The nature of the town walls at Chesterfield has long been a matter of controversy. Not only are there no town walls today, but there is no trace of them in Tudor or Stuart times when most towns were dismantling their medieval fortifications. However, the town’s coat of arms feature a mural crown, a crown around the helmet on top of the coat of arms that is composed of stones. This device was traditionally restricted to towns with walls, though there were exceptions.
What appears to have been the medieval ditch outside the walls has been found in Station Road. This was a wide, V-shaped ditch about 15 feet deep. Broken pottery shows that it was filled in during the later 15th century. If this ditch is what remains of the medieval town walls then nothing of any actual wall has survived. However, comparison with similar structures elsewhere shows what the town walls would have been like in 1266.
The earth excavated from the ditch would have been piled up behind the ditch to form a mound of earth. This served to increase the vertical distance from the bottom of the ditch back up to the ground surface. The mound would have been constained within wooden revetments to keep it in place. On top of the mound would have been placed a wooden pallisade around four feet tall. The actual top of the mound may have been left as bare earth, or may have had a wooden walkway laid on top of it. The defenders of the town would have stood on the walkway and sheltered behind the pallisade when fighting any attackers. The ground immediately outside the ditch would have been cleared of trees, bushes and buildings to a distance of around 300 feet or so. This was so that no attackers could creep up to the walls unobserved.
By the standards of the mid-13th century, these walls were obsolete and next to useless. Techniques to overcome earth and timber defences were well known, so even a mediocre commander of a small army could expect to be inside Chesterfield within a day or two. Given that the town guard was likely to be as poorly put together as the town walls it may not have taken even that long. Most towns of any size had stone walls by this date, usually with towers and sophisticated gatehouses. Presumably the town walls of Chesterfield were more for monitoring those attending the market than for any real attempt at defence.
from "The Battle of Chesterfield, 1266" by Rupert Matthews.
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