The north gate of the walled town, the Bargate demarcates High Street (to the south) from Above Bar Street (to the north). Its name derives from the bar used to halt traffic for the town broker to exact tolls. It was, therefore, the most important gate in the medieval town. The upper chamber also housed the medieval town’s administration in the ‘Gyhelde’ or Guidhall (image 2); the lower storey housed the gaol as well as the broker’s office.
The modern structure (image 1) is an aggregate of many dates: the inner arch is late Norman (c.1200); the drum towers are of late 13th century; the octagon of the north front is 14th century; the passageways through the two drum towers were cut in the 19th century. Much modification has taken place at other dates.
The statue of George III in Roman costume standing in a niche above the central archway (image 4) on the south side of the gate was donated to the town by the Marquis of Lansdowne in the early 19th century. It replaced an earlier statue of Queen Anne, erected together with the sundial in 1705. When replaced with the statue of George III the memorial to Queen Anne was placed inside the Guildhall.
On the north side the town moat was crossed by a fixed stone bridge with (from c.1522) a pair of sculptured lions standing at its northern end. These lions were originally of wood, but were replaced with the current lead sculptures in c.1744. The bridge was last mentioned in 1758 and was presumably demolished soon after this when the ditch was filled in. The two lions were then moved to their present position immediately in front of the gate. Painted representations of Sir Bevois and Ascupart were also traditional decorations of the northern side of the gate, as were the shields bearing the crosses of St Andrew and St George and nine other heraldic shields of important families of the 17th and 18th centuries. The royal coat of arms above the central arch, seen in early depictions of the gate, was removed in 1852. It is Grade I listed.
The Court Leet was held here between 1616 and 1856.
The Bargate underwent a programme of cleaning and restoration in 2016, and the photographs from that year below show it after this work.
History of Southampton, by Rev. J. S. Davies, p428-429. (HS/h)
Medieval Southampton, by Colin Platt, passim. (HS/h)
Historic Buildings of Southampton, by Philip Peberdy, 5-11. (HS/k)
Heraldry of the Bargate, by R. W. Greenfield. (HS/k)
Southampton’s Bargate: Reprinted from the Daily Echo. (HS/k)
The Heraldry and Exterior Decorations of the Bargate, Southampton, by R. W. Greenfield. (HS/k)
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