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HER Number:MSH52
Type of Record:Monument
Name:Town Defences - Catchcold Tower
Grid Reference:SU 4186 1159
Map:Show location on Streetmap


Catchcold Tower is towards the north end of the western town wall. Built in the early fifteenth century (by 1420, 1429, 1439 depending on source you read – probably the latter), it was one of the last major additions to the medieval town defences, being broadly contemporary with Gods House Tower. It was inserted into the line of the existing town wall. The tower was purpose-built to carry cannon and therefore has a very different design to the other round and half-round towers along the walls; it is much larger, projects further from the town wall and has machicolations below the parapet. The tower has a vaulted chamber at wall-walk level which contains three “inverted keyhole” gunports. The stone vault probably supported a platform for heavy guns above. The 1454 defence terrier mentions four loops for this tower. The parapet would originally have had embrasures, but has since been rebuilt.
The tower was built on the shoreline at the foot of a cliff, and the ground level to the east is high. The shore was piled all along the base of walls to prevent erosion by the tides, and stones were dumped between the piles to make sea banks; this continued until at least the late 17th century. The tower was repaired in the 16th century.
During the 1939-45 war, an anti-aircraft machine gun was mounted on top of the tower (see MSH161). This was probably the last use of the town walls for defensive purposes. The remains of the 1941 gun mountings survive on the top of the tower.
Archaeological excavations were carried out in and to the rear of Catchcold Tower in 1989 and 1990 (SOU 409). The work including reducing the ground level and exposing the wall walk in the area between Arundel Tower and Forty Steps. A soakaway was dug at the back of Catchcold Tower, revealing the upper parts of the foundations of the back wall of the tower, including an archway. Early modern activity had removed earlier deposits in front of the tower. It was not possible to prove whether the gap between the tower and cliff was originally filled up or left open. The tower roof was examined; the present roof surface appeared to be 18th century but an earlier surface beneath may have been medieval. The tower is accessed by steps from the wall walk to the south, and evidence was found for similar steps on the north side.

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument 1001927

Other References/Statuses

  • Old Southampton SMR No/Backup file: SU 4111 NE 39  BU

Monument Types

  • FLANKING TOWER (Built, Medieval - 1400 AD to 1439 AD (between))
  • INTERVAL TOWER (Built, Medieval - 1400 AD to 1439 AD (between))
  • SITE LAYER (Medieval - 1400 AD? to 1499 AD? (between))
  • INTERVAL TOWER (Altered, Post Medieval - 1600 AD? to 1699 AD? (between))
  • DRAIN (Post Medieval - 1700 AD? to 1799 AD? (between))

Full description

Records for the town walls are currently being enhanced and it is intended that further details will be added to this description at a later date. The summary incorporates new information not yet included in this description. (SCC HER 11/12/09)
[5]: Extract from Listed Building Description. TOWN WALLS - Section of wall running west from Bargate to Arundel Tower and then south to point just south of Castle Water Gate. It includes Arundel Tower, Catchcold Tower, Garderobe Tower, The 40 Steps, Castle Water Gate and Castle Vault (formerly listed as Section of Town Wall running from the point of junction with the Castle Wall just north of Simnel Street to its eastern termination just west of Bargate). Grade I.
- Mediaeval City Walls. It includes ….Catchcold tower, an early C15 tower with 3 gunports, amongst the earliest in Europe. …. Scheduled as an ancient monument.
[Derived from English Heritage LBS download dated 19/08/2005. Crown Copyright. Reproduced under the terms of the Open Government Licence.]

[4]: Catchcold Tower is unique amoung the towers of Southampton because it was built to accommodate guns, unlike the other towers which had been first constructed with arrow slits, some of which were later adapted for the use of guns.

(Sources [1] to [4], and [6], are the results of SOU 409. [6] not yet incorporated into this record.)

[1] SOU 409 Results, 1989: An area measuring 14m by 2m was excavated to the east of Catchcold Tower. The wallwalk adjacent to the tower and walls was exposed at 0.30m BMGS. An 18th century drain ran north-south behind the tower, removing direct archaeological relationships.

[4] SOU 409: Archaeological work on Catchcold Tower was undertaken as part of a programme to landscape and enhance the wallwalk area between Arundel Tower and Forty Steps, reducing the ground level in this area. This level reduction exposed the wallwalk (in a fairly intact state) on both the north and south sides of Catchcold Tower itself.

[4] SOU 409 Results, 1990: Archaeologists dug a soakaway measuring some 2m square and 2m deep at the back of Catchcold Tower. A series of dump layers were revealed, associated with the construction of the tower, but their exact relationship to the tower could not be discovered. Examination of the west elevation of the town wall seemed to confirm that Catchcold Tower is a late insertion, probably 15th century. (The first documentary mention is 1429.) The roof of the tower was also examined. The present roof surface appeared to be 18th century but an earlier surface beneath may be medieval. The possibility of steps from the wallwalk on the north side of the tower is suggested by some stonework features (there are steps to the south of the tower).

[3] (also [4]) SOU 409, 1990: The vault roof of Catchcold Tower was found to be in poor condition. Several machicolations, previously blocked with 18th century bricks, have been unblocked.

Sources / Further Reading

---SSH3068 - Unpublished document: Ancient Monument File AM17 - North-west town walls.
---SSH3124 - Unpublished document: Ancient Monument File AM7 - Catchcold Tower.
[1]SSH712 - Serial: Morton, AD (ed), SCC. 1990. Annual Report of the Southampton Archaeological & Heritage Management Section 1990. p 45
[2]SSH713 - Serial: The Society for Medieval Archaeology. 1991. Medieval Archaeology, Vol 35, 1991 (for 1990). p159
[3]SSH678 - Serial: M Hughes (ed), Hampshire County Council. 1991. Archaeology in Hampshire Annual Report for 1990. p45
[4]SSH521 - Serial: Morton, AD (ed), SCC. 1991. Annual Report of the Southampton Archaeological & Heritage Management Section for 1990-1991. p41
[5]SSH2888 - Digital archive: English Heritage. 2005. Listed Buildings System dataset for Southampton.
[6]SSH3155 - Archaeological Report: M Smith. 1993. Excavations at Arundel and Catchcold Towers, Southampton.. SOU 272, SOU 409.

Associated Finds: None recorded

Associated Events

  • ESH409 - Excavations at and near Catchcold Tower in 1989 and 1990 (Ref: SOU 409)

Related records

MSH14Child of: Town Defences - town wall, towers and gates
MSH161Parent of: Catchcold Tower - Site of World War Two Gun Mounting

Associated Links: None recorded

If you have any feedback or new information about this record, please email the Southampton HER (her@southampton.gov.uk).