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The Romans, led by the Emperor Claudius, invaded Britain in 43 AD. They built a fort and founded a settlement near the river Thames covering an area of approximately one square mile. It was given the name Londinium and was the beginnings of the City of London that we know today. The City is still referred to as the Square Mile.
Between 190 and 220 AD a defensive wall was built around the settlement using ragstone carried by boat from Kent. The reason for the wall was that there had been much unrest and civil wars throughout the Roman Empire across Europe. The wall was around six metres high and three metres thick at it's base. The Romans incorporated one of the fort gates, Cripplegate, and created four others - Aldgate, Bishopsgate, Ludgate and Newgate. Their purpose was to control traffic in and out of the city and collect any taxes due on goods brought in.
Aldersgate was added almost two hundred years later by the Romans, and centuries after that, in 1415, Moorgate was built into the wall.
The seven gates to the City of London, with many repairs and rebuilding over the years, stood until they were all demolished between 1760 and 1767. Blue plaques mark six of their sites and a Bishop's mitre on a building shows where Bishopsgate once stood.
It was rebuilt in the early 12th century and possibly got its name from the Saxon word Ealdgate, or old gate.
In 1215 the rebel Barons used Aldgate to enter the city. “Aldgate being then most ruinous”, according to Stow. After pressuring King John to sign the Magna Carta they rebuilt the gate in Norman style from Caen stone and Flanders tile.
The poet Geoffrey Chaucer lived in rooms above the gate from 1374 to 1385 and in 1553 Mary Tudor entered the city through Aldgate for the first time as Queen.
Aldgate was rebuilt again in 1606 when Roman coins were found in the foundation stones. It remained until being demolished in 1761.
Aldersgate is thought to have been built by the Romans in the late fourth century to replace an older gate to the fort, the wall of which had been incorporated into the city wall. Probably named Ældresgate in Saxon times after one Ealdred or Aldred.
In 1603 James I entered the city through Aldersgate when first coming to London as King of England. A relief of him on horseback was placed on the outward face of the structure.
It was demolished and rebuilt in 1617. John Day, a printer of many religious works, had his workshop in the room above the gate.
In 1660 Samuel Pepys wrote, “I saw the limbs of some of our new traitors set upon Aldersgate, which was a sad sight to see...”.
It was renovated after suffering damage in the great fire of 1666. and remained standing until being taken down in 1761.
The origin of the name is believed to come from the old Saxon word “Crepel”, meaning a narrow covered gate or passage. In ancient documents the word “Crepelgate” was often used.
The body of Edmund the Martyr reputedly passed through Cripplegate in 1010 and this gave rise to the idea that the gate would possess miraculous healing powers. Cripples would gather there hoping to be cured.
In 1244 the Brewers Company rebuilt it and it was again rebuilt in 1491.
During the fourteenth century the room above the gate was put to use as a prison.
Queen Elizabeth entered the city through the gate In 1558 for the first time as Queen.
It was renovated in 1663 and demolished in 1760.
Bishopsgate was originally built by the Romans and is believed to have been rebuilt in the seventh century by Erkenwald, Bishop of London. During the reign of William I it was repaired by a Bishop William. Effigies of the two Bishops were said to have adorned it.
The Bishops of London were bound to make hinges for the gates and for this they received one stick from every cart carrying wood through the gate. Bishopsgate led to Ermine Street, the Roman road to York.
In 1471 it was rebuilt by merchants of the Hanseatic League. Henry III had given them trading privileges in return for maintaining the gate. In 1731 it was repaired again, by the City.
The heads of criminals were often placed on spikes on the gate to deter wrongdoers entering the city.
Bishopsgate was demolished in 1760. A Bishop's mitre on the wall of a building near Wormwood Street marks the site.
Moorgate takes its name from the Moor fields which were one of the last sections of open land in the city. It was the last of the seven gates to be constructed and was originally a postern or narrow passage in the wall not suitable for heavy traffic.
Mercer and Lord Mayor, Thomas Falconer, ordered the wall to be broken and the gate to be built in 1415. This was to allow the people access to the moors for their recreation.
Moorgate was renovated in 1472 and rebuilt in 1672. The gate entrances were made higher to enable the elite regiments of the London Trained Bands to march through with their pikes held high.
When Moorgate was demolished, in 1762, the stone was used to strengthen the old London Bridge.
Ludgate led to one of the main Roman burial mounds in the Fleet Street area of today.
When it was rebuilt in 1215 the rooms above became as a prison for petty criminals. Stephen Forster, Lord Mayor of London1454-55, was there as a debtor when younger. A rich widow saw him at the window and paid his debts. They were later married.
Ludgate was rebuilt again in 1586 and repaired after damage from great the fire of 1666.
It was demolished in 1760 and the prisoners moved to a workhouse.
Statues of King Lud and Queen Elizabeth were removed from the gate and placed outside the church of Saint. Dunstan in the West, Fleet Street.
Legislation was passed in 1760 allowing the remaining gates of the City to be demolished. By the year 1771 they had all gone. Most had been in ruins long before this. If you can find out where they were situated you will see the blue plaques on the wall where the gate once stood. The sites of the ‘bars’, the limits of the City boundaries outside (without) the walls where travellers paid their tolls, are still marked today with statues of the City’s heraldic dragons.
One of the largest ‘bars’ was the one that separated the City of London from the City of Westminster, in Fleet Street. This was Temple Bar and can now be seen fully restored in Paternoster Square.
In his 1598 publication “A Survay of London”, John Stow refers to it as “latelier built than the rest”. He writes that it was probably built in the reign of Henry I or King Stephen but modern excavations have proved it to be much earlier than that probably one of the original Roman gates.
It was rebuilt in 1555 after fire damage, and again in 1628 and 1672. The gate led to the Oxford road and the West. It was being used as a prison as early as the twelfth century and this continued until its demolition in 1767. In 1770 work began to build another Newgate prison that was demolished in 1904.
Not the many bars in the City where the bankers drink in their spare time! There were many other minor gates added over the years, mainly from the River. These were mainly for the use of traders. Billingsgate was one of these. Some distance from the gates were what are known as the bars. A renovation of the famous Temple Bar can be seen today at Paternoster Square. These bars started off as just that; a bar or chain across the road to the gates where travellers and traders were stopped to pay any taxes or duty due on their wares before reaching the gates. I presume that this was to avoid congestion at the actual entrances to the City. The bars, or boundaries were eventually marked by heraldic dragons, and can still be seen on the approaches to the City today.
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