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Broadstairs York Gate

In the civil parish of Broadstairs and St Peters.
In the historic county of Kent.
Modern Authority of Kent.
1974 county of Kent.
Medieval County of Kent.

OS Map Grid Reference: TR39886787
Latitude 51.35930° Longitude 1.44438°

Broadstairs York Gate has been described as a probable Urban Defence.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This is a Grade 2 listed building protected by law*.


York Gate was originally constructed in c.1540, dated from an inscription on the monument. It was built of Kentish ragstone: brick and flint additions have been made during repair works in 1795. The monument is Grade II listed and is in fact an arch not a gate. (Kent HER)

Built about 1540, repaired in 1795. A pointed arch with grooves for a portcullis built over the street with a bastion on the south-west side but on the north-east side only the groove in which the portcullis fitted remains. (Listed Building Report)

York Gate, an arch not a gate, basically medieval, with a portcullis groove. (PastScape ref. Newman)

In the way leading to the pier, are the ruins of a stone arch, or portal, walled on each side with flints, to which were formerly fixed strong gates and a portcullis, to prevent any incursions being made here by privateers, &c. to plunder the inhabitants. These gates were long since either taken away, or worn out by great length of time, and the stone work is fast running to decay, there being no care taken to repair it. (Hasted)

16th century arch with portcullis groove closed off town from beach. (Salter)

In 1440, an archway was built by George Culmer across a track leading down to the sea, where the first wooden pier or jetty was built in 1460. A more enduring structure was to replace this in 1538, when the road leading to the seafront, known as Harbour Street, was cut into the rough chalk ground on which Broadstairs is built, by another George Culmer. Going further in defence of the town, he built the York Gate in 1540, a portal that still spans Harbour Street and which then held two heavy wooden doors that could be closed in times of threat from the sea. (Wikipedia entry 28 April 2013 no citation)

It is an ancient place; was the scene of a fierce battle, in 853, between the Saxons and the Danes; had extensive fortifications, pierced by a sea-gate, with a portal arch, some part of which remains; took its name from the "broad stairs" which led up from the sea-gate; possessed, a little above the fortifications, a Lady chapel, of so high repute that ships lowered their top sails in going past it (John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales )

Could readily be an effective defence from pirate raids as there are low cliffs along the beach front of Viking Bay with the road through the gate probably being the only easy access onto and from the beach. Although now an arch there doesn't really seem to be any reason to suppose it was not originally a gate, although the portcullis is unlikely to have been a working feature. Seems to have generally been overlooked as a urban defensive feature, has dismissal of the clearly fantastic myth mentioned in Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer lead to a more general dismissal of this as a defensive feature.
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:06

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