'Castles of Communities': medieval town defences in England; Wales and Gascony
University of Exeter
Meetings and Proceedings
CRAHM publications, University of Caen
Medieval town defences represent a somewhat neglected area of research, despite important groundwork and some influential studies of individual fortified towns and cities. This paper presents some key data derived from a recent research project investigating the archaeology and social history of urban defences in England, Wales and ‘English’ Gascony in the period c. 1050-1500. Combining the evidence of archaeology, architecture, documents and urban topography, the project has aimed to re-evaluate the functions and significance of urban defences, examining them as expressions of identity and commercial need as well as military features. Particular themes addressed in the paper are: the number of fortified towns and their distribution within the urban hierarchy ; the date, construction and topographies of circuits ; and the functions of defences. Bastides of the thirteenth and fourteenth century and their defences are examined in a case study that explores these themes further. Overall, the evidence suggests that some commonly held ideas about town defences – including the notions that they represented defining features of urban settlements and ‘communal’ fortifications – are in urgent need of re-appraisal.
Reproduced with permission of the publisher.
In: Flambard Hericher, A.M., Ettel, P., and McNeill, T., (dir.), Château Gaillard 21: Etudes de castellologie médiévale: Château et Peuplement; Actes du colloque international de Voiron (Isère, France), 28 août - 4 septembre 2004. Caen: Publications du CRAHM, 2006. pp. 25-36