansea Town Walls
Alternative NamesAbertawe; Seinhenydd; Sueineshea; Suenesel; Swinesey; Sweyneseye; Swyneseye
Historic CountryGlamorgan
Modern AuthoritySwansea
1974 AuthorityWest Glamorgan
CommunityCastle

In his charter of 1306, William de Bros promised not to take a murage tax (for wall building) from the burgesses of Swansea without their consent. In 1317 and again in 1328, the King gave the burgesses the right to charge tolls on goods coming into Swansea and to use the money to build walls or pave streets.

Swansea's town walls were standing, at least partially, by 1332, when St. David's Hospital was established, as it was given plots of land "next to the wall of Sweynes".

A deed of 1499 speaks of a burgage plot "extending to the high road called Frog Street on the north, and as far as the Town Ditch to the south". The boundaries of two burgages in Frog Street and Fisher Street (1449) were formed by the Town Ditch.

A gate may have existed in the defences at the point where Frog Street joined Wassail Street, as Cromwell's 1650 survey of Swansea refers to "Wassal Street, without the gate", and an entry in the town Account Books for 1658 records the disbursement of 11s 2d "for 28 bushells of lime to mend the old gate at Wasell Street".

Swansea's town walls, gates and the town ditch appear in records through to the start of the eighteenth century.

The town defences subsequently disappeared during redevelopment of the medieval town. Specific features which have been rediscovered during development and excavations are referenced by the PRNs cross referenced to this one.

There is no visible evidence of the walls above ground but two murage grants are recorded in 1317 and 1338. John Pencok's land grant of 1498 describes the "town fosse" as lying west of his land. Morgan (1899) proposed that the wall followed the old bailey wall along College Street and turning south to Waterloo Street (formely called Old Walls). Excavations have exposed sections of the wall in several places. The corner house to the north-west of Church Street in 1897

In 1926 two sections were revealed in Quay Street and a 20 foot high wall with half a round tower during demolition in King Street and Welcome Lane. Jones thought it be part of the town wall and Llewelyn Morgan considered that it may be 14th century. It runs in line with the Castle wall and another similar section runs south from King's Street. A flight of steps had been built against the tower from the High Steet to the Strand. Excavation in the 1970s (SS656934) revealed a 20 metre section of the town ditch running e-w under King's lane. The ditch was U shaped in section with a narrow bottom 30 cms wide, 3 metres below the present surface. It contained pottery sherds, shellfish and iron slag. Further work revealed that the ditch cut through an earlier Medieval ditch also U shaped and 2.5 metres south. A Medieval sherd was also found in this earlier ditch. Excavation at SS 65529295 revealed the walls at Whitewalls. Eight and twelve courses of the wall survived. It was constructed of roughly dressed local stone and was 1.09m wide with a ditch in front about 10 metres wide. East of it were the foundations of a building running parallel with it. Finds include 13th - 14th century pottery. (Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust HER)

Gatehouse Comments

Murage grants are recorded for AD 1317 and 1338 for the town of Swansea. The defences of Swansea have been demolished (apart from one possible tower) and most of their line built over. However, excavation has revealed much of their extent and form. The grant of murage in 1338 was cancelled after 4 months because it was provoking the threat of violent attack on the town by disgruntled tax payers. The walls seem to have been built in the early C14 and to be standing by 1332. The area enclosed was fairly extensive. Swansea was a prosperous medieval town and seems to have been able to fund the maintenance of the town walls from normal town incomes without the surtax of murage.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

The National Monument Record (Coflein) number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSS657929
Latitude51.6191101074219
Longitude-3.94285988807678
Eastings265700
Northings192900
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved
Copyright Dave Barlow of Abaroths World All Rights Reserved

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Books

  • Salter, Mike, 2013, Medieval Walled Towns (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 181
  • Creighton, O.H. and Higham, R.A., 2005, Medieval Town Walls (Stroud: Tempus) p. 27 (plan)
  • Coulson, C., 2003, Castles in Medieval Society. Fortresses in England, France, and Ireland in the Central Middle Ages (Oxford) p. 284
  • Pettifer, Adrian, 2000, Welsh Castles, A Guide by Counties (Boydell Press) p. 109
  • Salter, Mike, 1991, The Castles of Gwent, Glamorgan and Gower (Malvern) p. 71
  • 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
  • Soulsby, Ian, 1983, The Towns of Medieval Wales (Phillimore; Chichester) p. 242-47 (plan)
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 175
  • Edith Evans, with contributions by C J Spurgeon, 1983, Swansea Castle and the medieval town (Swansea: Swansea City Council; Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust)
  • 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 online copy
  • Turner, H.L., 1971, Town Defences in England and Wales (London) p. 218
  • Morgan, W. Ll., 1899, Antiquarian Survey of East Gower (London) p. 92-3 and plan facing p. 86

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Creighton, Oliver, 2006, ''Castles of Communities': Medieval Town Defences in England; Wales and Gascony' Château Gaillard Vol. 22 p. 75-86
  • Spurgeon, C.J., 2001, 'The Medieval Town Defences of Glamorgan' Studia Celtica Vol. 35 p. 161-212 esp p. 200-210
  • Youngs, S.M. and Clark, J., 1981, ‘Medieval Britain in 1980’, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 25 p. 215 download copy
  • Sell, S.H., 1981, 'Excavations at Little Wind Street, Swansea, 1976' Gower Vol. 32 p. 71-83 online copy
  • Sell, S.H. and Parkhouse, J., 1980, 'Rutland Street, Swansea' Archaeology in Wales Vol. 20 p. 64
  • Lightfoot, K., 1979, 'The Medieval Town Defences of Swansea: The Whitewalls Excavation, 1978-79' Gower Vol. 30 p. 76-9 online copy
  • Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust, 1979, ‘Archaeological notes: Whitewalls, Swansea’, Morgannwg Vol. 23 p. 89-90 online copy
  • Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1978, ‘Medieval Britain in 1977’, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 22 p. 269 download copy
  • (Morris) in Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1976, ‘Medieval Britain in 1975’, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 20 p. 192 download copy
  • Morris, B., 1975, 'Swansea's Medieval Defences - Some Recent Discoveries' Gower Vol. 26 p. 11-15 online copy
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132

Guide Books

  • Evans, Edith, 1983, Swansea Castle and the Medieval Town (Swansea)
  • Morgan, W.Ll., 1914, The Castle of Swansea (Devizes) p. 35-8
  • Morris, B., Swansea Town and Castle

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1317-21) Vol. 3 p. 59 (murage grant) online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1904, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward II (1321-24) Vol. 4 p. 6 (murage grant) 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]. < >