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Newcastle upon Tyne town defences: section of curtain wall including St Andrew's Tower and section of town ditch

A Scheduled Monument in Westgate, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Latitude: 54.9738 / 54°58'25"N

Longitude: -1.6187 / 1°37'7"W

OS Eastings: 424506.39789

OS Northings: 564415.563894

OS Grid: NZ245644

Mapcode National: GBR SNJ.2B

Mapcode Global: WHC3R.37GW

Entry Name: Newcastle upon Tyne town defences: section of curtain wall including St Andrew's Tower and section of town ditch

Scheduled Date: 18 January 1930

Last Amended: 23 April 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019281

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32756

County: Newcastle upon Tyne

Electoral Ward/Division: Westgate

Built-Up Area: Newcastle upon Tyne

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: Newcastle St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument is situated within St Andrew's churchyard between St Andrew's
Street and Newgate Street. It includes the upstanding and buried remains of
part of the town defences of Newcastle upon Tyne. The section of town defences
between St Andrew's Street and Newgate Street represents part of the northern
side of the circuit and includes two detached upstanding lengths of curtain
wall including the remains of three turrets, the buried remains of a length of
curtain wall and the buried remains of a tower. Outside of the wall there are
the buried remains of parts of the berm and town ditch. The two upstanding
lengths of town wall and the turrets are Listed Buildings Grade I. Further
sections of the town defences to the south west and the east are the subject
of separate schedulings.

Newcastle upon Tyne town defences were constructed from the mid-13th century
to the middle or late 14th century and enclosed an area of more than 60ha;
the riverside lengths of curtain wall were added during the 15th century. The
masonry defences were strengthened by a berm and ditch, except on the south
side, where they were bounded by the River Tyne. Gateways were built at the
principal points of entry to the town. Internally a cobbled inter-mural lane
followed the line of the defences. The defences were refurbished during the
medieval period and were reinforced and repaired several times during the
post-medieval period. The curtain wall within St Andrew's churchyard was
refurbished after the siege of Newcastle in 1644 when the town wall and St
Andrew's Church were bombarded by Scottish artillery fire.

The first and most easterly upstanding length of curtain wall is 70m long
and its inner face stands to a maximum height of 3m; its outer face has
become incorporated into the adjacent brick buildings of numbers 1 to 25
Gallowgate. The wall is constructed of large sandstone blocks and at the
eastern end it tapers from the bottom upwards to about half its thickness.
At the western end of this length of wall there is a vaulted niche of
uncertain nature and date and the internal face of a turret is visible
standing 12 courses high. The turret retains the lower parts of its
external staircase supported on a series of nine corbels which project
from the inner face of the wall walk; the remainder of the turret has been
incorporated into the adjacent brick building.

The most westerly upstanding length of town wall is 33m long, and its
inner face stands to a maximum height of 4m above the present level of the
ground. It retains the lower courses of the parapet and parts of the
flagged paving of the walkway. The outer face of the wall is partly
incorporated into the rear of numbers 43 to 47 Gallowgate although a 12m
length of it is visible within the yard at the rear of 43 Gallowgate,
standing 3.1m high including the lower courses of the parapet. This length
of walling contains the remains of two turrets. The first is situated at
the extreme eastern end of the length of wall and is 12 courses high; the
remains of its external staircase supported on a series of corbels which
project from the inner face of the wall are also visible. An area of
consolidated rubble walling upon the parapet walkway at the extreme
western end of this section of wall is interpreted as the remains of a
second turret. In 1995 a partial excavation at the western end of the most
westerly length of curtain wall took place at Ordnance Survey NGR
NZ24476438. The excavation, which examined the area at the foot of the
inner face, demonstrated that the curtain wall in this area was built in
two separate phases with several decades between them. During the first
phase the curtain wall was constructed directly onto the sub-soil with
foundations composed of a projecting course of roughly dressed sandstone
blocks, laid flat. The lower courses of the curtain wall above the
foundations were of large squared sandstone blocks bonded with mortar. The
second phase of construction, keyed onto the south end of the first, did
not have a projecting foundation courses and was built of more irregular
sandstone. The total height of the curtain wall from foundation level to
the parapet walk was 5.7m. The excavations also demonstrated the survival
of deep medieval and later deposits below the present ground level.
Between the two upstanding lengths of curtain wall there are the buried
remains of the curtain wall and a tower known as St Andrew's Tower. These
features were dismantled and their foundations buried between 1827 and 1830
when the churchyard expanded northwards; an etching of the tower dated 1818
shows that it was single storey and had not been altered by later

