The defensive wall in Chepstow, called the Port Wall, was erected in the years 1272-1282 on the initiative of Roger Bigod, the fifth Earl of Norfolk. After the conquest of England and parts of southern Wales by the Normans, Chepstow developed as an important market and port center. The port was known for the export of wood and bark and imported wine from Gascony, Spain and Portugal. Because of the status of Welsh marches, contributions imposed by local lords were beyond any direct control of the English Crown. The Port Wall served both defensive functions and was used to collect taxes, at the only entry gate to the city. It assured you that only those who pay for the passage can take part in a market, that regularly taking place in the town.
The wall remained completely intact, until in 1846 its part was demolished to allow the construction of a railway line between Chepstow and Newport. Another southern part was destroyed in 1916 in order to develop the shipyard, and the last gaps for roads were made in the 1960s.
The defensive wall cut off the headland in the bend of the Wye River, running from the western castle to the south – eastern part of the bow. Originally, its length was about 1100 meters, and covered an area of almost 53 hectares, including the entire town and port. Much of the area within the walls was never built, but was used as pastures, orchards and gardens, with wharves and shipyards on the river. It is uncertain whether the town wall originally extended to the very wall of the castle, or only to the moat on the southern side of the stronghold.
The wall is approximately 5-7 meters high and 2 meters thick. It was built without solid foundations, of roughly cut stones and filled inside with rubble. Originally, it was crowned with a sidewalk of defenders and battlement. It was reinforced by at least 11 semicircular half towers, each with a diameter of about 8 meters. On some sections, there was a dry moat in front of the wall.
Only a single gatehouse led into the town, at which tolls and taxes were collected. It was a four-sided gatehouse with an ogival passage in the ground floor. It was rebuilt in the 15th century and again from 1524, when the upper floor was transformed into a prison. Two heraldic shields on its facade come from this period.
Until today, significant fragments of the wall have survived, mainly in the western part of the area along with several towers. Currently, it is quite neglected, especially its finial needs to be repaired and restored. The only town gate of Chepstow has been preserved, unfortunately it was rebuilt in the Tudor times, and then in the nineteenth century, which is why the window openings, portals of the gate passage and battlement are modern.
Turner R., Chepstow Castle, Cardiff 2007.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Chepstow castle and Chepstow town walls.
Website wikipedia.org, Chepstow Port Wall.