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The western defences of the Inmost Ward, Tower of London

Geoffrey Parnell

Excavations against the west curtain of the Inmost Ward revealed a north-south ditch that antedated this part of Henry III’s defences. It is possible that it should be associated with the ditch excavated in 1963-4 on the Jewel House site north of the White Tower, and that together they defined a very early enclosure – perhaps even a fortification predating the White Tower itself.

Work began on the Wakefield Tower in 1221 as part of the general improvements to the palace instigated by Henry III. Excavation showed that the tower was originally constructed within a large defensive ditch, and the quality of the masonry indicates that the basal courses within the ditch were intended to be seen; however, before work had passed the level of the ground floor plinth the ditch had been infilled. The adjoining curtain wall was built in several stages. At one point during the construction a temporary ditch was dug on an east-west alignment north of the Wakefield Tower. This section of curtain, together with the Coldharbour Gate, was probably completed by 1238. Examination of earlier excavation records reveals that the Coldharbour Gate itself had at least two major phases, the second of which may relate to a documented refurbishment in 1532.

The paper includes a detailed report on the medieval pottery - the first securely dated late 12th/early 13th-century assemblage from the Tower - and a comprehensive reassessment of the pottery from the 1963-4 Jewel House excavations.

[Transactions 34 (1983), pp 107 – 50; abstract by Francis Grew, 18-Oct-1996]

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