Stonehouse Town Wall


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Location Description:
Alphanumeric NGR SX4622954207


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Location Description:
Alphanumeric NGR SX4622954207

City of Plymouth (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


The remains of a C15/C16 town wall built as protection for business interests against French raids. It is constructed of coursed limestone and overlooks Plymouth Sound.

Reasons for Designation

Stonehouse Town Wall is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: as a late C15 or early C16 town wall, linked to a blockhouse, the monument is unusual nationally as an example of a civic defensive work; * Survival: although reduced by later alterations and the removal or decay of some features, it survives reasonably well; * Potential: it retains potential for improving our understanding of this type of construction. * Group value: with the Western Kings Artillery Tower and blockhouse C15/C16 defences built by the Edgecumbe family (both a scheduled monument, National Heritage List for England 1003849 and a listed building Grade II, NHLE entry 1129960).


In medieval England all large towns, and the majority of the medium-sized towns, were provided with defences. For those settlements that had Roman and Anglo-Saxon origins, the medieval defences tended to follow the line of any previous fortifications. Numerous medieval towns throughout England were initially enclosed by a bank, often surmounted by a palisade, and a ditch. The first Royal licences for town defences were granted in the C13, leading to the construction of high curtain walls adjoining interval or mural towers (sometimes referred to as bastions) and gateways. The major gateways were invariably flanked by gatehouse towers. An outer ditch was often dug near to the curtain wall. Such features were usually sufficient defence against attack from the armaments of the time, such as catapults, and they offered significant resistance to sustained siege attack. While military concerns were of paramount importance in their design, the impressive nature of many town defences, reflecting the considerable resources required for their construction and maintenance, indicates that they were also important symbols of municipal pride. Furthermore, they served as a means of control on goods entering a town and facilitated the collection of tolls and dues.

During the C16, the increasing use of gunpowder artillery in warfare reduced the effectiveness of many traditional forms of fortification around towns. Direct bombardment from cannon meant that even the highest and strongest curtain walls could be demolished. As a result, the defences around many towns were modified, which allowed weapons with heavier calibres to be deployed. The growth of many towns in England from the later C18 resulted in the wholesale destruction of large parts of former defensive circuits, which had, up until that time, been a considerable factor in determining the principal extent of urban development. Where they were constructed, town defences played a significant role in shaping the centre of many towns, a legacy, which in many cases, survives to this day. Town defences are therefore important to understanding the formation and development of individual urban centres.

Stonehouse, one of three three towns incorporated in Modern-day Plymouth, was noted in the Domesday Book in 1086. In 1369 Mr Stephen Dunford was granted the land of East Stonehouse. He later married Miss Cecilia Stonehouse and added West Stonehouse and Maker to his holdings thus creating the port of Stonehouse. In circa 1493 Sir Piers Edgcumbe married into the Dunford family. Stonehouse Manor Wall is understood to have formed part of a defensive scheme built by him in the late C15 or early C16 to protect his business interests from French raids. The wall is depicted on a pictorial harbour chart of c1540, at the south end of the town, crenellated, with a bastion, main gate and polygonal blockhouse. It is thought to have continued as a town wall in the C17. In C18 quarry work to the northern side of wall exposed a large area of the limestone rock base; this area was later used as a cemetery. In the late-C18 Stone Hall was built on the south side of the wall, which was used as a property boundary. In the C19 an ancillary building, which today survives as a ruin, was incorporated into the west end of the surviving wall. In the mid-C20 Plymouth City Council built Stonehall Flats to the south of the wall. This included landscaping around the base of the wall, and a lean-to shed was built against it. In the late-C20 a garage and forecourt were built to the north. This fragment of wall is the only known above ground survival of the earlier defensive structure.

The site was originally scheduled in 1935 when it was mistakenly identified as the manor wall to the now demolished house. However subsequent assessments of the structure conclude that the wall is the southern part of the former Stonehouse town wall. It is now interpreted as having served a dual purpose, primarily as a defensive structure built by a private merchant family to defend their business and economic interests, but also as a symbol of the status and wealth of the town of Stonehouse. In 1993 a condition survey was carried out in preparation for repair works which were begun in 1994. No further gun ports were noted. A photographic record and measurement survey were carried out as part of this work. In 2012 approval was granted to repair the town wall stone work.


This site includes part of the town walls of Stonehouse and is situated on a limestone cliff overlooking Plymouth Sound to the south. The town itself was to the north. The surviving visible length of walling measures up to 110m long and is constructed of roughly coursed rubble limestone and stands up to 4.5m high. In the central section it retains a battlemented parapet and sentry walk. The south side has a crenellated top and limestone string course below, which represented the location of the wall-walk on the other side. There is a granite gun-port close to modern ground level, now blocked. The north side originally had a wall walk, and only a small section of this survives, in the middle of the surviving length of wall. Quarrying to the ground on the right side of wall has led to an 8.5m drop between the wall and the quarry floor.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
PY 180
Legacy System:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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