William Urry, Canterbury City Archivist, wrote that only two Canterbury streets had names more than 1000 years old – Burgate and Old Ruttington Lane. The very name Burgate (gate of the borough) suggests early origins – possibly Roman but certainly Saxon. The nearby wall sign ‘St Michael’s rectory’ (Image 1) serves as a reminder that, along with Holy Cross and St Mary Northgate, the church of St Michael was once located above its city gate. Somner relates that in 1475 the Burgate was in poor repair and rebuilt in brick. Helpful drawings of the gate as it might have appeared in 1540 and 1680 have been prepared by Canterbury Archaeological Trust (Images 2 and 3). There is evidence that the heads of executed traitors were stuck on the gate – Batholomew de Bradlesmere met this fate in 1322. The gate was dismantled over time – the south tower and arch went in 1781, and the remaining north tower in 1822. The inn immediately outside the gate, the Saracen’s Head, struggled on until demolition in 1968, making way for the new city ring road. Today all that reminds of this major city gate are a few building stones and coloured bricks.
What to see:
- one of the city’s dozen or so ‘Cozen stones‘ set in the pavement – this one badly cracked and worse for wear (Image 4)
- a few surviving stones from the gate, set high in the wall of the property at number 3 Burgate (Image 5)
- large wall writing reminding us of St Michael’s rectory
- coloured blocks marking out the extent of the gate and where it stood (Image 6)
Access: in open street
Sources: Buckingham (1980); Canterbury City Council (1948); CAT (1994); Somner (1703)