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Stow, following FitzStephen’s twelfth century description of the London Wall having seven double-gated entranceways (FitzStephen), counts Ludgate as the sixth principal gate (Stow 1:36). Originally there were four gates: one gate in each cardinal direction, with Ludgate granting access into the Roman city from the West. Ludgate was situated to the immediate west of St. Paul’s, at the north-eastern corner of Blackfriars. Anyone entering the city through Ludgate would have seen the large cathedral through and towering over the gate. For those leaving the city, Ludgate was the egress to Ludgate Hill, Fleet Bridge, and thence Fleet Street.

Name and Etymology

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Ludgate was built by King Lud in 66 BC, and his body is preserved in this city next to the gate that is now named after him: Portlud in the British tongue and Ludesgata in the Saxon (Adams 83). Most etymologists believe that Ludgate likely derives its name not from King Lud but from old English hlidgeat or hlydgeat which means postern (Kent 402). Lutgata first appears in a manuscript dated 1100-1135 with Ludgate settling from 1235 onwards (Harben 372). While we may disregard Monmouth’s history as legend, Ludgate has no certain Roman origin and archeological evidence supports the more ancient claim (Hill 61).


In 1378, Richard II converted Ludgate into a prison. In 1382 it was specifically designated a free prison by which it was ordained, that all freemen of this citie, should for debt, trespasses, accounts, & contempts, be imprisoned in Ludgate (Stow 1:39) while more serious criminals, for offences such as treason, would be sentenced to Newgate. Throughout the early modern period, Ludgate held a number of celebrity inmates, detained for their extravagances (Heminges 8). Ludgathians, as Jonson calls them in Every Man Out of His Humour, were impudent creatures, turbulent creatures (Jonson 1.2.124).
Sir Thomas Mallory spent much of his later life in and out of prison—finishing Le Morte Darthur in the Abbey Prison at St. Paul’s—and was twice committed to Ludgate: for three months in 1452, and for nine months in 1457. When Mallory returned to Ludgate for the second time, the wardens had to pay a record penalty of £1000 should they fail to keep him secure (Field 119).
William Heminges, son of John Heminges, was detained for a year in Ludgate sometime in the 1630s. In his Lines Written in Ludgate, Heminges laments his imprisonment:
No musicke here, did sothe myne eare
but soundes of men in greefe
Who at the gratte In woefull state
doth bellow for releife.
Poor men that soe are brought to woe
To leade a Captiue Life
And Spend the tyme of all thier prime
from parentes Children wyfe!
(Heminges 20)
The prisoners’ living conditions were notoriously unpleasant. From the chapel at Ludgate in 1659, Marmaduke Jonson complained of the poor circumstances in a letter to the Mayor. After dividing any legacies and donations, Jonson calculated each man’s financial allowance: And I hope no sober Man, or Christian, will judge, that four Pence in Bread, and six Pence in Money, can be a Competency sufficient to maintain a Man a whole Month (Strype 29). However, as a prison specifically for debtors, Ludgate usually held men of notable positions; mostly merchants and clergymen who had fallen on hard times. The legacies and donations, much lamented by Jonson, were often left by previous inmates who had been released. Famously, in 1486, Dame Agnes Forster, the widow of Stephen Forster, a successful merchant and fishmonger, Ludgathian, and later Mayor, was granted permission to make certain enlargements for the comfort and reliefe of all the poor prisoners in memory of her late husband (Stow 1:39). Not only did she build better quality accommodations and a chapel, but she also had the roof reinforced so that the prisoners could walk upon it for fresh ayre and, in an act of humanity, covered the cost so that for lodging and water prisoners here nought pay, / as their keepers shal all answere at dreadful doomes day (Stow 1:40). Even more remarkably, it was while Stephen was begging during his imprisonment that this charitable Dame walked past. Paying off his debts (amounting to £20), Dame Agnes Forster took Stephen into her service, and after falling into the Way of Merchandize, they were married: Her Riches and his Industry brought him both great Wealth and Honour Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (AD)[…] Yet whilst he lived in this great Honour and Dignity, he forgat not the Place of his Captivity (Strype 26). Heywood alludes to this tale in If You Know Not Me, Part 2, repeating the verse written by Stow (Heywood 1.6.823-835).

