London history over 2000 years

London history over 2000 years

The City Gates of London.

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In the Walls of the City, are these Gates or Apertures into the City :

I Ludgate.
2 Newgate.
3 Aldersgate.
4 Cripplegate.
5 Aldermanbury Postern.
6 Second Postern.
7 Great Moorgate.
8 Little Moorgate.
9 Bishopsgate.
10 Aldgate.
11 And the South Aperture into the City is Bridgegate.

There are also more remote Gates not in the Walls, as
12 Temple Bar.
13 Westminster
14 Cockpit, and
15 St. John's

Of the Antiquity and present Appearance of these Gates, I shall discourse as follows :
There were formerly but four Gates, viz. the West or Ludgate, North or Aldersgate, East or aldgate, and South of Bridegate, but afterwards for the Conveniency of the citizens, the rest were built.

1 Ludgate,
Is an Aperture from the Hill into the Street of thet Name, in the West part of the City. It is said to have been built by Lud, a British King, about 66 years before the Nativity of our Saviour. It was repaired Anno 1215 , and again, beautified Anno 1260 : It was wholly rebuilt in the Year 1586, and the Images of King Lud and Androgeus, and Theomantius, his 2 Sons were put up, all which was done at the Charge of the City, and cost upward of 1500 l.
At present the Gate is spacious and strong, built of Stone; the West Side is adorned with 2 Pilasters and Entablament of the Ionic Order; also 2 Columns and Pediment adorning a Nich, wherein is placed a Figure (very well carved) of Queen Elizabeth in her Royal Habiliments, with the Regalia ; above which is the Queen's Arms betn the City Supporters, placed at some distance. The East side of this Gate is adorned with 4 Pilasters and Entablature of the Doric Order ; the Intercolumns are the said 3 Figures of King Lud, &c. each standing in a Nich in their British Habit; and higher are the Queen's Arms, viz, France and England quarterly, supported with a Lyon and Dragon ; and here is this Inscription in gold Characters : Repaired and beautified Anno 1699 Sir Francis Child Lord Mayor.
Here are 2 good Foot Posterns on the North and South sides of this Gate,’

2 Newgate.
A principal Gate, which openeth out of Hart street into Newgate street in the Westerly part of London. It was so called, as built after the 4 principals (as beforesaid) were reckon'd old ; and for the Conveniency of such as had occasion to pass from the North West part of the City to Holbourn, &c, It was first erected about the year 1100. The Prison here.
I find Newgate at present, Is a very strong, well built and beautiful Gate, adorned on the Westerly with 3 Ranges of Pilasters, and their Entablement of the Tuscan Order, over the lowest is a circular Pediment, and above that the Queens Arms; the other Intercolumns are 4 Niches replenished, with as many Figures well carved in Stone, standing in full proportion; and there is a Foot Postern on the North side.
The East side is adorned with a range of Pilasters &c, as before; and in 3 Niches are the Figures of Justice, Mercy and Truth; and here is this Inscription :
This part of Newgate was begun to be repaired in the Mayoralty of Sir James Cambel, Knt, Anno 1630, and finished in the Mayoralty of Sir Robert Doric, Baronet, April Anno 1631; and being damnified by fire in 1666, it was repaired in the Mayoralty of Sir George Waterman, Anno Dom 1672.
Here are these Arms : Sabel a Fess Chequy Or and Azure with an Anulet for a difference.

3 Aldersgate
A principal aperture out of Aldersgate street into st Martins le Grand, in the North part of the City. It is probably so called from its Antiquity, as being older than Oldgate, or Aldgate.
The North side of this Gate is adorned with the Figure of King James 1 on horseback, done in Relievo between 2 Niches, wherin are the Figures of the Prophets Jeremiah and Samuel, with References to Jerem 6.17 v 25 and 1 Sam 6.12 v1
On the South side of this Gate is thus inscribed in Gold Characters :
Johannes Leman Miles Maior Civitatis Londini, Anno 1617.
And below that are these words:
This Gate was repaired and beautified at the sole charge of this City, in the Year of the Mayoralty of Sir Samuel Sterling Knt, Anno dom 1670.
Toward the rebuilding of this Gate, Mr William Parker gave 1000 l. and the first stone was laid May 26, 1617, by Sir william Cravon, Alderman.

