Leicester – Newarke Gateway

This is the Newarke Gateway in Leicester, also known as the Magazine Gateway. It was first built in around 1400 and it was designed to be a fancy first impression for visitors to the College of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as there was no city walls or the like attached to it. Horses and later vehicles could use the big gate and there’s a smaller pedestrian gate as well, with ground floor rooms for the porter. The College was demolished after it fell victim to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but the structure of the gateway survived. During the late sixteenth century, it was used to house Catholics at a time when they deemed to be a threat to the nation state.

This is the inside of the gateway and it’s known as the Magazine Gateway at it was used to store arms and munitions during the English Civil War.

The interior of the three-storey gateway is unfortunately closed and only accessible on Heritage Day weekends and the like. I’m not sure what the rooms above the gateway are now used for, but this would make a very nice pub…

It’s something of a miracle that this structure has survived, as its demolition has been suggested on more than a few occasions. Purchased by the County Justices in 1888, it was mentioned at the beginning of the twentieth century that a decision to keep the gateway had been made and it was noted that the street level had risen several feet over the centuries which made the gateway look somewhat less impressive in terms of its size. It appears that this problem has today been fixed, as it’s evident in the above photograph that the level of the floor is now below that of the road.

The structure was repaired in 1922, with Leicester County Council saying that they hoped it would survive for many decades to come. By then the stonework had been damaged and the renovation work seems to have been considerably overdue. In 1964, police rushed to the scene as two students had climbed the structure and were throwing flour, toilet rolls and streamers at those below. The police weren’t impressed and the matter went to court, with each student being fined £10.

More recently, the council had a great idea that they’d build a roundabout and underpass around the gateway, making it difficult to reach and isolating it away. At least they decided not to demolish it….. The building was at this point used as a regimental museum, although this was moved in 1996 to the impressive Newarke Houses Museum which is just a short walk away. In 2007, the council accepted that a mistake had been made by their planners, with the underpass being filled in and the gateway now made accessible once again. The appalling decision made in the 1960s can be seen at the photos on this web-site https://www.dmu.ac.uk/about-dmu/news/2021/april/the-covers-are-off-200000-works-on-15th-century-magazine-gateway-at-top-of-dmu-campus-are-completed-by-city-council.aspx. What a way to treat an historic building….