Literary References

We can picture the destitute debtors thanks to several references in popular drama and a number of surviving artifacts. A vivid description appears in Congreve’s The Way of the World, spoken by Foilble: He! I hope to see him lodge in Ludgate first, and angle into Blackfriars for brass farthings with an old mitten! (Congreve 3.1.121-22). The editor notes that the prisoners would fish for alms with a mitten let down on a line from upper windows to passers-by in the street (Congreve 55).
Since he owes a thousand pound, Fortune’s wife is described by Sir John in Massinger’s The City Madam as traveling To Ludgate in a Citizen (Massinger 1.3.22-8). Ludgate also features prominently in Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday where the catchphrase of the play’s protagonist, Simon Eyre, is to swear an oath by the Lord of Ludgate. Again in Dekker, with Middleton, it materialises in The Roaring Girl when it is said that The clock at Ludgate Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (AD)[…] ne’er goes true (Middleton and Dekker 2.2.109).
The Humble Petition of the Poor Distressed Prisoners in Ludgate, a handbill printed in 1664, beseeches its reader to relieve us with your charitable benevolence, and to put into this Bearers Boxe, the same being sealed with the house seale as it is figured on this Petition (Hindley 67). One of the Cries of London describes a Ludgathian begging with an alms-basket at his back, and a sealed money-box in his hand (Wheatley 446).
A fifteenth century manuscript titled, The Seven Names of a Prison, concludes with the prayer: Alle you att large pray God ffor us that be here in Ludgate (MS Harley 7526, fol. 35). The scene did not seem to change since much later; in 1711, Sir Richard Steele commented—not without social critique—in The Spectator:
Passing under Ludgate the other Day, I heard a Voice bawling for Charity, which I thought I had somewhere heard before. Coming near to the Grate, the Prisoner called me by my Name, and desired I would throw something into the Box: I was out of Countenance for him, and did as he bid me, by putting in half a Crown. (Steele)
Maybe it was a friend of Steele’s; he surely recognised a voice for such was the Ludgathian society. It is understandable, then, why Ludgate appears in Whitneyʼs satirical poem for she has little patience or, indeed, money to give such gentlemen debtors: that I / to Ludgate nothing geue (White).


