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Name:Medieval City Wall
HER no.:MCT2599
Type of Record:Monument

Summary

The city wall, the building of which was begun in the 1350s. It took 180 years to complete. Some stretches of the wall are still visible above ground level and are scheduled monuments but much of the wall was demolished in 1662 by order of King Charles II. Sections of the wall have been excavated over the years at various locations along its route. Some sections of the wall's alignment are marked on the ground by the use of different surface materials. Examples of this include a section in Queen Victoria Road and Bull Yard.


Grid Reference:SP 3359 7901
Former Parish:Holy Trinity
St. Michael's

Monument Types

  • TOWN DEFENCES (Later Medieval to Jacobean - 1351 AD to 1622 AD)
  • TOWN WALL (Later Medieval to 17th Century - 1351 AD to 1662 AD)

Protected Status

  • Scheduled Monument COVSAM9: Coventry city walls: wall S. of Cook Street Gate
  • Scheduled Monument COVSAM10: Cook Street Gate
  • Scheduled Monument COVSAM14: Coventry city walls: near Bond's Hospital
  • Scheduled Monument COVSAM16: Coventry city walls: by Gulson Hospital
  • Conservation Area: Lady Herbert's Garden Conservation Area
  • Conservation Area: Far Gosford Street Conservation Area
  • Conservation Area: Greyfriars Green Conservation Area
  • Conservation Area: Spon Street Conservation Area
  • Scheduled Monument COVSAM13: Coventry city walls: at 190 Spon Street

