Defensive Fortifications

At the outset of the war, the earliest forms of defensive fortification were simple mud walls and chains or turnpikes blocking roads and small earth or masonry additions to existing walls. Larger centres built forts connected by a ditch, while the major centres developed complex continuous bastioned enceintes.

Mud walls, chains, and additions to walls

Attempts at fortification were crude to say the least in the opening months of fighting. In some cases, the first action was simply to remove any possible cover for attacking forces. One contemporary account contains .1 request for a resolution 'about the demolishing of all the dwelling-houses in the town [of Beachlev, Gloucestershire!, so that no covert be left for such as shall endeavour again the fortifying of the same'. In many places, hamlets and suburbs were burnt down or demolished to remove this threat, and create fields of fire, although Papillon was critical of this practice, arguing that such places could 'serve as Bulwarks for the preservation of their Towne, and so by pulling downe of them, they advance their owne ruin, to save some small charges; nay, they often increase them, by pulling of them downe'. Bridges were demolished at Cambridge and some woodland was cut down to clear the terrain against any surprises. Sir John Boys, the Royalist commander at Donnington Castle, Berkshire, burnt houses, stables, barns and other buildings as a precaution.

Contemporary Fortifications

Work in progress on the fortifications of Donnington Castle, Newbury

An aerial view of Donnington Castle as it might appeared in the Civil War. In September 1643, Royalist commander Colonel Boys began to strengthen the castle, just outside Newbury in Berkshire, by adding bastions made of earth around the place surmounted by gabions and probably palisades: storm poles might have projected from the earthworks. These earthworks resembled a 'star' fort, cost £ 1.000 ' to construct and can still b$ seen to this day.

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The firs! defences of London consisted of chains across the roads but these were soon replaced. At Manchester, the Parliamentarian colonel John Rosworm, a German who had experience of the campaigns of the Thirty Years War, began to construct mud walls at street ends, fixing posts and chains to keep out the enemy's horse. The defences at Nantwich, Cheshire, were described simply as 'clods of earth', while 'breastworks' were constructed at Birmingham. Barricades were erected outside the east and west gates of Bath, and breastworks were dug beyond the north and south gates; gates were repaired and chains placed across some streets.

The manner in which locations already provided with walled defences could be placed in a defensible condition more suited to contemporary requirements, was detailed by Thomas Venn in /lis Military ami Maritime Discipline published in 1672:

Many towns and cities possessed walls built in Roman or medieval times. To strengthen them, bastions were added, or exterior forts and sconces were built as at Worcester and York. Earth was sometimes mounded up behind the walls for added protection, or placed on the parapets to provide cover for musketeers. (From Harrington. 1978)

Enemy Fortification

An ancient Rampar, if it be strong, and surrounded with a wall and lowers, must not be demolished, therefore you must inclose it with a new fortification which must be Regular, if possible, or as near as Regular as might be Betwixt the New Fortification.

lie goes on to say that 'many French and Dutch cities were fortified with Ravelins, Half-moons, Hornworks and other sort of works, which sort of building, since 'tis to supply the place of Bulwarks ought to be stronger than usual'.

Worcester had six bastions added in front of its medieval wall on the northern and eastern sides. Bath raised part of its walls, while King's Lynn in Norfolk had an entirely new defence made by adding ten or more bastions to the medieval walls, which gave the town a continuous trace. Nearby Great Yarmouth also received new defences but there was no need to make a complete new enceinte or even to add bastions all along the medieval wall, since this had already been done by 1588 in anticipation of a Spanish attack. Similarly, York expected ail attack from the Scots in 1640 and preparations had been made to meet a possible siege by constructing several outworks outside the walls.

Masonry walls were frequently protected by having earth piled up against them. At Lathom House, Lancashire, the walls of the building were lined with earth and sod 2yds thick, while at many walled towns such as Chester, earth was mounded up against the whole walls to absorb the shock from any artillery attacks. Earth was sometimes piled on top of walls to protect defenders.

Chain of forts connected by a ditch

Most of the towns defended by Parliament used this type of method including London and Bristol. The fortifications at London stretched for 11 miles, consisting of a bank and ditch straddled here and there by bastions and forts. In fact the 'Lines of Communication' at London resembled siegeworks rather than defences. At Liverpool, the Parliamentarians constructed a ditch 36ft by 9ft deep cut in from the River Mersey. Behind this ditch was a rampart of earth, probably surmounted by a palisade. Plymouth had a similar arrangement, while Chester had an elaborate defence with 12 forts connected by a continuous line as well as detached forts bevond the walls.

Suburban Warfare Fortifications

London, Bristol and Plymouth were all Parliamentarian strongholds at the outset of the war. and all exhibited similar forms of defence with individual forts and sconces connected by ditches and banks.The works at Bristol were remodelled after the Royalists captured the city. (From Harrington. 1978)

Continuous bastioncd enceinte

Thomas Venn continued his description of foreign cities: 'They are likewise frequently fortified with a Faus-bray, and the Breastwork of the Covert War; anil sometime with a Ditch about this Out-Breastwork, and with Stakados'. The practical result of these arrangements was to provide a new and continuous enceinte in advance of any older one. This method, inspired by Dutch principles, was used to some extent by the Royalists, and was superior to the Parliamentarian methods. While the Royalists were more advanced in techniques than their

As the Civil War progressed, more elaborate forms reflecting continental principles replaced earlier fortifications. The defences of Liverpool and Oxford were designed by Bernard de Gomme. but were never completed at the former. (From Harrington, 1978)

As the Civil War progressed, more elaborate forms reflecting continental principles replaced earlier fortifications. The defences of Liverpool and Oxford were designed by Bernard de Gomme. but were never completed at the former. (From Harrington, 1978)

Sir Bernard Gomme Portsmouth

adversaries at the outset, by the end of the first war, and particularly in the 1648 campaign, Parliamentarian engineers had proved remarkably proficient in building advanced artillery siegeworks at Newark, Pontefract, Yorkshire, and Colchester.

When the Royalists captured Bristol in 1643, the earlier works were removed and replaced by a curtain wall over 4ft high, except for some places where it reached 6ft. The ditch in front was generally about 2yds wide, but only 5ft deep.

Simple flanking bastions were placed at regular intervals. Reading, Portsmouth, Carmarthen, Newark and Bridgwater were all examples of towns employing such defences. A strong defence system was created around Oxford and it clearly reflected Dutch influences, while at Liverpool, de Gomme proposed a new and continuous bastioned trace in 1644, although less complicated than that at Oxford.

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