In a unique description of London, Thomas Adams assigns Ludgate an alternative numerical position: The ſecond Gate Is Patience; which is not vnlike to Ludgate (Adams 43). Adams’ text presents Ludgate, and indeed London, as a theological alternative to the London in Stow’s Survey of London. Peace is here personified as the City, its governor being God, its laws the Gospel, its buildings the church, and the river that runs through it prosperity. According to Adams, in his chapter The Wals of Peace, patience is expressed through Ludgate for that is a Schoole of patience; the poore ſoules there learne to ſuffer (Adams 43).
Of all the ancient gates in London, Ludgate would have been the most majestic, embellished with several sovereign statues. King Lud himself presided over the early modern period as Henry III’s architectural improvements had included the repair and decoration of Ludgate with a statue of King Lud and his two sons. Sometime between 1547-1553, during the reign of Edward VI, the statues were vandalised and beheaded, most likely in an attack against Catholic idolatry by first generation English protestants. Queen Mary repaired the statues to their former glory by setting new heads on old bodies (Stow 1:38). By 1586, the same gate being sore decayed, was clean taken down Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (AD)[…] and the same yeare the whole gate was newly and beautifully builded (Stow 1:39). Queen Elizabeth’s reconstruction of the gate cost the citizens over £1500 but included a design for a statue of herself on the west side, with Lud demoted to the eastern wall. Holding the sceptre in one hand, and the orb in the other Queen Elizabeth, in all her stony splendour, wears the side panniers and farthingale and stiff collar (Kent 519).
In his essay on Ludgate’s influence on contemporary Elizabethan drama, Harris argues that
Elizabeth’s statue above Ludgate’s entrance modelled her as the most recent incarnation of a line of monarchs that, in predating the Conquest, laid claim to a natively British vision of England and London in particular. Admittedly, Elizabeth’s statue also involved something of the logic of Christian supersession. Situated on the gate’s west side, the statue was visible to anyone entering the City through Ludgate; with the spires of St. Paul’s Cathedral looming behind the arch, Elizabeth, defender of the faith, was framed by the church, whereas the pagan Lud was visible only when one turned one’s back on St. Paul’s and prepared to leave the sanctuary of the City. ( Harris 16-17)
Elizabeth, then, was seemingly well aware of the significance of her position on the west wall of Ludgate and the Queen’s presence was no doubt felt strongly by the succeeding monarch, King James VI and I, who passed through Ludgate on his delayed Royal Entry in 1604. As Harris notes of James’ passage underneath Ludgate, it would have had a powerful temporal as well as spatial symbolism, with the statue of Elizabeth positioned immediately behind him as he headed to his coronation at Westminster (Harris 19). Elizabeth’s statue would certainly have been a striking monument to walk beneath for either the king or a subject. Having been struck with awe at the sight of St. Paul’s during his first visit to London, a tourist narrates his experience in a ballad preserved in the British Library:
To Ludgate then I ran my race:
when I was past I did backward look
ther I spyed Queen Elizabeths grace
Her picture guilt, for all gould I took.
(Puiſnes 21-25)
Elizabeth herself, having heard the child’s oration at St. Paul’s Churchyard, then passed by a finelie trimmed Ludgate during her own passage through London in 1559 where she was receiued with a noyse of instruments (Queen’s Majesty’s Passage D2v). Elizabeth’s entry into London on the 14 January, a day prior to her coronation, confirmed Ludgate as a traditional site of royal procession and mayoral entertainment, establishing it along the main route from the Tower and out of London towards Westminster. Jean Wilson, in her authoritative study Entertainments for Queen Elizabeth I, states that her coronation procession was unchanged in manner and general context from previous royal entries (Wilson 5). Richard Dutton’s study of the civic pageants of the Jacobean period argues that James was also required to pass through Ludgate along the established route (Dutton 10). Furthermore, Lawrence Manley describes the last phase of such processions which led down Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street, and out through the boundary at Temple Bar (Manley 223).
Although Temple Bar had already been designated the official boundary of London by the time of Elizabeth’s procession, Ludgate’s situation as part of the traditional City limit created by the London Wall would have increased its significance. In her modern edition of the Queen’s Majesty’s Passage, Germaine Warkentin demonstrates that for townspeople living behind high walls there was an important difference between countryside and the sacred space of their city. The city walls and gates were powerful symbols of order in a world of disorder and lawlessness (Warkentin 20). One explanation why Ludgate’s entry in Richard Tottelʼs official publication of the procession is so short could be due to the fact the contemporary readers would have simply been aware of such significances imposed by Ludgate’s location. As Harris explains:
Ludgate was not just a gate but also a vital component in the symbolic topography of London. Ludgate’s signifying power as a nodal point, connecting not only the City’s inside and outside but also its past, present, and future, was deployed in civic ritual, including coronation processions and entertainments. Ludgate was the threshold between St. Paul’s and Westminster, between spiritual and earthly power. Conventionally, the new monarch would spend the night in the Tower, and then move from the east to the west of the City, pausing at the cathedral; he or she would then head west through Ludgate to Westminster for the coronation. (Harris 17)
