A Dictionary of London. Originally published by H Jenkins LTD, London, 1918.
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Creechurch Within Aldgate
Described as in the parish of St. James de Garlikhithe, to the west of a tenement in the parishes of St. Martin Vintry and St. James Garlickhithe, of which the eastern boundary was Stodies lane, 1441 (Ct. H.W. II. 492).
"Stodies lane" or "Spital lane" is described by Stow as included in the gift by Sir John Stodie to the Vintners' Company of the site, on which Vintners' Hall afterwards stood (S. 242). If Cressyngham lane were to the west of the site, it would be identical with Anchor Lane, now Anchor Alley (q.v.).
Earliest mention : "Cripelesgate." "Ciryclegate." "Cirpilegate" in "De Institutis Lundonie," Laws of Ethelred, c. 978-1016 (Thorpe, I. 301). "Crepelesgate" in charter of Wm. I. 1068 (Reg. St. Martin's le Grand, Westm. Abbey MSS.).
There are one or two transcripts of this charter in the Register, in Anglo-Saxon and in Latin, in one it is described as "posterulam que dicitur Crepelesgate" ; as though it were one of the smaller gates or posterns.
Stow says it is mentioned in a history of the King of the East Angles by Abbo Floriacensis and by Burchard, who say it was so called of cripples begging there. It has not been possible to verify the reference, out of the histories of King Edmond, consulted for the purpose, but in the Liber St. Bartilmew in British Museum, MS. Cott. Vesp. B. ix. f. 15, a MS. of the 12th century, the gate is described as "porta civitatis que lingua anglorum 'crepelesgate' latine vero porta contractorum vocatur."
The materials of the gate were sold before the Committee of Lands to Mr. Blagden, a carpenter in Coleman Street for £91 in July, 1760, and the purchaser was to begin to pull it down on the 1st September following, and to clear away the materials within two months (N. and Q. 5th S. IX. 19, and Denton, p. 84).
The derivation before mentioned "from cripples begging there," is quite discredited by Mr. Denton in his Records of St. Giles, Cripplegate. He says it is an impossible derivation, on the ground, first, that though it must have taken a considerable time for the habit of begging at the postern here to have been so common as to originate the name Cripplegate, yet we do not find that the gate ever had any other name ; and, secondly, that we do not read that cripples begged here more than at other gates. Neither of these reasons are conclusive against the name, as in the first place, it is more probable that in those days a name would gradually attach itself to a gate in consequence of some distinguishing circumstance than that the gate should be formally christened at the time of its erection ; and, in the second place, we cannot expect to "read" of every circumstance connected with the early life of the City. For example, we do not read of anything which gave rise to such names as "Algate," "Walbrook," "Matfelon," but we do not therefore infer that their names have no meaning. It must not be forgotten that St. Giles is always regarded as the patron saint of cripples and beggars, and that they might well choose Cripplegate for that reason, as being near to the Church of St. Giles. Mr. Denton suggests that, as Cripplegate led to the Barbican, there must have been a road thither which ran between two walls, and that such a road would be called in the language of fortification "a covered way" ; and that the name for this in Anglo-Saxon would be "crepel"="burrow" and "geat"="gate" or "way." Mr. Loftie (in N. and Q. 8th S. XII. 161) boldly says that Cripplegate in A.S. means "a covered way" ; this covered way led to the Barbican, but he does not give his authority for either of these statements. Bosworth and Toller give "crepel" and "crypele" in the sense of "burrow," but not in the modern sense of "cripple," while the N.E.D. gives only one early instance of the use of the word "cripple." Halliwell gives "cripple-gap" in the sense of a hole in the wall for sheep to pass through, and the N.E.D. gives an instance of "Cripple" used in the same sense in 1648.
Colonel Prideaux further points out (N. and Q. 9th S. I. 2) that the "cripples" theory would require the genitive plural in A.S., which would give some such form as "crypelra-geat," while the covered way theory would give "crypel-geat," and that both these forms are inconsistent with that in which the word is first found, viz."Cripelesgate," which occurs in the Institutes of Ethelred (Thorpe's Ancient Laws and Institutes of England, p. 127), and in the Charter of William the Conqueror, quoted above. He therefore falls back on the supposition that the name is derived from a person of the name of "Cripel." He does not, however, say where he has met with the name, which is not in Searle's "Onomasticon Anglo Saxonicum." It must also be borne in mind that the Institutes are printed from late 12th-century and 13th-century texts, and that one MS. has "Cirwilegate," which, though obviously corrupt, points to an original without the "s".
It is of interest to note that there was a postern in the wall of Shrewsbury, formerly named "Crepulgate," and Colonel Prideaux says it was connected with the Severn by a narrow passage or "lode" (A.S. "laed") called "Crepul-lode."
It seems most probable that the name was "Crepelesgate," from the A.S. "crepel"= burrow," or"crypele "="a den," a "burrow," of which the genitive form is "crypeles," and that the name denoted a "narrow, underground passage or covered way," to which access was obtained through this gate.