The Middle Ages 900-1500AD (Givelcestre)
When King Alfred in the 9th century was pushed into the westerly part of his kingdom by the Danes, he used the fortified Roman towns, of which Ilchester was one, in his campaigns to free Wessex from the invader. The walls were so stout that in 1087/88 they withstood a siege in a rebellion against William the Conquerer, when Bristol and Bath had both been sacked. Ilchester's golden age was from the 9th to 13th century. The street layout planned in this period remains the same today. Among the industries in the town was the production of pottery, there was also an important royal mint. The county gaol was here from 1166 until 1843 and Ilchester was in effect the county town of Somerset. The town walls and gates were rebuilt and were still standing in the 16th Century. Medieval Ilchester had a Dominican Friary, six churches and an Augustinian nunnery run as a hospital. The nuns were very poor and often had to beg for food. The poverty was not all due to cruelty of the Abbess as local legend has it, but on two documented occasions local 'gentlemen' had broken in to the store and stolen grain and other valuables.