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Story Of London

The City Gates in 1598: VI


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 Cripplegate and come to Aldersgate. Stow points out that the only distinguishing feature about this gate is the massive well in a building built onto its east side. He also reminds us of a “lost” gate – the small postern that led from Christ’s Hospital to Smithfield.

Stow's monument in the church of St Andrew Undershaft.The next is AEldersgate, or Aldersgate, so called not of Aldrich or the elders, that is to say, ancient men, builders thereof; not of Eldarne trees, growing there more abundantly than in other places, as some have fabled, but for the very antiquity of the gate itself, as being one of the first four gates of the city, and serving for the northern parts, as Aldgate for the east; which two gates, being both old gates are for difference sake called the one Ealdegate, and the other Aldersgate.Aldersgate.This is the fourth principal gate, and hath at sundry times been increased with buildings, namely, on the south, or inner side, a great frame of timber hath been added and set up, containing divers large rooms and lodgings; also on the east side is the addition of one great building of timber, with one large floor, paved with stone or tile, and a well therein curbed with stone, of a great depth, and rising into the said room, two stories high from the ground; which well is the only peculiar note belonging to that gate, for I have not seen the like in all this city to be raised so high.John Day, Stationer, a late famous printer of many good books in our time dwelt in this gate, and built much upon the wall of the city towards the parish church of St. Anne.POSTERN OUT OF CHRIST’S HOSPITALThen is there also a postern gate, made out of the wall on the north side of the late dissolved cloister of Friers minors, commonly of their habit called Grey friars, now Christ’s church and hospital. This postern was made in the first year of Edward VI to pass from the said hospital of Christ’s church unto the hospital of St. Bartlemew in Smithfield.