The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.
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Walls and ditches
WHEN THIS CITY was first inclosed with A WALL is nowhere to be found; but the many British bricks still to be seen in different parts of it are no small token of its antiquity. These bricks were in particular to be seen in the wall on the south side near to where Riding-gate stood; at the remains of the gate now pulled down called Worthgate, leading from the Castle-yard to Wincheap; at the place in the city wall, where Queningate once stood, at a few yards distance northward of the present postern opposite to St. Augustine's abbey; and on the bank on either side of the river behind St. Mildred's church, in the remains of the wall there, where there is a course of these bricks quite through the wall.
That this city was walled in the time of the English Saxons, may be proved from several records, among the archives of the cathedral; (fn. 1) that it was walled before the Norman conquest, is evident by the testimony of Roger Hoveden, who, in his account of the siege and surprisal of the city anno 1011, by the Danes, in the time of king Ethelred, mentions many of the English having been cast, by them heading from the wall of the city, which being taken, was, with the cathedral, burnt and utterly wasted; in the rage of which, the city wall, as being its best recurity against a like surprisal, was not at all likely to be spared by that destroying enemy. (fn. 2)However this might be, it seems afterwards to have been again repaired, and archbishop Lanfranc, in the Conqueror's time, was a great benefactor for that purpose; and William of Malmsbury, who wrote in king Stephen's reign, tells us, that in his time the walls of it were whole and undecayed, inclosing it round about. After which there are several instances of the attention paid towards the support of them. Queen Alianor, on her son's, king Richard I.'s absence, when he was taken a prisoner on his return from the holy land, gave orders in her son's behalf for the better strenghening of this city, in regard to the ditches, walls and other fortresses belonging to it; (fn. 3) and king Richard II. gave two hundred and fifty marcs for the same purpose; in which reign archbishop Sudbury, after this royal example, at his own expence, rebuilt the western gate of the city, as well as the wall, called the Long wall, between that and Northgate, and intended, had he lived, to have done the same by the rest of the wall round the city, much of which was at that time in a tottering and decayed state, insomuch, that Sir Simon de Burley, then constable of Dover castle, and warden of the cinque ports, advised, that the rich jewels of Christ-church and of St. Augustine's, should be removed for more safety to Dover castle. (fn. 4)
What cost it had in reparation afterwards bestowed on it, was chiesly raised in king Henry IV.'s reign, by the general tax of the whole city, as appears by the book of murage, in the city chamber. Towards the sustaining of this charge, the citizens having begun to strengthen it with a wall of stone, as well as by a ditch, and as an encouragement for them to proceed, as well then as in future, the king in his 10th year, considering that the city was situated near the sea, and was a port or entry to all strangers coming into the realm by the same parts, by his writ of privy seal, granted to them a licence to purchase lands and tenements, to the value of twenty pounds within the city, in mortmain, to hold to them and their successors, in help towards the building and making the same wall and ditch, for ever; and he also granted to them, that they might arrent and build up all lands and places voyd and waste within the city, and hold the same to them and their successors in help and relief of the charge, and in maintenance of the premises and other charges to the city happening in the fortifying of it, for ever. The charge of this work may be best judged and estimated by the compass and circuit of the wall, which was measured in the 3d year of the above reign of king Henry IV. by Thomas Ickham, an honorable citizen, and an alderman of this city, (fn. 5) and a note taken of it, was registered in the records of the city chamber. The total measure of the wall, as cast up at the end of it, being 569 perches, and the 4th part of one. (fn. 6) But it is miscast, for exclusive of the gates and the bank of the river, the whole is 572 perches and a quarter, to which add the six gates and the bank of the river ten perches, the whole compass of the city is, as Mr. Somner has made the sum total, in his Appendix, as below recited, 582 perches, and the fourth part of one, besides Quyningate, which was a very small one. (fn. 7) By this record, it may be perceived, that the whole wall between Westgate and Northgate, was not then built as it was afterwards; for on either side the river, the wall, as appears by the record, clearly breaks off, so that there is an interjected distance of eighteen perches long between the one and the other wall, and indeed it appeared to but a slight observation, that so much of the wall as stood, and was made up in that, then, as it seems, unwalled part, namely, between the postern and the waterlock next Northgate, through which, under three arches with a portcullis, the river, till of late, passed from Abbot's mill, was in the stone work much different from the rest of the wall, and shewed not in any part the least wreck or decay, as the other doth. This, therefore, was an exception to what archbishop Sudbury is said to have built, and was, no doubt, made afterwards. (fn. 8)
In the city wall there were built twenty-one turrets or small watch towers, orderly placed, though now, as well as the wall, all decayed and in ruins. (fn. 9)
These walls were of chalk, faced and lined with flint, excepting between Westgate and Northgate, where they are faced with squared stone. They were about six feet thick, the parapets and battlements well coped with mason's work, as were the tops and loopholes of the towers. The walls, except where the river runs at the foot of the wall, are incircled with a ditch, at first 150 feet, though now to all appearance not near so wide, and from the incroachments on it is distinguishable only from Northgate, round the east and south sides of the city, as far as the postern beyond Wincheap-gate; the whole of which is now either built on with tenements, or converted into gardens, under leases from the city, to whom it all belongs. (fn. 10) The wall on the west part of the city, a little westward of St. Mildred's church-yard, has several large breaches made in it, the work of the Parliamentarians, about the year 1648; in one of which, however, they seem to have been stopped by a course of Roman bricks, quite through the wall, of which notable feat further mention will be made hereafter.— This part of the wall being built on low ground, among the meads at but a small distance from the river, has never had any ditch, nor indeed any occasion for one.