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St Albans Town Defences

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Monk Ditch

In the civil parish of St Albans.
In the historic county of Hertfordshire.
Modern Authority of Hertfordshire.
1974 county of Hertfordshire.
Medieval County of Hertfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL146071
Latitude 52.75122° Longitude -0.34064°

St Albans Town Defences has been described as a probable Urban Defence.

There are no visible remains.


Town ditch mentioned by Burne as being dug during the Barons War, c1265, & surmounted by a palisade. He shows it enclosing the town on the N & E of the Ver. (Hertfordshire HER)

(Course sited from plan from TL 149069 - TL 150074). A defensive ditch known as Monk Ditch is attested from documentary sources and was in existence by the beginning of the 15th century. Its course is not known for certain, but it almost certainly ran parallel to, and to the west of, Tonman Ditch (TL 10 NW 14) between Sopwell Lane and New Lane (now Hatfield Road). (PastScape ref. Saunders and Havercroft)

The city of St. Alban now comprises the whole of the parish of St. Alban, and extends into the parishes of St. Peter, St. Michael, St. Stephen, and Sandridge. The bounds of the borough were first recorded in 1327, (Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), ii, 166.) although as early as 1142 its limits appear to have been defined by a ditch, (Matt. Paris, Hist. Angl. (Rolls Ser.), i, 270.) afterwards called Tonmans Dike, which can still be traced. Crosses were at an early date erected at important points in the line of boundary, and at each of the entrances to the town, namely, the Stone Cross or North Gate Cross (Wills, Archd. St. Albans, Wallingford, 167) at the north on the Sandridge Road, the Red Cross in Sopwell Lane, at the entrance by the old road from London, the Cross with the Hand in Eywood Lane, the Black Cross, probably at the angle where Tonmans Dike goes from the boundary of the houses in Fishpool Street towards the Claypits, and St. John's Cross at an angle of the boundary in what is now known as Harley Street, but lately as Mud Lane. (Trans. St. Albans Arch. Soc. 1893.)
There seems to be no evidence that the town was ever walled. In the time of Abbot Roger de Norton it was secured with bars at the various entrances, (Gesta Abbat. (Rolls Ser.), i, 426.) which continued under the name of the barriers or burglays, (Aug. Off. Decrees, xiii, 75.) and are described in the charter of Edward VI as the Bars in Sopwell Lane, the Bars at Kingsbury Lane, the New Bars on the north—that is, at the Sandridge Road, and the New Bars near the house of Sir Ralph Rowlatt, which stood at the bottom of Holywell Street. The boundaries described in 1327 were again ascertained in 1635, and continued unchanged as regards the municipal boundary till 1835. (VCH)

The Saxon defences of Kingsbury may not have had post Conquest use or may have been entirely used by Kingsbury castle
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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