Canterbury: City gates

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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Edward Hasted, 'Canterbury: City gates', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11, (Canterbury, 1800), pp. 74-78. British History Online [accessed 23 June 2024].

Edward Hasted. "Canterbury: City gates", in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11, (Canterbury, 1800) 74-78. British History Online, accessed June 23, 2024,

Hasted, Edward. "Canterbury: City gates", The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 11, (Canterbury, 1800). 74-78. British History Online. Web. 23 June 2024,

City gates

THERE WERE in the above wall, till of late years, SIX GATES, answering to the same number of wards, viz. Burgate, St. George's-gate, Ridingate, Wincheap. gate, built in the room of the antient Worthgate, Westgate, and Northgate.

BURGATE was formerly called St. Micheael's-gate, from a church of that name once near it. This gate was rebuilt of brick, with stone quoins, in 1475; the principal benefactore, whose names were on it, being John Franingam, (fn. 1) John Nethersole and Edmund Minot. It was pulled down a few years ago, to make the passage more commodious; the high road from Sandwich to Deal leading through it.

ST. GEORGErS-GATE, formerly called Newingate, and before that Ote-hill gate, from its leading to that place, was built for a more direct passage into the heart of the city from Dover, instead of Ridingate, the more strait and antient way. It was built about the year 1470, (fn. 2) and is a very handsome structure, seemingly in imitation of Westgate, with two noble toward of squared stones. The large reservoirs which hold the water that supplies the city, being in the upper part of it, has preserved this gate from destruction.

St George's gate

RIDINGATE was antiently written Radingate, by which lay the portway or military way of the Romans, between Dover and Canterbury, the street leading along which into the city, being at this time called Watling-street, a name given to one of their four famous ways or streets, which crossed this kingdom. This gate, a very ordinary structure, was pulled down a few years ago, to make the opening more convenient for passengers. (fn. 3) The antient Roman gate here, appears to have had two contiguous circular arches, turned with British or Roman brick of those times, remains of which were lately to be seen, though the ground had been so much raised, that a stone at the top of one of the piers, from which one of those arches sprung, was but breast high from the road, and the arch itself was in part cut away to give the necessary height to the late gate of much more moderen construction. (fn. 4)

WINCHEAP-GATE was probably erected for public use, in the stead of the antient Worthgate, when it was found inconvenient, that the public road of the city should lead in a strait line so close by the castle, through the midst of the bayle of it; the antient Worthgate being after this, as it should seem, reserved only for the use of the castle, and the public road changed and made to take a circular course round the outside of the castle wall and ditch, where it continued as such, till within these few years, when Worthgate was again opened for that purpose, as more commodious; but the ward of the city still bears the name of Worthgate ward.

This gate of Wincheap was taken down with the others above-mentioned, a few years ago, for public convenience.

NORTHGATE is no more than a wide square space, through which the road leads to the Isle of Thanet, under the church of Northgate, and named so from its situation in the northern part of the city.

At this gate, the mayor and corporation used to receive the king, in their formalities, when he passed through, after landing at Margrate, from the continent, as was frequently the case; and the recorder making his speech of obedience and duty, the mayor presented him with the keys.

WESTGATE was built by archbishop Sudbury, in king Richard II.'s reign, in the room of the antient one, which was become ruinous, over which there was built a church. This gate, situated at the west end of the city, through which the high road passes towards London, is the largest and best built of any the city has, making a very handsome appearance, standing between two lofty and spacious round towers, erected in the river, on the western side of it. It is built of squared stone, and is embattled, portculliesed, and machecollated, having a bridge of two arches, belonging to the archbishop, over the western branch of the Stour, adjoining to it. Over this gate is the common gaol or prison, both for malefactors and debtors within the jurisdiction of this city and county of it, and has been so from the time of the building of the present gate, but certainly so from the 31st of king Henry VI. for then, as king Edward IV. in his charter, recites, he granted to the city by his charter, the keeping of his gaol, at the Westgate of his city of Canterbury, for prisoners imprisoned within the city and suburbs, for whatever crime or cause they should be taken, to be detained in it by themselves or their officers. (fn. 5) The gates themselves of this, as well as of the other two gates left standing, have been lately taken away by the city, as supposed to be of no further use. The arms of archbishop Juxon, with those of the see of Canterbury, were carved on these gates here, as well as on those of St. George's and Burgate; they having been all new made and set up by that archbishop, at the Restoration, in the room of those destroyed and burnt by the Puritans, in 1648.

A north view of Westgate

Besides the gates above-mentioned, there was another, though not a principal one, called Queningate, which has been stopped up for a great length of time, and was so, as appears by the remains of it, at the time the present city wall was built, probably in archbishop Lanfranc's time, soon after the conquest. (fn. 6) Besides these, there are two posterns in the city wall, one opposite the chief gate of St. Augustine's monastery and at St. Mildred's church-yard; and there was a third in Pound-lane, by the river Stour, running by Abbot's mill, which has been lately opened for carriages.


  • 1. John Frenyngham, esq. mayor of this city in 1461, gave by his will, among other benefactions, 20l. to the reparing of St. Michael's-gate, or paving the Bull Stake.
  • 2. A few years before this, Roger Ridley, who was mayor of the city in 1452, gave by his will, now in the register of the archdeacon's office, among other benesactions, five marcs towards the new building of St. George's-gate; and Wm. Bigg. who was otherwise a benefactor to this city, and was mayor of it in 1460, gave by his will, remaining in the Preog. office, 10l. towards the making of this gate as the work went on.
  • 3. In 1790, a very spacious arch was erected and the terrace walk, formed on the rampart of the city wall, continued over it, at the sole expence of Alderman James Simmons.
  • 4. Within about 40 feet westward from Riding-gate, on a square stone in the wall, was the date 1586, and below, the letters I. E. M. for John Easday, mayor, whose public spirit Mr. Somner mentions very honorably for this repair of the city wall at his great cost, though a man of but indifferent estate, in hopes of setting a good example; but the stone has been latley stolen away and his example is by no means likely to be followed.
  • 5. See Battely's Somner, p. 14.
  • 6. This gate stood almost, though not quite, opposite the chief gate of St. Augustine's monastery. It was probably so called from queen Bertha, wife of king Ethelbert, who might frequently use it to pass on to St. Pancrasse chapel to her devotions. There is a part of the north side of the arch built of British narrow bricks, and the stone from which it sprang mixed in, as part of the materilas of the city wall, still very plainly visible on the west side of the garden (once the city ditch) late in the occupation of Mr. Macaree, and a few yards southward of the next tower on the north side of the dean and chapter's postern.