Lost London: Gates Special – Bishopsgate

January 20, 2012

Another of London’s gates which had its origins in Roman times, it was built as the city exit for Ermine Street which ran all the way to York.

The gate is believed by many to have taken its name from Bishop Erkenwald, a seventh century Anglo-Saxon Bishop of London who is said to have ordered the gate’s reconstruction on the gate’s Roman foundations.

Bishopsgate – the site of which is marked by a bishop’s mitre attached to the facade of a building near the junction of Wormwood Street (pictured) – was rebuilt several times over the centuries (its first known mention was in the 12th century). This included in the 1470s when it is said to have been rebuilt by Hansa merchants who did so apparently in return for exemptions from tolls (or, according to some, other trade privileges).

The gate – which was known for having the heads of traitors displayed on spikes upon its top – took its final form in 1735 before it was finally demolished along with several other London gates in 1760 as part of road widening measures.

The name Bishopsgate is remembered in the street of the same name as well as one of the City of London wards. Among the notable people associated with Bishopsgate are William Kemp, an Elizabethan comic actor who, in a remarkable feat, is said to have performed a Morris dance starting at the gate and finishing in Norwich.

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3 Responses to “Lost London: Gates Special – Bishopsgate”


  1. Hi Emm,
    Thanks so much for your comments – glad you’re enjoying the blog. Just to clarify – Bishopsgate’s origins were in the Roman era – ie. prior to the 5th century – but the name, which was given later, comes from a Saxon bishop Erkenwald (Rome broke its official ties with Britain in the early fifth century).
    Regards

  2. Emm Says:

    Wow, what a lovely, interesting blog you have! I clicked over from Hels’s Art and Architecture blog. The more I explore London, the more interested I too am becoming in London’s history. I did not know that Bishopsgate had Roman but similarly, I did not know that the Roman era extended to the 7th century.

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