Oswestry Town Walls Report – 1980

1980 Report Foreword

by Carol James

Between October 1979 and September 1980 members of the Border Counties Archaeological Group excavated a series of trial trenches in an attempt to establish the line of a section of the defensive wall that surrounded the medieval borough of Oswestry. Exploratory work has now ground to a temporary halt as the Group hopefully awaits the opportunity to investigate further potential sites as they are made available. It is, therefore, a suitable moment to take stock of what has so far been achieved in the search, and at the same time to make the Group’s activities known to a wider public.

Old Castle Prints

A summary of progress – or lack of it – constitutes Part IV of this present compilation. However, BCAG undertook the first excavation in 1979 at very short notice, and members quickly became aware that their knowledge of the history of Oswestry’s thirteenth century defences was woefully inadequate and perfunctory. Background research was not facilitated by the discovery that relatively little information on the town wall exists, and even that is scattered widely over a bewildering mass of primary and secondary sources. Consequently BCAG Committee considered it desirable, as a necessary preliminary to further excavations, that, as far as possible, all existing information relating to Oswestry’s town wall and gates should be brought together in a form of ‘dossier’, and arranged, for ease of reference, into some systematic and chronological order. Such a narrative makes up the first three parts, and the bulk, of this report or ‘handbook’.

Part I outlines how Oswestry’s medieval castle, wall and gates came to be built. Part II traces the long, slow process of decay, and suggests reasons why such a substantial feature as a seven foot-thick wall, over a mile long, has disappeared without leaving any visible traces on the ground. Part III collates all known sightings of the wall since 1865. Surprisingly, there have been very few, and one is left in no doubt as to the enormity of the task BCAG has set itself.

Old Castle Prints

Finally, it has always been a matter of considerable frustration that the standard works on the history of Oswestry are neither graced by footnotes, nor possess a detailed bibliography, thus actively deterring the researcher from pursuing some aspect of his investigation in greater detail. Accordingly, a not inconsiderable effort has been made to rectify this omission in the preparation of this publication.

When not engaged on their own excavations, members of BCAG help at other archaeological sites in Clwyd, south Cheshire and north Shropshire. During the winter the Group arranges monthly lectures at Oswestry and Wrexham, and between May and September organises a series of field trips under qualified leaders to places of historical and archaeological interest.

Mrs. Carol James, BCAG Secretary 1980.