top of page

Civil War Fortifications Register (CWFR)

The research undertaken by Glenn Foard and Richard Morris (Archaeology of English Battlefields, 2012) demonstrated that for every major battle which took place in England between 1642 and 1651 there were eight sieges . But as research carried out by the British Civil Wars Project demonstrates, this represents but a fraction of the actual fighting as for every battle there were numerous actions and other minor actions . The same applies to sieges, and for every siege there would have been other types of hostile activity including the forced surrender of a garrison, a surrender resulting from an action elsewhere, or the fall of a town following a battle outside its walls. Unfortunately, whether a place was besieged or not largely seems to be the determining factor whether a fortress was included in the histories of the period. Recognising the need to identify every place that was fortified during the Civil Wars (regardless of its actual role in the fighting), covering Britain and Ireland, and inspired by the British Civil War Project ( led to the creation, in 2017, of a project to develop a list of every fortified place: the Civil War Fortresses Register (CWFR) was born.

It started with a list of 827 fortresses, and has since grown to 956, then 1,078, and now (1st May 2023) 1,104 fortresses.

The initial findings have been published as part of The Town Well Fortified.

Initially, the register is based on secondary sources (the guiding principle being that any entry would need to be listed separately in at least two sources), although as the project develops, entries are being crossed referenced with primary sources.


The sources include the following websites:


The following secondary sources have also been referenced:

Colin Alexander, Defensive Northumberland

John Barratt, Sieges of the English Civil Wars; The Great Siege of Chester

Martin Coventry, The Castles of Scotland

Oliver Creighton and Robert Higham, Medieval Town Walls

Glenn Foard, The Archaeology of English Battlefields

Peter Gaunt, The Cromwellian Gazetteer

Peter Harrington, English Civil War Archaeology

Richard Israel, The Archaeology of the Fortifications constructed in England, etc.

Peter Kent, Fortifications of East Anglia

John Kenyon, Castles, Town Defences, and Artillery Fortifications

Paul M. Kerrigan, Castles and Fortifications in Ireland

John Hertnett McEnery, Fortress Ireland

Mike Osborne, Cromwellian Fortifications in Cambridgeshire; Defending Cambridgeshire; Defending Hampshire; Defending Leicestershire and Rutland; Defending Norfolk; Defending Nottinghamshire; Sieges and Fortifications of the Civil Wars in Britain

RCHM, Newark-on-Trent: The Civil War Siegeworks

Mark Stoyle, The Civil War Defences of Exeter

Peter Wenham, The Siege of York 1644


The following two primary lists have been used:

A perfect list of all the victories obtained by the Lord General Cromwel… (1651)

Englands remembrancer: in two parts. Or, A catalogue of all or most of the severall victories, and strong holds obtained (through Gods blessing) by the Parliaments forces… (1646)


Added to this are years of my own research, including the Civil War Defences of London Project, and King’s Lynn under Siege.

Initial Results

Five years into the project, its initial results are ready to be published.

Each entry is listed by location, and includes (or will include) its grid reference. Then, it is categorised into one of 21 types, ranging from Prehistoric Earthworks to Protectorate citadels.

Overall, the register lists (as of 1st May 2023) 1,104 places that were fortified, of which 675 (61%) witnessed some sort of hostile invention . Breaking this down by country, there were 662 fortified places in England, of which 393 (59%) saw action. In Ireland the figure was 231 and 109 (47%), for Scotland it was 117 and 94 (80%), and in Wales, there were 73 fortified places, of which 58 (79%) saw action.

The intention is to eventually publish the register and to make it searchable (particularly by location). But in the meantime, below is a table showing a count of major fortress types by country.

It is very much an evolving project, the information is continually being reviewed and revised (the current focus is on the 21 entries currently listed as ‘unknown’.

Cromwell's Castle, Tresco

One of a number of artillery forts and citadels built during the 1650s

bottom of page