Medieval Defences


During the medieval period, an extra-mural suburb developed between the south gate and a bridge over the Avon that provided access to the town from the south. Early maps, dating from c. 1600 onwards, show that the bridge was protected by a gatehouse. The south and east sides of the suburb were defined by a loop in the river, whilst the western approach was demarcated by an artificial watercourse flanked by battlemented wall.
Our excavations have uncovered a section of this ditch, which was 6 m wide and over 2 m deep. The east side of the ditch was defined by the foundations of a substantial clay-bonded wall. This boundary is first recorded in a 13th-century document recording a land grant from Bath Abbey to the Hospital of St John. It has been suggested that the ditch and wall was constructed on the orders of King Stephen during a 12th-century civil war known as The Anarchy (AD 1138–54). However, the finds recovered during the excavation, suggest that the wall was actually constructed in the 13th century – too late for it to have been constructed by King Stephen. One plausible interpretation is that was actually constructed by the Abbey, possibly as part of a plan development of the Southgate Street suburb. Following the construction of the ditch, the site appears to have largely reverted to agricultural use until the 18th century.