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Periods 0-1 | Period 2 | Period 3 | Periods 4-5

Period 4: Palisade trench | Outer ditch | Conclusions

The 1975 excavations showed that the destroyed Saxon defences were refurbished in the medieval period. There is abundant evidence to demonstrate that the two main elements at least of this system - the palisade trench and the outer ditch - have been located in other parts of the defences, but not recognised as part of a systematic redefence of the town.

Palisade trench

This can be detected in the original records of a number of Wainwright's trenches, but is either not recognised or incorrectly interpreted in Radford's report. These are as follows:

NW corner

W.II. The published section shows a U-shaped feature above the rear face of the wall. Photographs (e.g. spool 4, no. 26, 1953) show this as a dark feature cut into the mortary layers of period 3 overlying the wall. A similar feature in W.I could be either the period 4 palisade trench or the dark turf revetment of the front of the bank.

SE corner

W.IX (trench in square XXV, outer corner). Wainwright's site plans (site notebook vol. 2, p.14) show a clear break in the pile of stones of period 3 spread on the berm in the position of the former wall. This break, 2ft (0.6m) in width, curves round the corner of the bank on the line of the probable inner face of the wall from the north to the west side of the trench. Photographs show a V-shaped trench filled with dark material cut into the stone and mortar debris (of period 3) and the original subsoil, in a position corresponding to the break marked on the plan.

SW corner

W.XII. The published section (Radford 1972, 80, fig. 8) shows a 'V-shaped gully cut into the subsoil' along the line of the wall, marked 'black pit or trench' on Wainwright's section. The plan of the wall shows only an inner and outer face remaining. Radford interprets this gully as a feature earlier than the wall, into which its front face in particular has slipped. However, the identification in 1975 of the same feature on the line of the wall cutting through period 3 destruction layers and into the subsoil beneath the wall, suggests that this is in fact the period 4 palisade trench into which the remaining front stones of the wall have subsequently slipped.

Other sections across the front of the bank are not recorded in enough detail to allow an independent assessment of the evidence for the presence or absence of the palisade trench. Clearly the psychological limitations of only being able to observe what was at the time expected have here (as in other places) been a limiting factor in the process of recording. The palisade trench was certainly not observed by Radford in the south-west corner (trench R.V) where it was particularly clear in the 1975 re-excavation of this same trench.

Outer ditch

The wide outer ditch is still visible today as a field ditch on the west and east sides of the defences, and was investigated archaeologically in a number of places by Wainwright. There is, however, no indication that either Wainwright or Radford ever considered it to have been part of the defensive system at any time, in spite of good dating evidence provided for Radford (by E.M. Jope) which placed its construction in the early-mid 12th century. A wide shallow ditch has been recognised in the following trenches:

West side

W.XIX (position incorrectly shown in Radford's report 1972, 85, fig. 9). A large ditch at least partly filled with modern rubbish (1972, 89) can on topographical grounds be suggested as being an earlier ditch recut, especially in view of Wainwright's failure to recognise an early ditch in W.XVIII (south-west corner) (see below).

W.III. The published section (1972, 66, fig.2) shows the presence of a low bank on the inner edge of a wide ditch, formed as the upcast from a primary ditch, which shows evidence of recutting. Two sherds of pottery from the primary fill described by Radford as 'late Saxon ware' are, however, placed in the later 11th or 12th century by E.M. Jope (see Radford 1972 fig. 11, nos 6 and 8). This can be interpreted as the outer defences of the system of period 4.

North-west corner

W.VI (N side). Radford notes the presence immediately in front (north) of the wall of 'a large flat-bottomed hollow which was later than the robbing of the wall'. This appears on the section as a ditch 16-18ft (4.9-5.5m) in width, 5ft (1.5m) in depth, its inner edge cut into the front of the bank.

W.V (N side). The 'hollow visible on the north side of the modern hedge', which was 'carefully scrutinised' by Radford (1972, 67) for evidence for a pre-Conquest date (with negative results), can best be interpreted as the ditch of period 4.

North-east corner

W.XIII (N-S section). Radford notes the presence of 'a broad shallow depression ... later than the robbing of the wall', whose fill included modern pottery. The section (1972, 70, fig.4) shows the clear outlines of a ditch cut into the period 3 debris, its inner edge at N 145ft. From the presence of a gully in the bottom of the ditch at N 152ft, which is similar to that in the period 4 ditch found in the south-west corner in 1975, it can be inferred that this ditch is the equivalent feature. The modern pottery from its filling need be no more than the contents of a modern recut.

