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Newcastle upon Tyne town defences: section of curtain wall including Sallyport or Wall Knoll Tower

A Scheduled Monument in Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne

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Latitude: 54.9713 / 54°58'16"N

Longitude: -1.6036 / 1°36'13"W

OS Eastings: 425471.014787

OS Northings: 564148.855983

OS Grid: NZ254641

Mapcode National: GBR SQP.JD

Mapcode Global: WHC3R.B9LR

Entry Name: Newcastle upon Tyne town defences: section of curtain wall including Sallyport or Wall Knoll Tower

Scheduled Date: 18 January 1930

Last Amended: 23 April 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019811

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32749

County: Newcastle upon Tyne

Electoral Ward/Division: Ouseburn

Built-Up Area: Newcastle upon Tyne

Traditional County: Northumberland

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Tyne and Wear

Church of England Parish: Newcastle Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Newcastle


The monument is situated in an elevated position on the west side of Tower
Street at the junction of Tower Street and Garth Heads. It includes the
upstanding and buried remains of part of the town defences of Newcastle upon
Tyne. The section of town defences on the west side of Tower Street represents
part of the eastern side of the circuit and includes a length of curtain wall,
a tower and one of the town's lesser gateways. The curtain wall, tower and
gateway are a Listed Building Grade I. Further sections of the town defences
to the north and south are the subject of separate schedulings.
Newcastle upon Tyne's town defences were constructed from the mid-13th century
to the middle or late 14th century enclosing 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 a 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 length of curtain wall in this section, constructed of large sandstone
blocks and, divided into two parts by the tower, stands to a maximum height of
4.5m at its western end. The most westerly fragment, attached to the south
west corner of the tower is 1.5m long; this fragment formed the eastern end of
a small rectangular chamber located within the thickness of the curtain wall.
Access to the chamber was gained through an arched doorway from a spiral
staircase located within the south west corner of the tower. Attached to the
south eastern corner of the tower the more easterly length of curtain wall is
about 5.5m long and 2.1m wide. This length of wall contains a single round-
headed entrance passage 2.9m wide known as Sallyport which formed one of the
lesser gateways of the town wall circuit.
Projecting forwards from the outer face of the curtain wall there is a tower
known as Sallyport or Wall Knoll Tower. The tower is visible as a rectangular
structure 8.5m north east to south west by 7.8m and constructed of coursed
squared sandstone blocks. Originally of only one storey, the medieval masonry
stands to a maximum height of 3.6m. Narrow window loops, now blocked, are
contained within the three outer faces of the tower. Within the tower the
ground floor chamber is covered by a stone vault and is unusual in having a
spiral stair which rises from the south west corner of the chamber to the
former wall walk.
The tower was leased to the Company of Shipwrights at least as early as 1638
and was modified in 1716 when an upper chamber was added to the top of the
tower and a second bay was added to the east.
The 18th century upper chamber, above the level of the chamfered plinth is
excluded from the monument. The eastern bay, the wall which abuts the north
west corner of the tower, all areas of paving and cobbles and the retaining
walls and bollards are also excluded from the monument although the ground
beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Between the Roman and the 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 times of trouble. Their symbolic role in marking out the settlement was
also significant.
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. 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 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 the 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 normally projected forwards from the line
of the wall and about 40 intermediate turrets, usually 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 and Pilgrimgate, each defended by a pair of gatehouses. A lesser
gateway at Sallyport and two posterns, Blackfriars and Whitefriars, were also
The wall was strengthened by an external ditch up to 20m wide and 4.5m deep
separated from the wall by a berm (a level space between a defensive wall and
a ditch in order to defend it). The ditch, known as the King's Dykes, was
completed in 1316, sometime 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; 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
Despite the fact that the standing and buried remains of the medieval town
wall on the west side of Tower Street have been incorporated within an early
18th century building, they survive reasonably well to a height of more than
3.5m. The length of curtain wall containing Sallyport or Wall Knoll Tower and
a lesser gateway is a rare survival, being one of few remaining locations,
particularly on the east side of the circuit, where the curtain wall and its
associated structures remain. They will add greatly to our understanding of
how the defences of Newcastle upon Tyne were constructed and operated.

Source: Historic England


Nolan, J,
Nolan, J, (2000)
T&W 1562,

Source: Historic England

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