Extracts from Daniel Defoe’s Account of London

Selected by Pat Rogers
Introduction and Contents

The Gates of the City

The gates of the city are seven, besides posterns, and the posterns that remain are four, besides others that are demolished. 

The gates are all remaining, two of them which were demolished at the fire, being beautifully re-built: These are Ludgate and Newgate; the first a prison for debt for freemen of the city only, the other a prison for criminals, both for London and Middlesex, and for debtors also for Middlesex, being the county gaol.

Moregate is also re-built, and is a very beautiful gateway, the arch being near twenty foot high, which was done to give room for the city Traind Bands to go through to the Artillery Ground, where they muster, and that they might march with their pikes advancd, for then they had pikemen in every regiment, as well in the army as in the militia, which since that, is quite left off; this makes the gate look a little out of shape, the occasion of it not being known. Cripplegate and Bishopsgate are very old, and make but a mean figure; Aldersgate is about one hundred and twenty years old, and yet being beautified, as I have said, on the occasion of King Jamess entry, looks very handsome.

Aldgate was very ancient and decayd, so that as old as Aldgate, was a city proverb for many years; but this gate was re-built also, upon the triumphant entry of K. James I. and looks still very well; on the east side of this gate are two statues in stone, representing two men, from the waste upward, and in armour, throwing down two great stones, supposing it to be on an enemy assaulting the gate, which I mention, because some time ago, one of these men in armour, whether tired with holding it so long, or dreaming of enemies assaulting the gate, our authors do not inform us; but he threw down the stone, or rather let it fall, after having held it upwards of an hundred years; but, as it happened, it did no harm.

Most of these gates are given by the city to the chief of the officers of the city to live in, and the houses are very convenient dwellings.

Temple-Bar is the only gate which is erected at the extent of the city liberties, and this was occasioned by some needful ceremonies at the proclaiming any King or Queen of England, at which time the gates are shut; the Herald at Arms knocks hard at the door, the sheriffs of the city call back, asking who is there? Then the herald answers, "I come to proclaim," &c., according to the name of the prince who is to succeed to the crown, and repeating the titles of Great Britain, France and Ireland, &c. at which the sheriffs open, and bid them welcome, and so they go on to the Exchange, where they make the last proclamation.

This gate is adorned with the figures of kings below, and traytors above, the heads of several criminals executed for treason being set up there; the statues below are of Queen Elizabeth and King James I. King Charles I. and II. and this is the fourth statue of King Charles II. which is to be seen in the City of London, besides his picture nobly done at full length, which was set up formerly in the Guild-Hall.