West Gate, Southampton

West Gate, Southampton.

Southampton’s town walls are a sequence of defensive structures built around the town in southern England. . . . In 1338 Southampton was raided by French forces; the town’s defences proved inadequate, particularly along the quays on the west and south of the city. Edward III ordered some immediate improvements to Southampton’s town walls but it was not until the 1360s that substantial work began. Over the coming decades the town was entirely enclosed by a 2 km (1.25-mile) long stone wall, with 29 towers and eight gates. With the advent of gunpowder weapons in the 1360s and 1370s, Southampton was one of the first towns in England to install the new technology to existing fortifications and to build new towers specifically to house cannon.

Southampton’s town walls remained an important defensive feature during the 15th century, the gatehouses sometimes being used as important civic facilities, including acting as the town’s guildhall and housing the town’s gaol. From the end of the 17th century their importance steadily declined and the walls were slowly demolished or adapted for other uses throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. . . he West Gate still stands three storeys high and was originally defended by two portcullises; the windows on the west side of the gate are the original medieval designs.

Mediaeval City Wall built of stone rubble about 20 feet in height. It incorporates the Arcade, and arcaded screen wall built against existing Norman merchants houses forming a series of deep arched recesses to give a rampart wall at the top, 19 arches in all, and the West Gate. This Mid C14 gateway has simple chamfered outer arches and a pointed tunnel-vault. It has 2 portcullis grooves. The 2 upper storeys have C16 gunports. Embattled parapets. Through this gate the army of Henry V marched to the ships for Agincourt in 1415 and the Pilgrim Fathers embarked from West Quay on “the Mayflower” on August 15th, 1620.
Hstoric England

The West Gate was one of the town’s principal gates in the medieval period as it led directly onto the West Quay, the town’s only commercial quay. Its earliest name, Florence Stout’s Gate, dates it to the later 14th century. A grant of 1399 shows Florence Stout in occupation of a tenement and an adjoining quay, with no mention of gate or wall. This appears to be a property to the south of the gate. The gateway was built in three sections surmounted by crenellations. The gate has a long tunnel and was defended by a heavy door and a double portcullis. In the 18th century a slate roof was added and the upper rooms were used as a dwelling, sometimes known as the Pigeon House. Local 19th century photographer Thomas Hibberd James stated that the West Gate made a lovely little cottage. The entrance was reached by way of the steps to the Guard House (Westgate Hall), to the left of the gate. In 1745 the portcullis, now an obstruction to traffic, was removed. The grooves in the road made by the portcullis are still visible.

West Gate (or Westgate) is a gate tower on the western town wall, opening onto the former West Quay. It consists of a gate passage with two floors above, the lower floor entered from the wall-walk to the south, at the top of a flight of steps against the south side of the tower. The western elevation has distinctive splayed gunports on each floor, and a blocked gunloop in the north and south wall. There may have been a gate of sorts here in the late 13th century but no evidence has yet been found for one. The present gate was perhaps built after 1339, and appears to have existed by 1360. However the surviving form suggests it was rebuilt or substantially remodelled for artillery defence in the late 14th century, probably in the 1380s, contemporary with the adjoining town wall to the north and south, although some writers consider the gunports to be 16th century insertions. In 1454 it was known as Middleton Tower, built over the Westhithe Gate; it had four defensive loops, assigned in the defence terrier of that year.
Heritage Gateway

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: