The Archaeology of the Fortifications constructed in England during the English Civil War (1642-1651):
: Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester

  • Richard Israel

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


In the middle of the seventeenth century the social, political and economic landscape of Great Britain was dramatically affected by the resulting English Civil War (1642-1651). Whilst the names of battles such as Marston Moor and Naseby are relatively well known, the construction, manning, maintenance and positioning of the fortifications affecting almost every town and city is less understood.

Adopting archaeological landscape techniques this thesis examines three case studies of Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester. Utilising these techniques and examining the positioning of the fortifications and artillery via two new methodologies, GIS Cartographic Analysis and GIS viewshed analysis, the thesis has demonstrated that the artillery positioned in Parliamentarian Bristol in 1643 was unable to target all areas and therefore why Washington’s Breach occurred. The technique has also confirmed Bernard de Gomme’s fears of inadequate
defences in Royalist Bristol in 1645. Additional viewshed analysis of Gloucester in 1643 has also demonstrated the weakness of the defences south to Friar’s Orchard and explains David Papillon’s recommendations after the siege.

Whether Royalist or Parliamentarian, this research has demonstrated that control of the towns and cities was vitally important for either side to effectively campaign to win the conflict. The landscape defined the fortification. Design and construction of the fortifications were of secondary importance to having control of the high ground. The case study of Bristol has demonstrated that, such was the importance of high ground; it created a defensive line too large
to hold.

Whilst the landscape defined the fortification in Bristol, for Worcester, and Gloucester, the destruction of the suburbs and property to create the necessary ‘fields of fire’ to stop the artillery of the age, had an immense impact on the landscape and the people that once occupied it.
Date of Award26 Jun 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorNeil C M Carrier (Supervisor) & Stuart J Prior (Supervisor)

Cite this