Unlike each of the other eleven locations on Elizabeth’s procession route in which the pageantry is described in detail, Tottel’s commemorative programme elaborates no further on the aural spectacle that occurred at Ludgate. It must be assumed, though, that in addition to its location, the musical welcome at Ludgate was also significant enough for it to have been included as one of the twelve primary pageants. The ringing of St. Paul’s bells moments earlier would still be reverberating in the ears of those gathered by the gate. Considering the occasion it would be safe to assume that brass instruments would have provided a suitably royal fanfare to mark Elizabeth’s approach. An early form of the trumpet, the trompette de guerre, which is similar in design to the bugle since it had no valves, would have be accompanied by cornetts and sackbutts (early trombones) as the instruments of both war and royal pomp (Hayes 756). The musical greeting at Ludgate would have been loud enough to be heard over the gathered crowds, and able to drown out the begging shouts of the prisoners’ attempting to capitalise on the increased charity and wealth as a consequence of the procession. It is also probable that cannons may have been fired as Elizabeth approached. A dispatch by Il Schifanoya, the Venetian ambassador to the Castellan of Mantua, written just nine days after the procession, describes the procession in general where artillery, drums, fifes, trumpets and other kinds of joyful instruments [accompanied] her Majesty and her court (qtd. in Warkentin 103).
Moreover, it was not only the gate itself that had been splendidly decorated for the occasion; the surrounding area had certainly undergone one of the most expensive renovations of any location along the route, and its transformation for the pageant was so dramatic that Elizabeth herself was certainly impressed. Preparations in transforming London for the pageant started early, and on the 7 December the Court of Aldermen met to assign pageants and displays to various groups of guildsmen, to be set up at the traditional stations (Warkentin 37). Ludgate was allocated to Henry Nayler and John Lacy, both clothworkers; George Allen, a skinner; and Thomas Nicoll, a goldsmith (qtd. in Warkentin 118). Nicoll would surely have been tasked with gilding the statues on Ludgate, for as Puiſnes describes: ther I spyed Queen Elizabeths grace / Her picture guilt, for all gould I took (Puiſnes 24-25). Nayler, Lacy and Allen, then, will have supplied skins and luxurious textiles to drape over the buildings. The printed text offers the following anecdote as Elizabeth passed through the gate: From thence by the way as she went down toward Fletebridge where one aboute her grace noted the cities charge, that there was no coast spared. Her grace answered that she did well consider thesame, and that it should be remembred (Queenʼs Majestyʼs Passage D3r). True to her word, Elizabeth did remember Ludgate, hence the repairs in 1586 which included her statue. Schifanoya’s letters provide an explanation as to why Elizabeth considered the streets leading towards and away from Ludgate worth remembering. He writes:
The houses on the way were all decorated; there being on both sides of the street, from Blackfriars to St. Paulʼs [which encompassed Ludgate], wooden barricades on which the merchants and artisans of every trade leant in long black gowns lined with hoods of red and black cloth, Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (AD)[…] with all their ensigns, banners, and standards, which were innumerable, and made very fine show. (Bergeron 13-14)
It was a remarkable scene, comparable to the modern practice of lining The Mall with crowd barriers during royal celebrations to hold back the thousands of people waving British flags, homemade banners, and souvenir memorabilia. Furthermore, Schifanoya’s description offers a tantalising record of the specific conditions on the day: Owing to the deep mud caused by the foul weather and by the multitude of people and of horses, everyone had made preparation, by placing sand and gravel in front of their houses (Bergeron 14). Again, one is reminded of the umbrellas and tents that are used today as people prepare themselves against the cold and the rain waiting, sometimes for days, to be in the best spot to catch a glimpse of the royal family. What is of most interest in Schifanoya’s notes is that the ambassador mentions an episode occurring at Ludgate that does not appear in the official pamphlet. He writes:
of Ludgate, where the prisoners of the Mayor of London are held. There were certain verses in Latin in praise of her Majesty above a little table, hanging at the front of the said gate, which was entirely painted with the arms of the City. I hear that she pardoned all those prisoners who were merely debtors. (qtd. in Warkentin 109)
It is a surprising omission by the pamphlet, since such a pardon would have caused a considerable reaction from both those inside and outside Ludgate. Another, even more remarkable omission is highlighted in Richard Grafton’s version of Elizabeth’s entry, published in 1563 by Tottel, who had also published the original account in 1559. Grafton adds the following statement concerning Elizabeth’s activity at Ludgate:
Also being humbly requested at the petition of the Mayor of London, who presented unto her Majesty in a purse one thousand marks in gold, that she would continue their good lady, she gave her answer that if need should be, she would willingly in their defence spend blood. (qtd. in Warkentin 113)
In 1603, upon Elizabeth’s death, the Lord Mayor commanded Ludgate to be closed: The gates at Ludgate and portcullis were shutt and downe remaining so from 3am until the Mayor received a token besyde promise (Manningham 147) from the Lord Treasurer that James was proclaimed King.
Almost fifty years earlier and after a week of fighting his way through London, followed by a rapidly dwindling number of rebels, Sir Thomas Wyatt reached Ludgate in early February, 1554 during a rebellion against Queen Mary’s marriage to Philip II of Spain. Finding the gate closed, his men called out that here was Wyatt whome the Quéene had graunted to haue thier requestes (Stow 1086). Queen Mary, anticipating Wyatt’s intention to enter the City through Ludgate, ordered her soldiers to protect the gate. The recently appointed Lieutenant of the City, Lord William Howard, stood waiting and roared to Wyatt: Auant Traytor, thou shalt not come in hére (Stow 1086).
During the First Baron’s War of 1215-1217, Ludgate was again the site of rebellious defence and closed. Having presumably been left to ruin it was repaired in haste. The Barons:
being in armes against the king, entered this Citie, and spoyled the Jewes houses, which being done, Gap in transcription. Reason: Editorial omission for reasons of length or relevance. Use only in quotations in born-digital documents. (AD)[…] applied all diligence to repayre the gates and wals of this Citie, with the stones of the Jewes broken houses, especially (as it seemeth) they then repayred or rather new builded Ludgate. (Stow 1:38)
Stow confirms this medieval account with a curious anecdote. A discovery made during Elizabeth’s renovation founde couched within the wall thereof, a stone taken from one of the Jewes houses, wherein was grauen in Hebrew caracters (Stow 1:38) the name and sign of the house belonging to Rabbi Moses.

