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Roman, Anglo Saxon and medieval defences called collectively Exeter City Walls

A Scheduled Monument in St David's, Devon

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Latitude: 50.7197 / 50°43'10"N

Longitude: -3.5305 / 3°31'49"W

OS Eastings: 292057.7765

OS Northings: 92234.1865

OS Grid: SX920922

Mapcode National: GBR P1.9024

Mapcode Global: FRA 37H5.NDQ

Entry Name: Roman, Anglo Saxon and medieval defences called collectively Exeter City Walls

Scheduled Date: 2 May 1934

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1003858

English Heritage Legacy ID: DV 136

County: Devon

Electoral Ward/Division: St David's

Built-Up Area: Exeter

Traditional County: Devon

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Devon

Church of England Parish: Central Exeter

Church of England Diocese: Exeter


This monument, which falls into nine separate areas, includes Roman, Anglo Saxon and medieval city walls which define the original extent of the city of Exeter. The walls survive as a roughly rectangular circuit approximately 2.35km in length of which 72% (1705m) is still visible as upstanding fabric. The city walls originated in around 200 AD and some sections still survive up to 2.5m high. The city originally had four gateways, also of Roman origin, as proven by excavations of the South Gate, but were generally dismantled in the 18th to 19th centuries. The Roman walls were repaired and rebuilt throughout the Anglo Saxon, medieval and Civil War periods since the city was besieged at least twice. There are also a number of wall turrets and bastions which may date to the Roman, Anglo Saxon or medieval periods. Traditionally they were constructed by Athelstan, this being derived from writings by William of Malmesbury in around 1130, although their Roman origin cannot be dismissed. During the Anglo Saxon period the walls underwent significant repair and strengthening. The same is true for the medieval period when such works continued as it was prudent to do so. As a result the surviving walls contain a complex palimpsest of successive works dating throughout different periods. Through much of the circuit the walls, turrets and bastions still attain a significant height.
Part of the city wall around Rougemont Castle is the subject of a separate scheduling.

PastScape Monument No:-448309

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The city of Exeter has been strategically important since its foundation in the Roman Period when the original walled defences were constructed. Exeter was also an Anglo Saxon burh so continued to be a highly influential central place, one of only four in the whole of Devon. Following its capitulation to William the Conqueror, it became a Royal town and was briefly the residence of King John. It was a key military objective during the first English civil war between King Stephen and the Empress Maud and later in the Civil War between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. As a result, its city walls have reflected the need for adequate and significant defence throughout turbulent times and still survive well. The important archaeological end environmental evidence which they will contain is extremely significant.

Source: Historic England

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