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Swavesey Town Defences

In the civil parish of Swavesey.
In the historic county of Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely.
Modern Authority of Cambridgeshire.
1974 county of Cambridgeshire.
Medieval County of Cambridgeshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL360688
Latitude 52.30381° Longitude -0.00794°

Swavesey Town Defences has been described as a probable Urban Defence.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The town defences enclosed the whole of the gravel island south and west of the navigation drain. The north-western sector was still marked in 1988 by a ditch and a hedged earth rampart west of Castle close and west and north of Topleys close, where it took in the ridge and furrow of former open field at the north end of the close. On the north-east an irregular bank can be traced across the former Church green; on the south-east the ditch presumably ran close to the line of the modern drainage ditch and included Hobbledods close south of Market Street. West of Turnbridge, a name suggesting a medieval drawbridge over the ditch, the town ditch ran north of a modern drain and the present Thistle Green estate. That part of the fortifications and presumably the rest were constructed c. 1200. What may have been an extension ran further west to include the approximately rectangular Chantry close, probably returning eastwards to join the surviving rampart at the south end of Castle close.

Since the town ditch, which was perhaps intended mainly as a flood defence, was built during the period when the lords of Swavesey manor were foreigners or short-term grantees, it was presumably promoted by the lesser landowners, particularly the lord of the later Bennetts manor and the prior. The area enclosed included the presumed sites of Hobbledods and Topleys manor houses, while the copyhold houses of the rectory and Hobbledods manors lay wholly within the enclosure, the former group mainly along the present Station Road and the latter along the south end of High Street and in Wallman's Lane. Some tenements on the rectory manor, including Castle croft, were called garizonabilisin 1476, and the crofts on the north side of Station Road west of Swavesey bridge, at least some of which were held of the rectory manor, curved round to back on the town ditch, perhaps so that each householder could maintain part of it. The southern part of the town ditch was kept cleared in the later Middle Ages but was filled in with the adjoining rampart c. 1500. (VCH 1989)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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