17th Century and Beyond

Despite being gutted, Ludgate itself continued with but little detriment (Evelyn 15) during the Great Fire. However, while it survived the fire, Ludgate was demolished in 1760 to widen the street. Its materials were sold for the sum of £148 and it was arranged that the statue of Elizabeth, bought at a cost of £16, was to be built into the church wall of St. Dunstan in the West (Thornbury). Lud and his sons were sent to the parish bone-house but now stand under porch in the courtyard at St. Dunstanʼs, while Elizabeth still looks out over Fleet Street. This statue of Elizabeth is believed to be the oldest outdoor statue in London, since it is the only figure known to have been sculpted during her reign (Statues London Remembers). According to Kent, the memory of Ludgate was still significant in 1911 when the new monarch passed through London. A sign near Ludgate’s original location was inscribed to celebrate the coronation: King Lud welcomes George V (Kent 402).
Drawing of Ludgate by Hugh Alley. Image courtesy of the Folger Digital Image Collection.
Drawing of Ludgate by Hugh Alley. Image courtesy of the Folger Digital Image Collection.


Cite this page

MLA citation

Dawson, Alex, and Kate LeBere. Ludgate. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0, edited by Janelle Jenstad, U of Victoria, 05 May 2022,

Chicago citation

Dawson, Alex, and Kate LeBere. Ludgate. The Map of Early Modern London, Edition 7.0. Ed. Janelle Jenstad. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed May 05, 2022.

APA citation

Dawson, A., & LeBere, K. 2022. Ludgate. In J. Jenstad (Ed), The Map of Early Modern London (Edition 7.0). Victoria: University of Victoria. Retrieved from

RIS file (for RefMan, RefWorks, EndNote etc.)

Provider: University of Victoria
Database: The Map of Early Modern London
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A1  - LeBere, Kate
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ET  - 7.0
PY  - 2022
DA  - 2022/05/05
CY  - Victoria
PB  - University of Victoria
LA  - English
UR  -
UR  -
ER  - 

TEI citation

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