Terrible news! Yr. Humble Chronicler has been struck down with some variety of sickness, most likely caused by an imbalance in the ratio of blood to black bile, or maybe from breathing too much miasma. One way or another, I’m stuck at home with nothing to do. So rather than rant on about how rotten I feel, here’s the next part of my history of the ancient city gates of London – Aldersgate.
Again, the origins of the name of the gate seem to be rather different from what I’d assumed. Before I actually started researching this, I assumed it referred to aldermen (well, if bishops can have a gate, why not aldermen?). Aldersgate is one of the twenty-five historical Wards capable of electing an alderman to the City of London Corporation and nearby Aldermanbury, fairly obviously, indicates a place where aldermen were.
However, the earliest recorded instance of the name was around 1000AD, sixty-eight years after the arrest of King Arthur according to the Monty Python documentary, The Holy Grail. Back then it was known as Ealdredesgate, literally “the gate of Ealdred.” Unfortunately, none of my sources seem to be interested in telling me who Ealdred actually was.
Probably the most notable local resident was John Milton, who moved to Aldersgate Street after his wife, Mary Powell, ran off. It’s not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that he worked on his controversial (bordering on heretical) divorce tracts while living here. Apparently he liked it because “there were few streets in London more free from noise than Aldersgate.”
Aldersgate did once have an Underground station named in its honour. This isn’t yet another of London’s ghost stations, however – the station was simply renamed “Barbican” in 1968 (having been renamed “Aldersgate and Barbican” in 1923).
These days, the area is home to the Barbican Estate, which is Grade II listed as an outstanding example of Brutalist architecture. Personally, I think anything that encourages Brutalist architects is a bad idea, but then, no one asked me.