Story Of London

The City Gates in 1598: IV

John Stow, who grew up in Elizabethan London, was the earliest of the a long line of antiquarian scholars who have provided us with vivid descriptions of the City at various stages of her development. His Survey of London first appeared in 1598 and was re-issued “Since by the same Author increased, with divers rare notes of Antiquity” in 1603. In our third extract, we move west from the Bishopsgate and come to Moorgate. The gate was erected to allow free passage into Moorfields, where the citizens practised archery and other sports. However, the waterlogged nature of the land was always a problem and Stow is most sarcastic about any attempts to overcome the deficiency.

Stow's monument in the church of St Andrew Undershaft.Moorgate.Touching the next postern, called Moorgate, I find that Thomas Falconer, mayor, about the year 1415, the third of Henry V., caused the wall of the city to be broken near unto Coleman Street, and there built a postern, now called Moregate, upon the moor side where was never gate before. This gate he made for ease of the citizens, that way to pass upon causeys into the field for their recreation: for the same field was at that time a parish.This postern was re-edified by William Hampton, fishmonger, mayor in the year 1472. In the year also, 1511, the third of Henry VIII, roger Acheley, mayor, caused dikes and bridges to be made, and the ground to be levelled, and made more commodious for passage, since which time the same hath been heightened. So much that the ditches and bridges are covered, and seemeth to me that if it be made level with the battlements of the city wall, yet will it be little the drier, such is the Moorish nature of that ground.NOTE: Until it was drained in 1527, a large moor, or shallow lake, occupied the area immediately outside the wall. It is thought that the feature was created when the Romans built the original city wall and blocked a tributary of the Walbrook. During the winter months it was a favourite spot for ice-skating and other winter sports in the Norman period.