Newcastle upon Tyne town defences: section of curtain wall including St Andrew's Tower and section of town ditch


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Newcastle upon Tyne (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
NZ 24520 64423

Reasons for Designation

Between the Roman and 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 time 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. The defences were stormed only once during this time, in 1644 when the town was laid siege to by Scottish armies. 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 east 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 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 projected forwards from the line of the wall and about 40 intermediate turrets, normally 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 each defended by a pair of gatehouses. A lesser gateway at Sallyport and two posterns, Blackfriars and Whitefriars, were also built. The wall was strengthened by an external ditch up to 20m wide and 4.5m deep separated from the wall by a berm (a flat space of ground between a defensive wall and a ditch in order to defend it). The ditch, known as the King's Dykes was completed in 1316, some time 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, and 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 identified. 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 important. The standing remains of the medieval curtain wall in St Andrew's churchyard survive well to the height of the parapet walkway. The two lengths of curtain wall including the remains of three turrets are a rare survival, being one of few remaining locations where the curtain wall and its associated structures remain upstanding and highly visible. Taken together with the buried remains of curtain wall and St Andrew's Tower, they represent the second most complete lengths of the circuit. The buried remains of the berm and ditch represent one of few remaining locations where they are thought to survive. As a monument which is accessible to the public, this section of Newcastle town defences serves as an important educational and recreational resource which will increase our understanding of how Newcastle's defences developed.


The monument is situated within St Andrew's churchyard between St Andrew's Street and Newgate Street. It includes the upstanding and buried remains of part of the town defences of Newcastle upon Tyne. The section of town defences between St Andrew's Street and Newgate Street represents part of the northern side of the circuit and includes two detached upstanding lengths of curtain wall including the remains of three turrets, the buried remains of a length of curtain wall and the buried remains of a tower. Outside of the wall there are the buried remains of parts of the berm and town ditch. The two upstanding lengths of town wall and the turrets are Listed Buildings Grade I. Further sections of the town defences to the south west and the east are the subject of separate schedulings.

Newcastle upon Tyne town defences were constructed from the mid-13th century to the middle or late 14th century and enclosed 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 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 curtain wall within St Andrew's churchyard was refurbished after the siege of Newcastle in 1644 when the town wall and St Andrew's Church were bombarded by Scottish artillery fire.

The first and most easterly upstanding length of curtain wall is 70m long and its inner face stands to a maximum height of 3m; its outer face has become incorporated into the adjacent brick buildings of numbers 1 to 25 Gallowgate. The wall is constructed of large sandstone blocks and at the eastern end it tapers from the bottom upwards to about half its thickness. At the western end of this length of wall there is a vaulted niche of uncertain nature and date and the internal face of a turret is visible standing 12 courses high. The turret retains the lower parts of its external staircase supported on a series of nine corbels which project from the inner face of the wall walk; the remainder of the turret has been incorporated into the adjacent brick building.

The most westerly upstanding length of town wall is 33m long, and its inner face stands to a maximum height of 4m above the present level of the ground. It retains the lower courses of the parapet and parts of the flagged paving of the walkway. The outer face of the wall is partly incorporated into the rear of numbers 43 to 47 Gallowgate although a 12m length of it is visible within the yard at the rear of 43 Gallowgate, standing 3.1m high including the lower courses of the parapet. This length of walling contains the remains of two turrets. The first is situated at the extreme eastern end of the length of wall and is 12 courses high; the remains of its external staircase supported on a series of corbels which project from the inner face of the wall are also visible. An area of consolidated rubble walling upon the parapet walkway at the extreme western end of this section of wall is interpreted as the remains of a second turret. In 1995 a partial excavation at the western end of the most westerly length of curtain wall took place at Ordnance Survey NGR NZ24476438. The excavation, which examined the area at the foot of the inner face, demonstrated that the curtain wall in this area was built in two separate phases with several decades between them. During the first phase the curtain wall was constructed directly onto the sub-soil with foundations composed of a projecting course of roughly dressed sandstone blocks, laid flat. The lower courses of the curtain wall above the foundations were of large squared sandstone blocks bonded with mortar. The second phase of construction, keyed onto the south end of the first, did not have a projecting foundation courses and was built of more irregular sandstone. The total height of the curtain wall from foundation level to the parapet walk was 5.7m. The excavations also demonstrated the survival of deep medieval and later deposits below the present ground level. Between the two upstanding lengths of curtain wall there are the buried remains of the curtain wall and a tower known as St Andrew's Tower. These features were dismantled and their foundations buried between 1827 and 1830 when the churchyard expanded northwards; an etching of the tower dated 1818 shows that it was single storey and had not been altered by later modifications.

The overlying brick walls of the adjacent property, the concrete capping on the most easterly section of curtain wall, the wall plaques, the down pipe which runs across the inner face of the most easterly turret, the water tank and the metal gates attached to the curtain wall at its western end are excluded from the scheduling. The concrete churchyard paths, steps, the recumbent grave slabs and the wooden church notice board are also excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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Books and journals
Teasdale, J A, The Town Wall in St Andrew's Churchyard, Newcastle upon Tyne, (1995)
Holmes, S, 'Archaeologia Aeliana ser 2' in The Walls of Newcastle Upon Tyne, , Vol. XViii, (1896), 1-25


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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