In the last entry, I talked a bit about the city walls, and I mentioned the gates. I was going to write an entry about all of them, but then I thought that would be cruel. So I’m going to do them one at a time. First up – Cripplegate! Woo!
My reason for starting with this one is that I just happen to have some photos of the area now, thanks to, yes, that long walk last week. The building you see here is Roman House, which according to the blue plaque on the side was built on the site of Cripplegate. Let’s see what it looked like in 1650, shall we?
Ah, that’s more like it. As you can see, the gates were actually rather substantial buildings. This one lasted until 1760.
There’s some debate over what the name “Cripplegate” actually means. It’s not helped by the fact that the spelling of the name has varied over the centuries since the gate first showed up in approximately 120AD. It’s variously recorded as “Cripelesgate,” “Cripelesgata,” “Crepelesgate,” “Crepulgate” and “Creplegate.”
The obvious suggestion is that the name has something to do with the disabled. This would appear to be backed up by the existence of the church, St-Giles-without-Cripplegate. St Giles is the patron saint of the disabled. However, this church didn’t appear until the 11th century. The building currently standing is of later Norman construction, one of the few substantial buildings to survive the Blitz that levelled the area and one of the last medieval City churches. It looks strangely out of place, located as it is by the Barbican centre and near terrible buildings like Roman House.
So, if the name doesn’t come from St Giles and his associates, where the heck does it come from? A. D. Mills, in the Dictionary of London Place Names, suggests the Old English “crypel-geat,” which means “low gate”. That is to say, “low” in the sense of “not much headroom”, not geographically low. Unlike Highgate. Which isn’t actually one of the city gates. Now I’m just confusing myself.