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Norwich City Wall and Cow Tower

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;

In the civil parish of Norwich.
In the historic county of Norfolk.
Modern Authority of Norfolk.
1974 county of Norfolk.
Medieval County of Norfolk.

OS Map Grid Reference: TG23960918
Latitude 52.63419° Longitude 1.30827°

Norwich City Wall and Cow Tower has been described as a certain Artillery Fort, and also as a certain Chain Tower, and also as a certain Urban Defence.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


Remains of City Wall. City obtained royal grants of murage in 1297, 1305, 1317, 1337 and 1343 (this one specifically to make a dyke). Defences said, by Dugdale, to date from 1253 (specifically licentiam communes Norwici includendi eandem villam cum fossis ) but northern part of town may have been defended from Saxon times. As early as 1385 Norwich had a substantial arsenal of artillery, more than 40 guns being placed on the walls. Cow Tower (TG23960918) is one of the earliest blockhouses to have been built and is an impressive example of the use of brick in the medieval period. It was originally the toll house for a monastery founded in 1249. It was ruinous by 1378 and converted to form part of the city's defences in the late C14 (completed by 1390). It was further altered in C15. Boom towers, at the southern end of the defences, controlled access along the river.

Only at Ber Street, to the east of the site of the gate, does the wall survive to its full height including the parapet wall of the wall walk with merlons and crenellations. From this section it is possible to get some sense of the scale of the wall, here almost 7 metres high, though even here what has been lost is the effect of seeing the wall rise up from the far side of a wide and deep ditch. The walls must originally have presented an impressive if not ominous view from inside the city as well as out, looming over all domestic buildings and dominating the view along all the streets that led up to the gates. The wall was at least 1.9 metres thick though it is not always possible to determine the full width from the standing sections where extensive areas of facing flint were lost when buildings added against the wall were demolished. The full thickness of the wall has only been revealed when sections have been excavated. The wall through Jarrold's factory at River Lane is thin and completely rebuilt above ground. Excavations by the County Archaeologist revealed that because the outer ditch here was particularly wide and deep where it joined the river, the original wall, surviving below the present ground level, was very substantial. The wide wall allowed for a wall walk at the top protected by a thinner parapet on the outer side. Where this parapet survives at Carrow Hill it rises about 2 metres above the walk, providing full cover for men keeping watch or defending the city from the wall top. (Norwich City Walls Survey 1999-2002)

It has been incorrectly suggested that a Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1252-3 (Click on the date for details of this supposed licence.).


The mid C14 work is well described in a charter between Richard Spynk and the town dated 1343. He seems to have directed and part funded the work which included 28 espringalds (large crossbows) each with a hundred gogeons (bolts) in a locked box.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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