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WATCH: Take a tour of Norwich’s medieval gates - had they still been standing

PUBLISHED: 07:51 03 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:55 03 October 2020

The gate in Upper St Giles. Pic: Derek Williams.

The gate in Upper St Giles. Pic: Derek Williams.

Derek Williams

They stood for centuries, but, other than a few reminders here and there, Norwich’s city gates are long gone.

In medieval times, visitors had to pass through one of a dozen fortified toll gates to get into a city protected by two-and-a-half miles of wall.

Originally built in the 13th century, many remained in place until the turn of the 19th century.

Some sections remain and streets and pubs, such as the Berstreet Gates and Brazengate are reminders of what once was.

But a former City College technician has recreated what they once looked like - and created a video tour of them, with the gates superimposed on to the modern streetscape.

The Boom Towers near Carrow Road. Pic: A composite picture showing the gate at St Stephens. Pic: Derek Williams.The Boom Towers near Carrow Road. Pic: A composite picture showing the gate at St Stephens. Pic: Derek Williams.

Derek Williams, who lives in the Golden Triangle, was inspired after a suggestion by his friend Jack Girling, where he cycled on the original routes into the city during the coronavirus lockdown and made videos showing them so quiet and free of traffic.

That idea grew and Mr Williams made use of a book by Leo R Jary called ‘Through Ancient Gates: The Medieval Defences of Norwich’ to superimpose where the city’s gates would have stood on to modern streetscapes.

He said: “I’d never really been that into history and I’d passed these places so many times without really thinking about it.

“But it’s been a wonderful experience. I was riding my bike to all these places to do it, at a time when the roads were so quiet and it was really beautiful. Norwich felt a very different place.

A composite picture showing the gate at St Stephens. Pic: Derek Williams.A composite picture showing the gate at St Stephens. Pic: Derek Williams.

“Although I’d been to all the places before, I’d never really connected them all together to make sense of where all the gates would have been or what they’d have looked like.”

Mr Williams said the one in St Stephens would have been the most impressive. He said: “That would have absolutely dominated that entrance to the city.”

But he is also fond of the Boom Towers, close to Carrow Road, where a chain of iron was placed across the water, defending the city from waterborne attack.

The flint and mortar fortifications survived for years, but became increasingly ramshackle. They had become unsanitary, were a hindrance to traffic and were demolished by the city corporation from 1790 to 1810.

A composite picture showing the gate at St Stephens. Pic: Derek Williams.A composite picture showing the gate at St Stephens. Pic: Derek Williams.

But, as Mr Williams said: “We lost something very special.”

The video can be seen here.


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