Full description

1> The wall was begun at New Gate at the head of the London Road in the 1350s…the wall was at one point being built in both directions at once, a short section per year…Since the first took place in 1960 there have been 16 separate excavations on Coventry's late medieval town wall and its accompanying ditch…there were 12 gates and 20 towers along the route of the wall…In 1662 at the King's command, the Earl of Northampton issued a warrant to take down the walls, encouraging Coventrians to join in…The town wall, symbol of medieval Coventry's civic pride, was gone for good.
2> The exact position of walls is not known but site of several of gates are known.
3> Coventry did not become a walled city until the second half of the 14th century, but there was a town ditch and entrance bars in the C13th, and possibly even in the late 12th century. The only physical evidence for an early ditch is one 20' wide and 9' deep to the NE of Well Street Gate, and sections have been found on the South side of Smithford Street aligned with the Spon Street bars, and continuing North and East to Barr's Hill and St Nicholas' Church, (SP37NW12). The North and East sides of the town may well have not been ditched.
A licence for murage was obtained in 1329, but work does not seem to have begun for some time. A licence to crenellate was
obtained in 1363, and in 1385, a licence was granted to complete the work. The wall was constructed using material in situ; therefore a ditch surrounded the whole circuit. Twelve gates were erected at strategic points, (SP37NW49 and 55-65), these being built from ca.1367 onwards, most being completed by 1411. In addition, there were at least 20 intermediary towers, of which 15 lay on the South side of the town between Hill Gate and Gosford Gate. The sections to the NE of the Priory appear to have been the last section built, in the 15th century.
During the 17th century Civil War, the three miles of city walling were comparable in strength to London's City Walls, with four strong gates guarded by 400 guards. In 1662, Charles II ordered that the walls should be pulled down because Coventry had harboured rebels after the restoration. However, this was revoked in 1672, and efforts were made to preserve the circuit. Attempts were made to convert both gates and towers to domestic habitation in the late 17th century and early 18th century, but from the middle of the 18th century onwards, the gates and walls were gradually removed. In 1870, only two gates remained, the Swanswell (Priory) Gate, (SP37NW61), and Cook Street Gate, (SP37NW49). Between these gates lies the only substantial surviving section of the city wall, although not to its original height. It is constructed of two outer skins of ashlar masonry with a rubble core.
4> It was approximately 2 and 1/8 miles in length…and it was fortified with 20 towers and 12 gates according to the inset plan of Coventry shown on Speed's map of Warwickshire drawn about 1610.
5> Ditches had been dug to provide some defence from the 12th century at least, but the power and prestige of the 14th-century city demanded something more than this. A royal grant of murage in 1326 was the first necessary step…and work seems to have started in earnest during the 1340s. Gates on the principal access routes into Coventry seem to have been the focus of the early work…Nevertheless progress seems to have been slow and fitful, with completion not being achieved until more than a century had passed…Even so the circuit of Coventry's medieval defences was maintained well into succeeding centuries. Gradually, however, maintenance declined and gaps began to appear as urban and suburban development eroded the need for and purpose of the city wall. The gates became more encumbrances than necessary control points as well. More importantly, Coventry had supported the Parliamentary cause during the Civil War in the 17th century. When the monarchy was restored, it became an obvious target for retribution - and the defences were an obvious target. Sections of wall and gates were demolished and would never be rebuilt. Subsequent urban expansion, road widening, early-mid 20th century redevelopment of the city centre, and subsequently the widespread damage caused by the Luftwaffe's bombing in World War II all led to further erosion of the remaining circuit.
7> It is agreed that the wall between Bishop Street and Silver Street (Cook Street) was put up sometime in the late 14th or early 15th century. A reference in the Priory Cartulary suggests that the wall was not built all the way across in 1411 as a Cook Street tenement inside the city extended to the ditch, not the wall. The digging of the city defensive ditch is however, another matter and the exact date of its cutting between Bishop Street and Cook Street is known (John Smythier was Mayor = 1403), from the Priory Cartulary of 1411. During its excavation it cut across and reduced in length three gardens at the rear of Bishop Street and destroyed one and possibly two cottages at the end of Cook Street. Within the site the wall and ditch appear to have lain in areas which were gardens in 1403.
8,9> City Walls (Rems). Early C14th town walls included 32 towers and 12 gates. Destroyed 1662 on the orders of Charles II.
10> SP335793 and SP335794. Remains of wall, well preserved, max. height 3.0m. See GP.
SP339790. Remains of wall. The height varies from 0.3m-1.8m. It now forms the foundations for a brick wall.
SP341789. Foundation remains of the wall are visible in the West bank revetment of the R. Sherbourne.
SP34147867. No extant portion visible.
SP33037907. Remains of wall visible in the gable end of a building.
SP32997900. Remains of wall 2.8m high, 2.0m thick.
SP33177929 - SP33177933). Remains of wall restored and partially rebuilt. Max. height 2.0m.
SP33227944. Remains of wall, max. height 1.3m
11> SP332794 - SP335794. Twelve sections of Coventry City Walls are scheduled, W Mids No.21.
12> A 110m section of the wall at SP340791 was excavated in 1972, and on both sides of the wall material of the C12th-C17th was found. The earliest defences were a ditch and earth rampart.


Coventry Museum Archaeology Unit, 1993, An Archaeological Evaluation in Shelton Square, Coventry (--EVALUATION REPORT). SCT1719.


<1> Soden, Iain, 2005, Coventry: The Hidden History, p. 228 (TEXT). SCT1116.


<2> Speed, John, 1610, Map of Coventry (-MAP). SCT807.


<3> Pugh, R. B. (ed), 1969, Victoria County History: A History of the County of Warwickshire - Volume VIII, 8;21 (--VOLUME). SCT683.


<4> Historical Association, Coventry Branch, 1971, Coventry's Town Wall (-PUBLICATION). SCT1581.


<5> Keevill Heritage Ltd, 2013, A Conservation Management Plan for Coventry's Medieval Defences: Main text (-REPORT). SCT1440.


<6> Keevill Heritage Ltd, 2013, A Conservation Management Plan for Coventry's Medieval Defences: Gazetteer and Condition Survey (-REPORT). SCT1441.


<7> Iain Soden Heritage Services Ltd, 2015, Bishop Street and Silver Street, Coventry. Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment., p. 5-6 (--DESKBASED SURVEY REPORT). SCT2098.