W.XX (section E10). The published section suggests the presence of a ditch cut into the front of the bank, its inner edge at approximately N 96ft. A sherd of a spouted pitcher of late 11th or early 12th century date from this trench (1972, 93, fig. 11, no. 9), though not precisely located, could well be from this feature.

W.XIII (E-W section) (section not published). A 'broad shallow depression' was noted between E 260ft and E 300ft on the line of the modern hedge, with fragments of 'pottery of the 12th and 13th century' from its lower levels. Wainwright's section shows a recut at a higher level.

W.XII. A similar broad ditch to that in W.XIII was located about 75ft (22.8m) west of the front of the bank (section published: 1972, 70, fig. 4). The lower fill contained a group of 'early wares, perhaps of the 10th and 11th century', and 12th and 13th century material from the upper fill. In view of Radford's identification of late 11th or 12th century pottery in trench W.III as 'late Saxon', it seems that the material from the lower filling of the ditch in W.XII could be late 11th-12th century in date. None of this is drawn or described.

South-east corner

W.IX (E-W section - section not published). A broad shallow ditch was located under the modern hedge line, 75ft (22.8m) west of the former wall (see section W.XII above). Radford gives a width of 25ft, but Wainwright's section shows the ditch to have been 32ft (9.7m) in width.

W.IX (N-S section - section not published). Radford mentions the existence of a 'depression with a rounded bottom reaching to about 4ft (1.2m) below the old land surface', 24ft (7.3m) in width, 76ft (23m) in front of the former wall, i.e. in a position corresponding to the ditch on the W side.

W.X. (S. defences - section not published). Wainwright's section shows a ditch (which is neither drawn nor mentioned by Radford) starting at S 198ft (i.e. 85ft [25.9m] in front of the wall), 4ft (1.2m) in depth, reaching to the end of the trench at S 210ft. The partial filling of large stones, some of them 12-16 inches (0.3-0.4m) in width, suggests the possibility that this could be the outer ditch of periods 1 and 2 filled up in period 3. However, its distance from the bank suggests it is more likely to be the ditch of period 4.

South-west corner

W.XVIII (W side - 1972, 79, fig.7). Wainwright concluded that there was not an 'ancient ditch' here. However, the period 4 ditch located in 1975 would have passed through this trench. What Wainwright observed must therefore have been a modern recut of the earlier ditch (see trench W.XIX above).


A wide and comparatively shallow ditch of post-Conquest date can be demonstrated with some certainty to have existed on all four sides of the Saxon defences. On the west side it was positioned outside the line of the wide outer Saxon ditch. The similarity of its position on the east side to that on the west suggests not only that the outer Saxon ditch was indeed present on this side, but also that the latter was still either an observable feature when the later ditch was constructed, or that its position was defined by some other non-topographical means. In a number of places on the north side, where it was placed immediately in front of the bank, the ditch had clearly cut through the destruction deposits of period 3, and in several cases its lower fill contained pottery of the late 11th or 12th century. On the west side it was accompanied by a bank on its inner side, from which it can be inferred that a similar feature would also have existed on the east side. On the south-west corner, the closeness of this ditch to the earlier bank (observed in 1975) can be explained by the comparative steepness of the original contours outside the bank at this point. What are inferred to be equivalent ditches of the same period on the north side of the defences, observed at the western end (W.VI) and eastern end (W.XIII), are also dug near to the bank and presumed palisade, clearly on account of the proximity of the low-lying marshy levels of the flood plain to the line of the northern defences.

As shown above, the palisade trench can also be detected on all four sides of the defences. Although there is no independent dating evidence for this feature, there is every reason to believe that it belongs to the same period as the outer ditch. The recutting of the palisade trench in the south-west corner in 1975 mirrors the recutting of the wide ditch observed on both the west and east sides, as well as in the south-west corner. The recutting of the inner Saxon ditch observed in the south-west corner in 1975 (sections 6 and 7) together with the large ditch on the inside of the Saxon bank (section 1) can be most naturally associated with these features. Taken together, these features demonstrate a phase of refortification of the defences, defunct probably since their destruction in period 3A, at a date indicated by the pottery to be in the first half of the 12th century. This fits in with the requirement that it must have been carried out while the main Saxon features (bank, wall line, and inner and outer ditches) were still recognisable on the ground. That this was so at least with regard to the outer Saxon ditch on the west side is shown by the presence of 12th-13th century pottery in its upper filling. It will be argued in Part 3 that there is reason to associate this phase of the redefence of Cricklade with the events of the civil war in the 12th century, and in particular with the construction of a 'castellum' there in 1144.

Periods 0-1 | Period 2 | Period 3 | Periods 4-5

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