Today’s challenge was to find and photograph the locations of the old gates of London. These date back to Roman times when a wall encircled the city. The gates lasted until 1760 when most of them were destroyed in order to facilitate a road widening scheme.
Some of the gates had a pretty gruesome reputation. As the entrance to the city they would often place the heads of traitors and limbs of various other people. They were key to the operation of the city controlling trade, access and sometimes used to collect taxes. They were also often used as prisons. Newgate would become one of the most notorious.
The city wall extended from Tower Hill in the east to Blackfriars in the west and contained seven main gates in addition to a number of ‘posterns’ which were basically access routes for pedestrians.
The Seven Gates of London were:
- Aldgate – leading to Colchester and Essex
- Bishopsgate – leading to Shoreditch and up towards Cambridge along the old Ermine Street.
- Moorgate – Not an original Roman gate, it was more than likely a postern in Roman times only becoming a gate in 1415. The gate led to the Moorfields a marshy area north of the city.
- Cripplegate – Leading to the village of Islington.
- Aldersgate – leading towards St. Bartholomews Abbey, Smithfield Market and London Charterhouse. Aldersgate was thought to have replaced a previous gate to the west of the city.
- Newgate – leading towards Oxford and the west.
- Ludgate – leading towards Bath and the South West
So let’s take a look at each of the Seven Gates of London in more detail…
The wooden structure represents the location of the Aldgate. Its approximate location was on the corner of Aldgate and Dukes Place. Geoffrey Chaucer once lived in rooms above the Aldgate. The gate led to the important Roman town of Colchester
The grounds of the church of St Botolph without Bishopsgate are near the approximate location of the old gate. It is on the road now known as Bishopsgate opposite the junction to Camomile Street. It led to open space then known as the ‘Spitalfields’ and then on to Cambridge.
Rather bland looking now the Moorgate was not one of the main Roman gates and was probably a postern. It was widened in 1415 and led to a marshy area known as the Moorfields. It can be found on the junction of London Wall and Moorgate
One of the best places to see sections of the old city wall is at the Barbican. Cripplegate was located approximately at the junction of Wood Street and St. Alphege Gardens. Sections of the wall can be seen nearby by the church of St. Giles Cripplegate and in St. Alphege Gardens.
This was built probably to replace the old west gate in the old Roman fort in the 4th century. It sits on Aldersgate close to the Museum of London and a plaque noting its location is close to the Lord Raglan pub. Sections of the Roman fort of London can be seen on Noble Street nearby. It led to the key market of Smithfield and the important St Bartholomews Abbey.
Many of the gates were also used as prisons and Newgate became the most notorious. Now demolished the Central Criminal Court (also known as the Old Bailey) now occupies the site. It can be found on the corner of Newgate and Old Bailey.
Leading out of the city on Ludgate Hill towards the old River Fleet crossing and on towards Bath and the south west. An important burial ground of the Romans was also located on what is now Fleet Street. The location is just down from St Pauls Cathedral on Ludgate Hill by St Martins Church.
Historical Locations Map of London
The gates were Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Moorgate, Cripplegate, Aldersgate, Newgate and Ludgate
The Romans had built a defensive wall around the city of Londinium. The gates were built by the Romans as a means to enter and exit the fortified town.
Most of the gates lasted until around 1760 when most of them were knocked down to make way for road widening in a rapidly expanding city.