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.
For more historical posts about old London on Inspiring City, check out:
- The Old Roman Wall of London
- The 12 Great Livery Companies of London
- The Lost Monasteries of London part 1, part 2 and part 3
Nice job. Interesting to read about the old gates. I thought Temple Bar was another old gate?
Hi Ross thanks for the comment 🙂 You’re right the Temple Bar was an old gate and is still around although now relocated to St. Pauls. It wasn’t a part of the old city wall though which is the case with all the other gates in this piece. Instead the Temple Bar stood at the junction of the Strand and the Fleet, so was just before you got to the city.
What about “Watergate” nothing to do with Nixon, Watergate EC4? It’s to be found right next to the Thames running from Tudor St to New Bridge St0.
Is watergate now called dowgate
Yes, it’s one of three riverside posterns: (W-E) Dowgate, Ebgate, and Billingsgate.
what about traitors gate
Good point but that gate was built by William the conqueror not the Romans and in any case it was an entrance to the Tower of London from the river. The Tower surprisingly.sits just outside of the old Roman city.
That was a gate from the river into the Tower Tom, rather than intio London
I thought there were 8 gates around old London? Aldgate, Aldersgate, Moorgate, Ludgate, Billingsgate, Newgate, Cripplesgate and ?
…and Bishopsgate. But since you added ‘Billingsgate’ to your list (and which was not a gate), in fact there are still only SEVEN gates.
Do you know when they stopped locking the gates into London? And whether it was done by different areas or one person or group had the responsibility. Esp interested in Shakespeares’ time?
Hi Miriam sorry I’m not really sure about that one. Do let me know if you find out though
For all things medieval, see Caroline Barron (esp. her “London in the Later Middle Ages” which is not only comprehensive in itself but also has an excellent bibliography) and also Museum of London publications.
I don’t know when precisely the gates ceased to bring locked, but throughout the medieval / Tudor period London had a curfew (i.e., the gates were shut at 60r 7, or 9 or 10 o’clock at night) so it seems reasonable that any gate-locking (and pub closing!) would be near-simultaneous. See Hanawalt, “Growing up in Med. London.” Those enforcing the curfew would be officials of the ward (of which there were 25 after 1395), including securing the gates.
My distant relatives owned the gate to london yet was taken from them by the crown.as compensation every male member of the family and their sons and on and on would receive moneies and perks..ive never receive a penny.
I spent 5 years working in Old Street and its environs including Farringdon. I always found the area different from the rest of London in a positive way. This article sheds light on the area and parts of its history others probably would not have known about.
James Gardiner, Manningtree Essex
Thanks James I’m glad to hear that 🙂
I didn’t realise until recently a disused station exists under King William Street which ceased operations in about 1900, I was a witness to a horrific accident there between a bus and a pedestrian in 2012.
Does anyone know the original Latin names for the gates?