4 Cripplegate
Is an Aperture into Wood street from Fore street. It is so called, from its being formerly a place where Cripples used to ask Charity.
It is a Gate of great Antiquity, built before the Year 1010 (bút how long I find not.) It was a Prison about the Reign of Edward I. was new erected at the Charge of the Brewers of London, Anno 1244; and in 1491, was again rebuilt at the Charge of Sir John Shaw, who left 400 Marks for that purpose. It is built of Stone with Towers, and enriched with the City Arms. On the inner Front is this Infcription :
This Gate was repaired, beautifed, and the Foot Postern new made, at the Charge of the City of London, in the 15th Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King Charles II. in the Mayoralty in Sir John Robinson, Kt. and Bnt, Lieutenant of the Tower of London; and Alderman of this Ward, Anno Dom. 1663.

5 Aldermanbury Postern
Is a Gate in the City Wall, right against Aldermanbury, but it has nothing remarkable about it.

6 Second Postern
Is another small Gate, in the North wall of the City, a little Ed from the last, with this inscription:
Erected in the Mayoralty of Sir Christopher Packe knt, Anno Dom 1655.

7 Great Moorgate
This Gate was first built Anno 1415, and rebuilt 1472. It is an aperture into the City from the West part of Moorfields, is a great lofty Building of stone (Rustick work) adorned with Pilasters, entablature and circular Pediment, and enriched with Festoons, the North and South sides being uniform, but on the North side is this Inscription:
Begun in the Year 1673. Sir Robert Hanson then Lord Mayor, Finished in the Year 1674. Sir William Hooker, Lord Mayor.
Here are also 2 foot Posterns, one on each side of the Gate.

8 Little Moorgate,
Openeth intop the City out of the South West Angle of Moorfields. There is nothing remarkable in the Gate.

9 Bishopsgate,
Openeth in the North Wall of the City, in Bishopsgate street, being Ed from Little Moorgate. It appeareth built about the year 1200, and how long before that, is not certain. It was rebuilt by the Hans Merchants, Anno 1479, which is probably the gate yet standing, it being very old and Weather-wornn, as appears chiefly in the 2 Figures of Bishops which are on the Gate (one on each side. On the South side are the City Arms, and some other Enrichments,

10. Aldgate
This Gate openeth into the East part of the City, being one of the principal and most ancient Gates, as its Name expresseth, Aldgate, Sc. Oldgate; and appears to merit that Name, for we read of it in the time of Edgar the Saxon King, who reigned about the Year 960. It was rebuilt from the Ground, and the Foundation 16 Foot deep, where the first Stone was laid by Martin Bond ( Surveyor of the Work) March 10, 1607, in digging of which Foundation several pieces of Roman Coins were found.
This Gate is built of Stone, and though old, looks strong and ornamental. The East fide is adorned with the Figure of King James I. betn the Supporters of his Arms, and a Chaplet is held over his Head by 2 Cupids ; and higher are 2 Demy-Figures of Men, one holding in his hand a Globe, intimating the great Power of the King, and Trade of the City in the World, which is also illustrated by the Figures of 2 Heads; all which are under the Figure of Fame, placed in a Nich.
The West side of this Gate is adorned with Pilasters and Entablature of the Dorick Order, and under a Pediment the King's Arms (then of James I) and has the Enrichments of the Figures of Peace, Charity and Fortune, looking toward the City, intimating the Happiness of that City, whose Inhabitants live in Peace and Love. And this Inscription is lower :
Senatus populusaue Londinensis - Fe

