26 December 2011

'St Martin's Sconce' confirmed in Worcester

Photo: Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service / Arial-Cam

Excavations on a development site close to Worcester city centre have confirmed English Civil War remains first suggested in earlier evaluations.

'St Martin's Sconce' was a bastion constructed as part of the city's defences, and saw action in both the siege of 1646 and the battle of 1651 ...

Parliamentary forces under Thomas Rainsborough arrived outside Worcester in the summer of 1646. Rainsborough took command of the siege, forcing the small number of Royalist defenders to surrender. By 1651 the city was back in Royalist hands and it was here that Charles II arrived in August after marching south. The battle ended in disaster, with Cromwell and his men leaving 3,000 Royalists dead and taking around 10,000 prisoner.

Charles escaped through St Martin's Gate with a few followers, before spending six weeks as a fugitive before escaping abroad.

Map of Worcester in 1651, from Dr Threadway Nash's
Collections in the History of Worcestershire (1781)

Evaluations by archaeologists in 2000 and 2007 suggested that the site in the Lowesmoor area, to the east of the centre, were of particular interest. The subsequent dig by Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service confirmed the position of St Martin's Sconce, shown to be the defensive earthwork placed outside St Martin's Gate in a map of 1651. At least one cannonball and coin from the period were also found.

sconce was a fortification positioned as part of a city's defensive walls. The ground was usually raised, allowing for artillery to be used against besieging enemy forces.

Details of Nash's map showing St Martin's Gate and sconce.
Charles II escaped through the gate after realising the day was lost.

Fort Royal was a larger sconce built on a hill overlooking the city. You can see the quadrangular earthwork to the far right of the larger-scale Nash map, above. The hill is now a park, with good views of the city.

More details about the dig from Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service

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