The Cock's Tower





The only other watch tower know in some detail was the Cock’s Tower in the East wall, also referred to as ‘Cokes Tower’ or ‘Cox’s Tower’. It was a massive structure, which stood halfway along the wall, at the spot where the latter changed its north-southerly direction to a southwesterly one. It is said that it was erected "against the dangers of the sea" (36). This reference must relate to the tidal floods which raged across the boggy moorland from the Bristol Channel on this side of town, rather than attacks by enemy forces who would have found the marshes heavy going. A 1950s issue of the Cardiff Times remembered an event sixty-seven years previously, in 1883, "when the violence of the extraordinarily high tide that had wreaked havoc on both sides of the Bristol Channel battered a hole in the sea wall". This was one of several such walls built on the Cardiff Moors to break just such tidal intrusion (37). However, the Cock’s Tower also reinforced the wall at a vulnerable point, namely where it changed course. It is conceivable that this curious and seemingly unnecessary kink in the town wall’s direction had something to do with the statics of its construction, the local topography and known tidal events.

Like other parts of Cardiff’s medieval town defenses, the Cock’s Tower had its chequered history. According to Matthews, its name may have derived from the term ‘coquemarel’, a Normano-French word (38). Apparently, in the middle of the 16th century it was used as the Borough’s prison dungeon. In 1555, Rawlins White, the Cardiffian fisherman turned protestant martyr (39), was imprisoned here just before his execution (40). In 1779, the Cock’s Tower was leased preliminarily to the Clerk of the City Council, a Mr. T. Thomas. Two years later the lease was extended for a further twenty-one years at a rent of six pence per annum (41). It was not recorded what Mr. Thomas needed the tower for, but leasing parts of the old town defenses was apparently in vogue. Its remains, some fifteen to seventeen feet (or five to six meters) in height, were photographed in the 19th century when the Glamorganshire Canal was in operation (42). Portions of the wall on either side of the tower are also still visible on the photographs, if only as house walls.

Plan No.2 of David Stewart’s town survey of 1824 clearly shows that the tower had a five-sided shape, the front of which jutted out from the wall into the moat. However, by 1842 even these remains had fallen into ruin and in 1860 the rest was pulled down. Only the lower portion of the southeastern corner was left, to give the bargemen on the canal an easier passage around the bend at this point. During building work in 1962 the tower’s foundations came to light. They proved to have been eighteen feet (or five and a half meters) long and eight feet or two and a half meters deep, i.e. the section jutting into the canal (43)

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