11. Bridgegate.
Is so called, as being situate on London-Bridge, on the South side of the City, the only Gate by which that Liquid Wall, the Thames, is to be passed over, and the City of London made accessable from Southwark on Foot. It was one of the 4 principal Gates of the City (as is aforeaaid) long before the Conquest.
The Gate fell down in the Year 1436, but killed no Body, it was soon after rebuilt again, toward which Sir Robert Large, Sir Stephen Forester, and some others contributed very generously..
This Bridgegate is near the South end of London-Bridge opening into the City, where is a strong Portcullis ; and on the South side it is adorned with the Queen's Arms, and the Remains of 2 Figures of Humane Bodies, and on the North side is the City Arms,

12. Temple Bar.
This Gate, between the East end of the strand, and West end of Fleet street, opens not immediately into the City itself, but into the Liberty or Freedom thereof, and is about 740 Yards Westward of Ludgate, in the West part of the City. At this Gate the Freedom of London and Liberty of Westminster are separated, and the Governments within, much different from that without, as will appear a little farther
It is now an Ornamental piece of Architecture, well built of Stone, adorned (uniformly), on each side with 4 Pilasters, their Entablature and arched Pediment of the Corinthian Order; 4 of the intercolumns are as many Niches replenished (viz. those without the Bar) with 2 Figures, being of King Charles I. and Charles II. and the Figures on the Front, within the Bar, are King James I. and his Queen. It is also enriched with Cornucopías, and has 2 fine large Cartouches, by way of Supporters to the whole.
Here, on the East side of the Bar, is inscribed :
Erected in the Tear 1670, Sir Samuel Starling Mayor ; continued in the Tear 1671, Sir Richard Ford Lord Mayor; and finished in the rear 1672, Sir George Waterman Lord Mayor.

13. Westminster Gate.
It is an ancient piece of Building, opening out of the Cockpit to King street in the North part of Westminster. The Structure is old, with the Remains of several Figures, the Queen's Arms, Roses, &c whereby it was enriched. It hath 4 Towers, and the South side is adorned with Pilasters and Entablature of the Ionic Order. There are also in Westminster, the Gates opening out of New Palace yard, and Tuthill ftreet.

14. Cockpit Gate.
This is an extraordinary beautiful Gate, considering its Antiquity ; it is built of square Stone, with small Squares of Flint Boulder, very neatly set. It has also Battlements, and 4 lofty Towers, and the whole is enriched with Bustos, Roses, Portcullises, and Queen's Arms, both on the North and South sides.
There are no Gates hung at present, but the Hinges shew there have been ; this is an Aperture from the Cockpit into the broad part of Charing cross before White-hall Gate.

15 St John's Gate
Belonging formerly to the Priory of St John of Jerusalem. There are these Coats of Arms on the West side, viz. a Chevron ingrailed between 3 roundles, on a chief a cross. These Arms are in 2 places, and between them are the Shield and Cross of St George.
On the East side is the Word Prior, and the Date 1504; also in 2 places the Arms before, viz. a Chevron ingrailed between 3 Roundles; and between these are the Arms of England and France quarterly, between the Shield and Cross of St George in 2 places.
This Gate is well built of Stone, with Towers and Battlements.

There have been seven principal city gates of London through time, along the London wall. Some are earlier, some later.

They include Aldgate, Aldersgate, Bishopsgate, Cripplegate, Ludgate, Moorgate and Newgate.

