Newcastle upon Tyne town defences: section of curtain wall including Sallyport or Wall Knoll Tower
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1019811
Date first listed: 18-Jan-1930
Date of most recent amendment: 23-Apr-2003
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Newcastle upon Tyne (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference: NZ 25471 64150
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Between the Roman and the 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 times 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. 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 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 the 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 normally projected forwards from the line of the wall and about 40 intermediate turrets, usually 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 and Pilgrimgate, 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 level space between a defensive wall and a ditch in order to defend it). The ditch, known as the King's Dykes, was completed in 1316, sometime 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; 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. Despite the fact that the standing and buried remains of the medieval town wall on the west side of Tower Street have been incorporated within an early 18th century building, they survive reasonably well to a height of more than 3.5m. The length of curtain wall containing Sallyport or Wall Knoll Tower and a lesser gateway is a rare survival, being one of few remaining locations, particularly on the east side of the circuit, where the curtain wall and its associated structures remain. They will add greatly to our understanding of how the defences of Newcastle upon Tyne were constructed and operated.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument is situated in an elevated position on the west side of Tower
Street at the junction of Tower Street and Garth Heads. It includes the
upstanding and buried remains of part of the town defences of Newcastle upon
Tyne. The section of town defences on the west side of Tower Street represents
part of the eastern side of the circuit and includes a length of curtain wall,
a tower and one of the town's lesser gateways. The curtain wall, tower and
gateway are a Listed Building Grade I. Further sections of the town defences
to the north and south are the subject of separate schedulings.
Newcastle upon Tyne's town defences were constructed from the mid-13th century
to the middle or late 14th century enclosing 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 a 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
The length of curtain wall in this section, constructed of large sandstone
blocks and, divided into two parts by the tower, stands to a maximum height of
4.5m at its western end. The most westerly fragment, attached to the south
west corner of the tower is 1.5m long; this fragment formed the eastern end of
a small rectangular chamber located within the thickness of the curtain wall.
Access to the chamber was gained through an arched doorway from a spiral
staircase located within the south west corner of the tower. Attached to the
south eastern corner of the tower the more easterly length of curtain wall is
about 5.5m long and 2.1m wide. This length of wall contains a single round-
headed entrance passage 2.9m wide known as Sallyport which formed one of the
lesser gateways of the town wall circuit.
Projecting forwards from the outer face of the curtain wall there is a tower
known as Sallyport or Wall Knoll Tower. The tower is visible as a rectangular
structure 8.5m north east to south west by 7.8m and constructed of coursed
squared sandstone blocks. Originally of only one storey, the medieval masonry
stands to a maximum height of 3.6m. Narrow window loops, now blocked, are
contained within the three outer faces of the tower. Within the tower the
ground floor chamber is covered by a stone vault and is unusual in having a
spiral stair which rises from the south west corner of the chamber to the
former wall walk.
The tower was leased to the Company of Shipwrights at least as early as 1638
and was modified in 1716 when an upper chamber was added to the top of the
tower and a second bay was added to the east.
The 18th century upper chamber, above the level of the chamfered plinth is
excluded from the monument. The eastern bay, the wall which abuts the north
west corner of the tower, all areas of paving and cobbles and the retaining
walls and bollards are also excluded from the monument although the ground
beneath these features is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 32749
Legacy System: RSM
Nolan, J, (2000)
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