The Gatehouse Tavern

Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1936.

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'The Gatehouse Tavern', in Survey of London: Volume 17, the Parish of St Pancras Part 1: the Village of Highgate, (London, 1936) pp. 103-104. British History Online [accessed 4 March 2024]

In this section


Ground Landlord.

The proprietor is Mr. A. M. Shuter.

General Description And Date Of Structure.

Although the greater portion of this building stands within the boundary of the parish of Hornsey, just sufficient is within St. Pancras to enable the story to be given here. It has little architectural interest, but it is important because of its connection with the name of the hamlet. The old tavern has been entirely modernised, but a view taken about 40 years ago (Plate 85a) shows a Georgian building of two periods, the northern portion being the earlier. The arch of the gateway adjoined the latter and there was until recently an old stair (Plate 86) from which the passage over the gate was approached.

The parish boundary stones can be seen in the external view, the upper one bearing the date 1791.

Condition of Repair.

Newly constructed.

Historical Notes.

Probably this site has been occupied by a building as long as any in Highgate, since the Gatehouse was one of the three entrances to the Bishop of London's Park of "Haringeye" or Hornsey, the two other gates being at the Spaniards, and at Newgate by East Finchley Railway Station. For the use of the road across their Park from Highgate to Finchley (where it debouched on to Finchley Common), the Bishops exacted tolls at the Gatehouse, the collection of which was leased by them for a fixed yearly amount. Thus in the year 1408–9 Henry Smith, "farmer of the tolls of the Park," paid 30s. on 1st March, and 60s. by the hands of John Ellis on 16th July. (fn. 110) Again in 1420–1, William Payable paid 66s. 8d. for the farm of the tolls that year. In 1638–9, John Bette, who then leased the tolls, paid £6 13s. 4d. Generally the tolls were leased with the pasturage of the Park, as in the lease of 20th May, 1541, of the herbage, pannage, and pasturage of the "Greate Parke of Haringhey alias Harnesey" with "a messuage and tenement with the appurtenances at Hyegate some tyme an hermitage." The hermitage appears to have stood adjacent to the Chapel which occupied the site of the present Chapel of Highgate School.

London Bishopric

On 23rd May, 1503, the Vicar of St. Pancras and his parishioners were beating the bounds when they came into conflict with "Thomas Walterkyn, heremyte of St. Michel besides Highgate, in the parisshe of Harnesey," possibly owing to some uncertainty, real or pretended, as to the parish boundary. According to the hermit, when he was in the garden with his servant they came into his house, broke down the paling of his orchard and garden, hit him over the arm with a bill, and would have murdered him if he had not escaped to the steeple of the hermitage, where he remained until they had gone. He also alleged that they stole two altar cloths, a surplice and "grayle," i.e. a book of antiphons. The Vicar replied that they were going in procession as usual about their parish when the hermit would not allow them to pass, although courteously asked to do so. The hermit was in his garden, armed with a great club, and having with him two others also armed with clubs, they suddenly struck at William Chadwick, of St. Pancras, yeoman, over the pale. They broke some of the pales and then the St. Pancras people pulled down some more to make room to pass and so departed peaceably. The Vicar then went on to say that so far from the "grayle" having been stolen by them, the hermit, who was a man of ill conversation and rule, had pawned the book and other stuff to one John Phelippe, who was ready to testify the same. The hermit rejoined that the Vicar and his parishioners were guilty of the riot, that the hermitage was in Hornsey and not in St. Pancras, although divers persons had been accustomed to enter the chapel to hear divine service at convenient times. He denied the Vicar's allegation of being a man of misrule or that he had pledged any stuff belonging to the hermitage. It is likely that the Vicar had a grudge against the hermit because his Highgate parishioners found it more convenient to attend mass at the chapel and make their offerings there than to travel all the way to old St. Pancras Church. There is no record of the verdict of the Court of Star Chamber (who tried the case), and it is hardly possible to determine the rights and wrongs of the matter, but the St. Pancras people must have been wrong in going through the hermitage, since that lay entirely in Hornsey. (fn. 111)

The present Gatehouse Tavern stands partly in Hornsey and partly in St. Pancras, the part in St. Pancras having been added by encroachment on Highgate Green. In 1670 Edward Cutler, gentleman, who then owned the Gatehouse, obtained "a parcel of the waste at Highgate, adjoining to the Gatehouse, containing from east to west from the highway from Highgate to Islington (High Street) 30 feet and from north to south 12 feet." On his death in 1680 his brother, Henry Cutler, gentleman, of London, obtained the property, and he conveyed it in 1682 to Elizabeth Marshall, widow, of Highgate, who obtained a grant in 1682 of a parcel of waste at the Gatehouse, containing from north to south at the east end 26 feet, abutting north on the manor of Hornsey, east on the king's way to the Gatehouse, and containing from north to south on the west, 36 feet abutting on Hornsey, from east to west on the south 46 feet, abutting west on the house of widow Barnes, and north on the manor of Hornsey. The "Widow Barnes" was Judith Barnes, living at the house now No. 52, South Grove (see p. 100). Elizabeth Marshall married Thomas Simonds, who was ordered at the Middlesex Sessions in July, 1690, to pay 1s. 6d. per annum assessed upon him for the relief of the poor of St. Pancras for that part of the Gatehouse at Highgate which is in the parish of St. Pancras, and in his possession. (fn. 112)

Until about the year 1790 the road from the Gatehouse to the Spaniards followed the parish boundary, as was natural, because that boundary was formerly the line of the paling enclosing the Park. Between the Gatehouse and The Grove the road formed the northern boundary of Highgate Green until houses were built there in the 17th century. Hampstead Lane was substituted to the north of the old road, at the instance of Lord Mansfield and Lord Southampton when they were developing the Ken Wood and Fitzroy Park estates. Highgate Green may be visualised in its earliest state as a triangular space lying before the entrance to Haringey Park, having a large pond on the site of Pond Square, the base of the triangle being approximately South Grove and the other sides the High Street and the Grove. The Gatehouse stood at the apex of the triangle, the Angel and the Flask at the ends of the base.


  • 110. P.R.O., S.C. 6/1140/0119, and S.C. 6/1139/mn.
  • 111. P.R.O., Star Chamber Proceedings, Henry VII, no. 51.
  • 112. Middlesex County Records, vol. III, p. 281. Will of Elizabeth Symonds, proved 14th March, 1700–1 (P.C.C. 43 Dyer).