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Name: Ratae Corieltauvorum town defences
City: Leicester
Ward: Abbey, Leicester
Monument Number: ( MLC54 )
Monument Type: ( TOWN DEFENCES )
Ratae Corieltauvorum town defences
The Town defences first established in the late C2nd. They developed in Roman times, fell into disuse in Saxon times, were re-used in the medieval period and finally abandoned in early post-medieval times.
between 180 and 1550
These were the town defences first established in C2nd. After falling to disuse after the Romans left, they were re-established before the start of the medieval period. They appear to have continued in use early post medieval times when the ditches began to be deliberately filled-in and buildings began to be built into the ramparts.

The defences ran c.300m ENE from the Northgate (junction of Great Central Street and Northgates), between Sanvey Gate and Cumberland Street. They turned SSE at the junction of St Margaret’s Way running c. 500m between Church Gate and East Bond Street. The east gate was situated on the E side of the junction of High Street and Cheapside. The SE corner of the defences lie under Market Approach, with the wall turning WSW toward the south gate; the latter probably lies beneath modern Southgates. The SW corner of the defences is likely to lie beneath the Castle Motte, or in its immediate vicinity. The precise alignment of the western defences and their character are more difficult to establish, although documentary records confirm the wall's existence.

Roman. (c.75-410)
In their final form the Roman town defences consisted of rampart, wall and ditches. There was an inner rampart on the outer face of which there was a stone wall. Beyond this where was a vallum and beyond that lay two substantial ditches. The surviving wall and gates were removed in the C18th, but much of the southern, eastern and northern lines of the defences survive in the street pattern. The course of the western defences has yet to be fully understood.

-The town boundary or 'pomerium', was probably defined either in the late C1st or early C2nd, at the same time as the establishment of the street grid. Evidence of this early alignment has been tentatively recorded underlying the later defences. This town boundary was probably marked by a fence or a ditch, but nothing which could be regarded in any way as a defence.
-The earliest defensive works appear to have been constructed in the late C2nd. These appear to have consisted of a rampart, probably topped by a palisade, with two outer ditches. These defences probably incorporated the earlier pomerium boundary. One suggestion is that these first defences might be linked to the period of political and military unrest between the death of Marcus Aurelius and the bid for the imperial title by Clodius Albinus (193-6). Alternative theories suggest that they were built as a reaction to a more immediate and perhaps local/provincial threat, or that the works were an expression of the status and civic pride of the community.
-In the early C3rd the rampart was built up and a timber revetment was placed on its outer face.
-Later in the C3rd a stone wall appears to have been inserted into the rampart to replace the timber revetment, and a further consolidation of the rampart to the rear of the wall took place.

In their final form, in the C3rd-C4th, the inner most part of the Roman defences was a rampart. The rampart may have contained timber lacing, to consolidate the structure. In places part of the rampart survives as buried deposits up to 5.9m wide and 1.1m high. It appears to be constructed of the locally available materials (loam, sand and gravel). Turfs were used in the construction and enlargement of the rampart.
On the outer face of the rampart there was a stone wall. This wall seems to have been 2.7-3.8m wide, set in a foundation trench approximately 0.4-1.32m deep. The foundation seem to have consisted of granite footings laid at least in part in a 'herring-bone' fashion.
Beyond the wall lay two town ditches. The town ditches appear to have consisted of a 'V'-shaped inner ditch, 6.5m wide 3m deep, 2m from the wall, with and a larger outer ditch, 8.5m wide, 4m deep, 10.5 m from the wall.
It is also suggested that there may have been a number of rectangular internal towers associated with the wall.

Saxon. (401-1100)
After the Romans left the defences fell into disuse. Indications are that after 5-6 hundred years of lack of maintenance, parts of the ramparts will have slumped, much of the stone of the walls had been quarried away and much of the rest had collapsed and the ditches largely silted-up. By the end of this period the line of the defences would probably have been recognizable, but they would have only been of limited effect as defences.

Medieval (1101-1250)
There appears to have been some attempts to re-establish the former Roman defences in that the inner ditch was Recut. However, there also appear to have been a deliberate attempt to remove any remaining stone from the walls and dump it in what was left of the outer ditch. One possible explanation for this inconsistent behaviour is that there had been an attempt to restore the town defences in the late C11th-first half of the C12th. However, in the immediate period after the siege and capture of the town by Henry II's forces in 1173 the restored defences were slighted.

Late Medieval (1251-1400)
The inner ditch that was re-cut 100-150 years previously starts to silt-up and, in the north-eastern part of the defences at least, the there are signs of backyard activity taking place on the line of the former outer ditch. The walls are described as 'ruinous' by 1587.

Early Post-Medieval
The town walls are recorded in several sources illustrating they were demolished over a period of time, with the western part already reduced by 1722, with the various gates sold and demolished by the late 18th century.

Related Monument(s)
The Town defences first established in the late C2nd. They developed in Roman times, fell into disuse in Saxon times, were re-used in the medieval period and finally abandoned in early post-medieval times.
The Town defences first established in the late C2nd. They developed in Roman times, fell into disuse in Saxon times, were re-used in the medieval period and finally abandoned in early post-medieval times.


Easting:  458436
Northing:  304563

Lattitude: 52.6356970517672
Longitude: -1.13795014481517

Grid Ref: SK 58 04