Aldgate High Street, EC3N

Road in/near Aldgate, existing until now

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Road · Aldgate · EC3N ·
MARCH
30
2017

Once the route to one of the six original gates of the Wall of London, Aldgate High Street has an important place in medieval London’s history.

North side of Aldgate High Street, c.1905
Aldgate High Street was closely located to where the eastern part of the original Roman Wall, and in the medieval period, it led to town of Colchester in Essex.

Because of its connection to places outside London, Aldgate High Street was vital to the geography of medieval London. Unfortunately, any archaeological remnants of the Roman gate have been obscured, and there is no evidence of its precise location, but is believed to have straddled Aldgate High Street, the gate’s northern edge beneath the pavement of current address of 1-2 Aldgate High Street, and its southern edge beneath 88-89 Aldgate High Street.

There is some dispute over the etymology and meaning of "Aldgate," but various historians have provided some theories. The earliest record of Aldgate has it listed as East Gate, which makes sense, given its location as the easternmost gate on the Wall.

Another interpretation of its current name, "Ale Gate," indicates that an ale-house may have been nearby, and yet another, "All Gate," may have pointed to that area’s openness to all. Even though the name Aldgate may point to a variety or origins, all of these etymologies do seem to corroborate Aldgate High Street’s history of being a center for weary travelers to London, who may have stayed at an inn or have a pint of ale on this street. Most scholars seem to agree that the most likely meaning of "Aldgate," however, is "Old Gate," which gives us an indication Aldgate High Street’s antiquity, and its long history dating back to Roman times.

Aldgate High Street’s close proximity to Aldgate helped to cement it as a centre for visitors. The street was once home to inns and taverns to accommodate the travellers coming in and out of London through Aldgate. As is the case with many other parts of London, there are few remnants of buildings or sites actually dating back to the medieval period. The only buildings on Aldgate High Street that date to the period before the Great Fire are a series of buildings at the northern end of Aldgate High Street, one of which is a pub called Hoop & Grapes. This pub is incredibly unique, as it was built in 1593 and was one of the only wooden buildings to survive the Great Fire of 1666. Today, the front of the building looks much like it did in the Tudor period, possessing a few medieval characteristics such as the jetties on its second level and its characteristic Tudor, timber frame. The cellar also supposedly dates back to the thirteenth century.


Main source: Medieval London: Introduction · Medieval London
Further citations and sources


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North side of Aldgate High Street, c.1905
User unknown/public domain


 

Aldgate

Aldgate was a gateway through London Wall from the City of London to Whitechapel and the East End.

It is thought that a gate at Aldgate was already spanning the road to Colchester in the Roman period, when the City wall itself was constructed. The gateway stood at the corner of the modern Duke's Place and was always an obstacle to traffic. It was rebuilt between 1108–47, again in 1215, and reconstructed completely between 1607-09. The gate was finally removed in 1761; it was temporarily re-erected at Bethnal Green.

While he was a customs official, from 1374 until 1386, Geoffrey Chaucer occupied apartments above the gate. The Augustinians priory of Holy Trinity Aldgate was founded by Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, in 1108, on ground just inside the gate.

Within Aldgate ward, Jews settled from 1181, until their expulsion in 1290 by King Edward I. The area became known as Old Jewry. Jews were welcomed back by Oliver Cromwell, and once again they settled in the area, founding London's oldest synagogue at Bevis Marks in 1698.

At Aldgate's junction with Leadenhall Street and Fenchurch Street is the site of the old Aldgate Pump. From 1700 it was from this point that distances were measured into the counties of Essex and Middlesex. The original pump was taken down in 1876, and a 'faux' pump and drinking fountain was erected several yards to the west of the original; it was supplied by water from the New River. In ancient deeds, Alegate Well is mentioned, adjoining the City wall, and this may have been the source (of water) for the original pump. A section of the remains of Holy Trinity Priory can be seen through a window in a nearby office block, on the north side.

The area around the large traffic roundabout to the east of where the gate stood is also often referred to as Aldgate (although strictly, this is Aldgate High Street, and extends a short distance into Whitechapel; it is also known occasionally by the epithet 'Gardiners' Corner', in honour of a long-disappeared department store).

Aldgate underground station was opened on 18 November 1876 with the southbound extension to Tower Hill opening on 25 September 1882, completing the (Inner) Circle. Services from Aldgate originally ran far further west than they do now, reaching as far as Richmond, and trains also used to run from Aldgate to Hammersmith (the Hammersmith & City line now bypasses the station). It became the terminus of the Metropolitan line only in 1941. Before that, Metropolitan trains had continued on to the southern termini of the East London Line.

Platforms 1 and 4 at Aldgate are the only two platforms on the network to be served exclusively by the Circle line.
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