A TOWERING MISCONCEPTION? by Peter Morgan Jones n in AD 1233 Hubert de Burgh, lord of Monmouthshire's Three Castles and h else, escaped from his Devizes dungeon, the rescuers he had expected were and so he staggered to the nearby church. Here he did not slam the door, or b into its tower, but threw himself before its High Altar, claiming the forty days [lights of sanctuary that were his under Canon Law. It did him little good. Within ites his former captors had dragged him back to imprisonment although Henry terrified by threat of excommunication, was soon forced to have Hubert .tated. Clearly any refuge provided by the church was spiritual and not physical. fet, in spite of this there are claims that churches, particularly their towers, were ided to offer refuge tantamount to actual physical defence, and there has arisen lief in 'defensible church towers'. Church guides themselves are often guilty, even Pevsner's Herefordshire states that, 'The proximity to Wales called for nces other than castles. Some church towers are so massive it is hard to believe were not thought of as possible refuges', while Lynn H. Nelson's fine, The nan Invasion of Wales makes much the same claim. Smith and Guy's Ancient h Churches goes further stating of Skenfrith, 'The style (of its tower) places it at period when the Welsh border was subject to sudden raids and attack and the gers might have to seek refuge at any time. The walls are five feet thick and is a massive timber bolt on the West door'. Ergo, Skenfrith tower was designed equipped to withstand attack. But any serious examination suggests no such msible' church tower exists anywhere on the Welsh March, an area where surely should be found in some number? Along the whole blood-soaked border of s there is nothing faintly resembling the iron-clad doors of Malaucene in ence, the massive crenellated towers of Les Eyzies, Dordogne, or the licolated flanking corner turrets of Ecoyeux in Charente. These and many s like them were properly designed defensive structures possessing ability to back at any attacker, a defensive prime requisite. In comparison such features )tally lacking in the Welsh borderlands where neither church nor tower appears Die of offering anything but the slightest protection to those who might have ht physical refuge within. or convenience defence may be classed as being either 'active' or 'passive'. eval castle architecture is clearly of the former category, with everything, her killing field, counterscarp, fosse, scarp, batter and berm designed to prevent k;ers gaining, and then holding, ground at the base of its walls. That is what iry architecture is all about, every crenel, arrow loop, machicolation, hourd