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Tyne and Wear HER(6034): Newcastle town wall, Plummer Tower, Civil War bastion - Details

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Newcastle town wall, Plummer Tower, Civil War bastion






Post Medieval


Demolished Building

By the seventeenth century, the medieval town wall defences had become neglected and the onset of the Civil War made their repair a matter of urgency. Work was carried out between 1638 and 1644, when Newcastle was beseiged by the Scottish Army, with bastions and forts constructed outside the town walls. There is evidence of re-cutting of the medieval ditch at several points on the defensive circuit. During excavations at Plummer Tower in 1989, evidence for a stone-built bastion or bulwark was found. Plummer Tower became an artillery position at the time of the Civil War, and the bastion was built as an outwork to strengthen the defensive capability of the tower. It may have been the result of Sir Jacob Astley's visit to Newcastle in 1639, to advise on improving the town's defences in the light of the threat from Scotland. One of Astley's plans shows an artillery piece described as "a small cannon" beside Plummer Tower. The excavation demonstrated that the bastion had been cut into the boulder clay subsoil. It had an outer face of well-coursed mortared ashlar, retaining a rubble core. The outer face rested on wooden planks. Part of the bastion ditch, which was separated from the stonework by a berm 1 metres wide, was excavated on the south side. There were stake holes half way up the inner slope, possibly marking the positions of swinefeathers. The outer edge of the ditch appeared to have an almost vertical side. Three musket balls came from the lower ditch deposits, along with a small wooden object which may have had a military connection. Post Civil War infilling of the ditch was limited, and produced pottery and objects of the late seventeenth century. The bastion stonework became a stone "quarry". The bastion was probably of "arrowhead" form, the point opposite the centre of the medieval tower. SCHEDULED ANCIENT MONUMENT




J. Nolan, R. Fraser, R.B. Harbottle and F.C. Burton, 1989, The medieval town defences of Newcastle upon Tyne - excavation and survey, Archaeologia Aeliana, series 5, Vol 17, pp 29-78; C.S. Terry, 1899, The Seige of Newcastle upon Tyne by the Scots in 1644, Archaeologia Aeliana, series 2, Vol 21; P. Harrington, 1992, The Archaeology of the English Civil War

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