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Description:Very little is known of the way the defences were maintained and used in the period between the end of Roman Exeter and the Norman conquest. There is a little fabric in the area of the Norman Castle which can be demonstrated to be pre-conquest, and which includes repairs to the facework and the addition of a crenellated parapet (described in full separately; see Monument No. 11000); since this is built in a distinctive white Triassic sandstone it is possible that the use of this stone elsewhere on the circuit reflects work of the pre-conquest period, although Triassic sandstone continued in use until the 13th century (it appears, for instance, in the towers added to the wall probably in the 13th century) and so its incidence alone can only be taken to indicate work before that date (Blaylock 1995, 33). In the 1995 survey, a number of builds were identified near the western corner of the city, as candidates for work of an early period (ibid., sections Ext. 15.2, 15.3, 16.4, 16.5), since they contain large quantities of this stone, albeit mixed in with other stone types; at the least these remain candidates for re-use of stone from earlier builds. There are a number of possible historical contexts in the late 9th or early 10th century, into which work on the wall might be fitted, but nothing to indicate a preference for one above another. The city, amongst other Wessex towns, was reputedly re-fortified by Alfred (871-99) between c.880 and 892 (Allan et al. 1984, 396), and the addition of a stone parapet at Northernhay Gardens (and elsewhere), could well have been a part of such work. Equally it could have taken place under Athelstan (925-939) who is said by William of Malmesbury to have constructed a wall of squared stones at Exeter (ibid., 396-7; although this was dismissed by Radford 1970, 99). Walls and towers are mentioned by Orderic Vitalis in the 1060s, adding support for there having been some pre-Conquest masonry activity. Other possible contexts for the repair of the wall in a given instance could be linked to Danish raids in the first years of the 11th century. Although any one of these events could have provided the context for repairs and additions to the city wall, none is proven, and the possibility of that the work was inspired by routine maintenance, and a need to keep the defences in good order is just as possible as construction in response to a specific threat. If anything the uniform stone type and the consistent (if structurally poor) masonry styles employed, argue for systematic building work detached from the pressures of building under an imminent threat.

Extant: Yes
Grid reference:SX922925
Map reference: [ EPSG:27700] 292268, 92568
Periods:850 - 1068
Subjects:TOWN WALL
Identifiers:[ ADS] Depositor ID - 10900.01

People Involved:

  • [ Publisher] Exeter City Council