Ancient Monuments

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Borough Bank, a section of medieval town defences 70m north of St Mary Magdalene Church

A Scheduled Monument in Taunton Eastgate, Somerset

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Latitude: 51.0164 / 51°0'58"N

Longitude: -3.1008 / 3°6'2"W

OS Eastings: 322880.282963

OS Northings: 124687.798619

OS Grid: ST228246

Mapcode National: GBR M1.J881

Mapcode Global: FRA 46DF.FSB

Entry Name: Borough Bank, a section of medieval town defences 70m north of St Mary Magdalene Church

Scheduled Date: 22 February 1962

Last Amended: 24 November 2000

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019401

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33706

County: Somerset

Electoral Ward/Division: Taunton Eastgate

Built-Up Area: Taunton

Traditional County: Somerset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Somerset


The monument includes a surviving section of the medieval town defences known
as Borough Bank which is located between Northgate and Eastgate in the north
east part of Taunton. The defences were formed by an earthen bank and ditch
which encircled the medieval town from the 11th century to the 13th century.
The section of bank and ditch included in this scheduling is approximately 50m
long and is aligned from WNW to SSE. The top of the bank is flat,
approximately 2m high and 3.5m wide; the rear of the bank extends for a
further 20m gently sloping south westwards into the gardens of St Mary's
Vicarage. The ditch is sited forward of the bank and is no longer visible at
ground level having become infilled over the years and now lying buried
beneath Cannon Street car park and the building known as The Chestnut Tree. It
has been demonstrated, however, from limited excavation elsewhere along its
projected course to be at least 10m wide and up to several metres deep.
Evidence for the existence of the town defences comes from a number of sources
including documentary references, limited excavation and surviving plot and
parish boundaries. The earliest known mention of the town defences comes from
a document of 1158 which refers to a town ditch which was already in existence
running from Northgate to Eastgate and a document of 1215-1219 records the
remodelling and improvement of the town defences. Partial excavation of the
town defences has confirmed an early medieval date of construction. Later
references record that the defences had ceased to be maintained by 1320
although the ditch was still referred to in a 17th century plan showing the
early medieval borough boundary.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the building
known as The Chestnut Tree Day Centre and its associated garage and shed, the
small neo-classical style building attached to the north east boundary wall of
St Mary's Vicarage, all fencing, all garden and flowerbed walls and all tarmac
and modern surfacings and their make-up. The ground beneath all these features
is, however, included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Town defences developed from simple earthen banks with external ditches (the
bank often topped with a wooden palisade), to substantial stone built
structures which usually had defended gates and often towers, turrets and
bastions, located at intervals along the enceinte. Although they were
primarily constructed to offer security to the inhabitants and a refuge in
troubled times, town defences also performed a number of other functions. For
example, the provision of only a limited number of gateways in the circuit was
sometimes important in maintaining control over the passage of merchants and
tradesmen, allowing the levying of taxes on goods entering or leaving and the
collection of tolls, all of which contributed to the town's economy. A circuit
of built defences was also seen as a status symbol since their presence
indicated a high level of prosperity and money available for civic works
within those towns which possessed them.
Borough Bank at Taunton is an extant section of the medieval town's
defensive earthworks and is regularly visited by school parties and local
history groups as it provides a visual aid in the teaching of the town's
history. Although the associated ditch is no longer visible at ground level it
is believed to survive as a buried feature located forward of the bank. The
monument is known from limited excavation elsewhere along its course to retain
deep undisturbed levels and archaeological material which relates to the
monument, the lives of the town's inhabitants, their economy and the landscape
in which they lived.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Aston, M, Bush, R in Leach, The Archaeology of Taunton, (1984), 59-63
Borthwick, A, Town Centre Enhancement, Excavations and Watching Briefs, (1995)
Exeter Archaeology, Town Centre Enhancement, excavations and watching briefs, 1997,

Source: Historic England

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