Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Previous section
Siege Warfare


The now widespread use of cannon made it necessary to construct more robust defences than medieval stone walls. Mud walls, or ‘earthworks’, could more effectively withstand cannon fire and these were built around towns and used in the construction of ‘sconces,’ (Dutch, star-shaped forts). These fortifications were built collaboratively by the people of the town, often involving women and children, and were paid for by local contributions. John Twentyman, who wrote an account of the sieges of Newark, described how the inhabitants of Newark ‘began to make new works very high and strong and set up a great sconce’.


Aerial photo of raised earthworks on green hillside surrounded by ditches on its 4 sides
Queen's Sconce Newark

However, this height and strength could not protect the inhabitants of besieged towns from terrifying flying bombs or ‘grenadoes’, that were fired over defences by mortars (squat cannon), exploding on impact and burning down houses.