A sale of three of the City gates, on the 30th of July 1760, marked, in a singular way, a dividing point between the old and the modern history of London. The English metropolis, like most large and important cities in the middle ages, was bounded by a wall and a ditch; and in this wall were openings or gates for the passage of foot and vehicle traffic. Beginning from the east, this fortified boundary commenced with the famous Tower of London, itself a vast assemblage of gates and fortified posts. Advancing thence nearly northward, the wall extended to AEld-gate or Aldgate, which defended the approach by the great highway from Essex. This was probably the oldest of all the City gates. In 1215, during the civil war between King John and the barons, the citizens aided the latter in entering London by Aldgate; and soon afterwards, the gate, being very ruinous and dilapidated, was replaced by one strongly built of stone. This new one (a double gate with portcullis) remained till the time of Queen Elizabeth, when it was replaced by another more ornamental than warlike. This was one of the three gates finally removed in 1760. The wall extended nearly north-west from Aldgate to Bishopsgate, which guarded the great road from Cambridge. This gate was not among the oldest of the series, but is supposed to have been built about the reign of Henry II. At first there were no means of exit from the City between Aldgate and Aldersgate; and this extra gate was opened rather to furnish additional accommodation, than for any defensive purpose. The gate was in a ruinous state from the time of Edward VI. to that of James I., when it was replaced by a new one; and this latter was finally removed early in the last century. The wall stretched westward from Bishopsgate to Moorgate; of which Stow says: 'I find that Thomas Falconer, mayor about the year 1415, the third of Henry V., caused the wall of the city to be broken near unto Coleman Street, and there builded a postern, now called Moorgate, upon the moorside, where was never gate before. This gate he made for ease of the citizens that way to pass upon causeys [causeways] into the fields for their recreation; for the same field was at that time a marsh.' Indeed, all the country immediately outside the city, from Bishopsgate to Aldersgate, was very fenny and marshy, giving rise to the names Moorfields and Finsbury (Fensbury). Moorgate was rebuilt in 1472, and pulled down about "the middle of the last century, the stones being used to repair the piers of London Bridge. The next gate was Cripplegate, a postern or minor gate like Moorgate, but much more ancient; it was many times rebuilt, and was, like the other gates, used as a prison. The name, Stow says, 'so called of cripples begging there.' This was one of the three gates finally pulled down in 1760. The City wall extended thence to Elders-gate or Aldersgate, one of the oldest of the series, and also one of the largest. The ancient structure, crumbling with age, was replaced by a new and very ornamental one in the time of James I.; and this latter gave way to the street improvers early in the last century. The next gate was Newgate. In the Anglo-Norman times, there were only three City gates— Aldgate, Aldersgate, and Ludgate; and no person could leave the city westward at any point between the two last-named gates. To remedy this inconvenience, Newgate was built about the time of Henry I., the designation 'new' being, of course, only comparative. After being rebuilt and repaired several times, Newgate and its prison were burned down by Lord George Gordon's mob in 1780; the prison was replaced by a much larger and stronger one, but the gate was not rebuilt. The City wall extended from Newgate to Ludgate, which was the oldest of the series except Aldgate and Aldersgate, and the one with which the greatest number of historical events was connected. After many rebuildings and repairings, Ludgate was one of the three which were pulled down in 1760.

It must not be supposed that Dowgate, Billingsgate, and St John's Gate were necessarily City gates; the first and second were landing-places on the river-side, the third was the gate belonging to the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem. As to the Bars — such as Temple Bar, Holborn Bar, and Smithfield Bar — they were subsidiary or exterior barriers, bearing some such relation to ' the City without the walls,' as the gates bore to 'the City within the walls,' but smaller, and of inferior strength.

The announcement in the public journals, concerning the destruction of three of the gates on the 30th of July 1760, was simply to the effect that Mr Blagden, a carpenter of Coleman Street, gave £91 for the old materials of Cripplegate, £148 for Ludgate, and £177, 10s. for Aldgate; undertaking to have all the rubbish removed by the end of September. Thus ended our old City gates, except Newgate, which the rioters put an end to twenty years later. [The Book of Days, 1984]


As a quick aside to this, my earliest memories of visiting London were in the early 1970s on a Red Rover bus pass, with my school friends. Followed by later train visits in the mid-70s as I began work, when the rein of terror of the IRA was at its peak. I also remember the train crash at Moorgate station in about 1980, I had no idea it was a London gate.


And Last updated on: Monday, 11-Nov-2019 01:01:24 GMT

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