Borough Bank, a section of medieval town defences 70m north of St Mary Magdalene Church

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019401

Date first listed: 22-Feb-1962

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Nov-2000

Map

Ordnance survey map of Borough Bank, a section of medieval town defences 70m north of St Mary Magdalene Church
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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Location

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

County: Somerset

District: Taunton Deane (District Authority)

National Grid Reference: ST 22881 24692

Summary

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Town defences developed from simple earthen banks with external ditches (the bank often topped with a wooden palisade), to substantial stone built structures which usually had defended gates and often towers, turrets and bastions, located at intervals along the enceinte. Although they were primarily constructed to offer security to the inhabitants and a refuge in troubled times, town defences also performed a number of other functions. For example, the provision of only a limited number of gateways in the circuit was sometimes important in maintaining control over the passage of merchants and tradesmen, allowing the levying of taxes on goods entering or leaving and the collection of tolls, all of which contributed to the town's economy. A circuit of built defences was also seen as a status symbol since their presence indicated a high level of prosperity and money available for civic works within those towns which possessed them. Borough Bank at Taunton is an extant section of the medieval town's defensive earthworks and is regularly visited by school parties and local history groups as it provides a visual aid in the teaching of the town's history. Although the associated ditch is no longer visible at ground level it is believed to survive as a buried feature located forward of the bank. The monument is known from limited excavation elsewhere along its course to retain deep undisturbed levels and archaeological material which relates to the monument, the lives of the town's inhabitants, their economy and the landscape in which they lived.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

The monument includes a surviving section of the medieval town defences known as Borough Bank which is located between Northgate and Eastgate in the north east part of Taunton. The defences were formed by an earthen bank and ditch which encircled the medieval town from the 11th century to the 13th century. The section of bank and ditch included in this scheduling is approximately 50m long and is aligned from WNW to SSE. The top of the bank is flat, approximately 2m high and 3.5m wide; the rear of the bank extends for a further 20m gently sloping south westwards into the gardens of St Mary's Vicarage. The ditch is sited forward of the bank and is no longer visible at ground level having become infilled over the years and now lying buried beneath Cannon Street car park and the building known as The Chestnut Tree. It has been demonstrated, however, from limited excavation elsewhere along its projected course to be at least 10m wide and up to several metres deep. Evidence for the existence of the town defences comes from a number of sources including documentary references, limited excavation and surviving plot and parish boundaries. The earliest known mention of the town defences comes from a document of 1158 which refers to a town ditch which was already in existence running from Northgate to Eastgate and a document of 1215-1219 records the remodelling and improvement of the town defences. Partial excavation of the town defences has confirmed an early medieval date of construction. Later references record that the defences had ceased to be maintained by 1320 although the ditch was still referred to in a 17th century plan showing the early medieval borough boundary. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the building known as The Chestnut Tree Day Centre and its associated garage and shed, the small neo-classical style building attached to the north east boundary wall of St Mary's Vicarage, all fencing, all garden and flowerbed walls and all tarmac and modern surfacings and their make-up. The ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

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

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 33706

Legacy System: RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Aston, M, Bush, R in Leach, The Archaeology of Taunton, (1984), 59-63
Other
Borthwick, A, Town Centre Enhancement, Excavations and Watching Briefs, (1995)
Exeter Archaeology, Town Centre Enhancement, excavations and watching briefs, 1997,

End of official listing