The City Walls

  • 27 Oct 2021
  • Historical Studies
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t is not known whether the City walls were built on the site of the Anglo-Saxon defences, but the first mention of them is in 1231, when Henry lll allowed the Bailiffs to enlarge the postern in the wall before the Greyfriars House and to make them a convenient way for bringing to their house firewood and other necessaries, of the city authorities to maintain and keep it in repair. Funds for doing this was raised by a rate called 'Murrage'. From time to time extensive repairs were done.

1497, (from the City Chamber Book).

'That the Chamberlain give good attention to the walls of the city both within and without, That if any part fall in ruin the stones thereof be not borne away by any person, and if they have notice of them that do so to be punished and ..? That the said Chamberlain un any wise of the Common receipts, yearly repair the defaults of the same wall as often as need shall require and the said goods may stretch for the safeguard for the same city'. 

In spite of these pronouncements the wall was not kept in good repair and possibly the wall was made to serve as an excuse for getting a grant to the city after the dissolution of the religious house in 1538. The city authorities petitioned Thomas Cromwell's admission to obtain for the city a grant from King of the Friar's House (Greyfriars), then decayed. The stone of the houses is very meet for the purpose. They are set in two barren sides where is no defence but the said houses join the walls. The churches also should be pulled down to make towers and fortitudes in the walls '.The City was successful in getting the Friars Houses and Churches and secularizing them, but did not use them to repair the walls, but turned them into a prison, and to quote a local historian, 'the apartments which once held the religious to their devotions now hold the debtor and the criminal to their recollection and repentance'.