The overlying brick walls of the adjacent property, the concrete capping on
the most easterly section of curtain wall, the wall plaques, the down pipe
which runs across the inner face of the most easterly turret, the water tank
and the metal gates attached to the curtain wall at its western end are
excluded from the scheduling. The concrete churchyard paths, steps, the
recumbent grave slabs and the wooden church notice board are also excluded
from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Between the Roman and post-medieval periods a large number of English towns
were provided with defences. These defences also served to mark the limits of
the town or its intended size and could be used to defend the town in time of
trouble. Their symbolic role in marking out the settlement was also
Newcastle was first granted permission to build a town wall in 1265. It
enclosed the Roman and medieval core of the town and served to form its
protection throughout the medieval and post-medieval periods. The defences
were stormed only once during this time, in 1644 when the town was laid siege
to by Scottish armies. Building of the wall began on the north side of the
town and continued around the eastern and western sides simultaneously. During
its construction, the planned line of the walls was changed: on the west side,
where it had been heading east towards the castle, the walls turn abruptly
south towards the river, and on the east side, they make an eastwards
extension in order to enclose the suburb of Pandon, granted to Newcastle upon
Tyne in 1298.
The curtain wall is of squared and coursed sandstone blocks, although the
ashlar varies considerably in character and quality. Where excavation has
taken place the wall is seen to have been constructed in a narrow foundation
slot, straight onto the ground surface or on a broad raft of sandstone blocks.
Above the foundation base there is a double chamfered plinth which in some
places is stepped down in order to accommodate a change in gradient. The wall
also displays great variety in thickness and height; the height range from the
top of the footings to the wall walk of all the upstanding sections of the
curtain wall is from 4.4m to 6.6m. The thickness of the wall immediately above
the double chamfered plinth ranges from 1.98m to 3.3m. The curtain wall was
surmounted by a parapet walkway, and where it survives it varies in height
from 1.53m to 1.68m above the top of the wall walk. The wall contained 17
interval towers which projected forwards from the line of the wall and about
40 intermediate turrets, normally flush with the outer face of the curtain
wall but overhanging the internal face on a series of corbels. Gateways were
built at Newgate, Westgate, Closegate, Sandgate, Pandongate each defended by a
pair of gatehouses. A lesser gateway at Sallyport and two posterns,
Blackfriars and Whitefriars, were also built.
The wall was strengthened by an external ditch up to 20m wide and 4.5m deep
separated from the wall by a berm (a flat space of ground between a defensive
wall and a ditch in order to defend it). The ditch, known as the King's Dykes
was completed in 1316, some time before completion of the wall.
The defences continued to function as the town's main form of defence through
to the 19th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the towers and some
of the gates became the meeting places of a variety of town companies who
generally added an upper storey to form a meeting hall. The defences were
reinforced during the English Civil War in 1638 when England was
threatened by invasion from Scotland. The town was stormed in 1644 by the
Scots acting in support of Parliament, and the defences were subsequently
repaired. In 1745 at the time of the Jacobite uprising the defences were
repaired against the rebels which included walling up all of the gateways. The
defences were last repaired at the time of the Napoleonic Wars in the early
19th century. Subsequently, when the threat had passed and with the continuing
development of Newcastle upon Tyne, their function as a defensive town
boundary ceased. The walls were allowed to fall into decay and several
sections were levelled in the years following 1823.
Newcastle upon Tyne's town defences survive in various states of preservation.
Some parts of the curtain wall still stand to full height, and the towers and
turrets are also clearly visible. The ditch is also clearly visible for part
of the western side as a pronounced earthwork. Other parts of the defences are
no longer visible above the present surface of the ground, but in these areas,
sections of the walls and the ditch survive below ground level as buried
features, and sufficient evidence exists for their positions to be accurately
Given the role played by the town defences in one of England's major
commercial towns and their contribution towards an understanding of medieval
and later urban development all sections of Newcastle's town defences that
exhibit significant archaeological remains are considered to be nationally
The standing remains of the medieval curtain wall in St Andrew's churchyard
survive well to the height of the parapet walkway. The two lengths of curtain
wall including the remains of three turrets are a rare survival, being one of
few remaining locations where the curtain wall and its associated structures
remain upstanding and highly visible. Taken together with the buried remains
of curtain wall and St Andrew's Tower, they represent the second most complete
lengths of the circuit. The buried remains of the berm and ditch represent one
of few remaining locations where they are thought to survive. As a monument
which is accessible to the public, this section of Newcastle town defences
serves as an important educational and recreational resource which will
increase our understanding of how Newcastle's defences developed.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Teasdale, J A, The Town Wall in St Andrew's Churchyard, Newcastle upon Tyne, (1995)
Holmes, S, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 2' in The Walls of Newcastle Upon Tyne, , Vol. XViii, (1896), 1-25

Source: Historic England

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