<8> Nowell C, 1924, Some Account of the Gates, Towers, and Wall of the City of Coventry (--MONOGRAPH). SCT650.


<9> 1870, Fortified Coventry, The 'Coventry Times' (TEXT). SCT2168.


<10> 1929, City Engineers Report on the Wall (TEXT). SCT2169.


<11> English Heritage, 1987, English Heritage Schedule of Ancient Monuments: West Midlands (TEXT). SCT2170.


<12> 1973, Medieval Archaeology Volume 17, Page 171 (--ARTICLE). SCT2171.

Sources and Further Reading

---SCT1719 - --EVALUATION REPORT: Coventry Museum Archaeology Unit. 1993. An Archaeological Evaluation in Shelton Square, Coventry. Dickinson, J.. A4 simplex. 4.
<1>SCT1116 - TEXT: Soden, Iain. 2005. Coventry: The Hidden History. p. 228.
<2>SCT807 - -MAP: Speed, John. 1610. Map of Coventry.
<3>SCT683 - --VOLUME: Pugh, R. B. (ed). 1969. Victoria County History: A History of the County of Warwickshire - Volume VIII. 8;21.
<4>SCT1581 - -PUBLICATION: Historical Association, Coventry Branch. 1971. Coventry's Town Wall. Gooder, E.. A4 simplex. 24.
<5>SCT1440 - -REPORT: Keevill Heritage Ltd. 2013. A Conservation Management Plan for Coventry's Medieval Defences: Main text. A4 duplex. 52.
<6>SCT1441 - -REPORT: Keevill Heritage Ltd. 2013. A Conservation Management Plan for Coventry's Medieval Defences: Gazetteer and Condition Survey. A4 duplex. 64.
<7>SCT2098 - --DESKBASED SURVEY REPORT: Iain Soden Heritage Services Ltd. 2015. Bishop Street and Silver Street, Coventry. Archaeological Desk-Based Assessment.. Soden, I.. 28. p. 5-6.
<8>SCT650 - --MONOGRAPH: Nowell C. 1924. Some Account of the Gates, Towers, and Wall of the City of Coventry. HER Library
<9>SCT2168 - TEXT: 1870. Fortified Coventry, The 'Coventry Times'.
<10>SCT2169 - TEXT: 1929. City Engineers Report on the Wall.
<11>SCT2170 - TEXT: English Heritage. 1987. English Heritage Schedule of Ancient Monuments: West Midlands.
<12>SCT2171 - --ARTICLE: 1973. Medieval Archaeology Volume 17. Page 171.

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • ECT137 - Salvation Army Citadel, Upper Well Street, Coventry: An Archaeological Evaluation (Ref: COVE66)
  • ECT143 - Bond Street Car Park (Ref: COVE72)
  • ECT156 - 63-69 Gosford Street, Trench 1 (Ref: COVE85)
  • ECT192 - Manor House Drive (Ref: COVE123)
  • ECT292 - Upper Well Street, excavation (Ref: COVE227)
  • ECT310 - Evaluation in Shelton Square (Ref: COVE245)
  • ECT373 - Land adjacent to the Old Fire Station, Hales Street 2006
  • ECT395 - Field observations at entrance to Barrack Square 1935
  • ECT428 - Observations in the Park Side/Little Park Street Gate area 1934
  • ECT680 - Conservation Management Plan Condition Survey for Medieval Defences

Related records

MCT230Parent of: CITY DEFENCES; FLEET ST/SPON ST; COVENTRY (Monument)
MCT229Parent of: CITY WALL AND DITCH; 13-17 FRIARS RD; COVENTRY (Monument)
MCT998Parent of: CITY WALL COVENTRY: BOUNDARY WALL BONDS HOSPITAL (Monument)
MCT231Parent of: CITY WALL; BRIDGE; 63-69 GOSFORD ST (Monument)
MCT15016Parent of: CITY WALL;BOND STREET (Monument)
MCT1002Parent of: CITY WALLS; LADY HERBERTS GARDEN; COVENTRY (Monument)
MCT24Parent of: COVENTRY CITY WALL: SAM GARDENS UPPER WELL ST (Monument)
MCT27Parent of: COVENTRY CITY WALL: SAM, E OF LANCHESTER POLY (Monument)
MCT41Parent of: COVENTRY CITY WALL: SAM, NEW GATE COURT AREA (Monument)
MCT28Parent of: COVENTRY CITY WALL: SAM, NR GULSON HOSPITAL (Monument)
MCT26Parent of: COVENTRY CITY WALL: SAM, S SIDE GODIVA ST (Monument)
MCT999Parent of: COVENTRY CITY WALL; SAM N OF SPON GATE (Monument)
MCT233Parent of: DSS BUILDING; THE CHEYLESMORE; CITY WALL AND DITCH (Monument)
MCT16883Parent of: Excavation of the medieval city wall and bastion, Well Street (Monument)
MCT2107Parent of: Excavation of the medieval city wall, Bond's Hospital (Monument)
MCT241Parent of: Excavation of the medieval town wall, Godiva Street (Monument)
MCT307Parent of: Medieval city defences at Parkside (Monument)
MCT5741Parent of: Medieval city wall and 13th century occupation, King Street (Monument)
MCT110Parent of: Medieval city wall, Bond's Hospital Garden, Hill St (Monument)
MCT10314Parent of: Medieval city wall, Cox Street (Monument)
MCT13864Parent of: Medieval city wall, ditch and bank remains, King Street (Monument)
MCT16593Parent of: Medieval tower or spayer on city wall (Monument)
MCT2340Parent of: Medieval town wall remains, Hales Street (Monument)
MCT236Parent of: Medieval town wall, Cox Street (Monument)
MCT16643Parent of: Medieval Wall Foundations Observed in the Area of Fairfax Street Carpark (Monument)
MCT15146Parent of: Munition Tower; City Wall; Priory Street (Monument)
MCT2201Parent of: Possible line of the town wall (Monument)
MCT15140Parent of: Possible medieval/post-medieval tower, Shelton Square (Monument)
MCT15145Parent of: Possible old course of medieval city wall (Monument)
MCT15230Parent of: Remains of the City Wall at Gosford Gate (Monument)
MCT16529Parent of: Remains of the medieval city wall, Bull Yard (Monument)
MCT16642Parent of: Remains of the Medieval City Wall, Fairfax Street (Monument)
MCT16592Parent of: Section of the city wall, Bond Street Excavations (Monument)
MCT16848Parent of: Section of the medieval town wall, Shelton Square (Monument)
MCT2195Parent of: The Medieval City Wall at the Former Herbert's Row (Monument)
MCT2271Part of: Remains of the Medieval Town Wall Excavated in Gulson Road (Monument)
MCT15289Part of: The English Civil War (1642-1651) (Historical Event)
MCT605Related to: BISHOP GATE; BISHOP ST/RINGWAY ST NICHOLAS (Monument)
MCT793Related to: CITY GATE; COOK ST (Building)
MCT604Related to: DERNGATE OR BASTILLE GATE; COX ST/COPE ST (Monument)
MCT602Related to: GOSFORD GATE; GOSFORD ST (Monument)
MCT597Related to: GREYFRIARS (FRER) GATE; WARWICK ROW/NEW UNION ST (Monument)
MCT607Related to: HILL GATE; HILL ST/BOND ST (Monument)
MCT243Related to: Medieval city wall and Red Ditch, Well Street (Monument)
MCT601Related to: NEW GATE; RINGWAY ST JOHNS (Monument)
MCT852Related to: PRIORY (SWANSWELL) GATE; CITY WALL; HALES ST (Building)
MCT599Related to: Site of Cheylesmore (Park) Gate, Cheylesmore Rd/St. Patricks Rd (Monument)
MCT608Related to: SPON (BABLAKE) GATE; SPON ST/CORPORATION ST (Monument)
MCT606Related to: WELL ST GATE; UPPER WELL ST/BOND ST (Monument)

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