The Gateway dates from the late fifteenth century and was the main entrance to Abingdon Abbey. A much-damaged statue of St. Mary, the patron saint of the Abbey, is in a niche above the main archway.
The large central arch was for mounted travellers and wheeled traffic, and the small arch on the north side was for pedestrians. A porter’s lodge, built into the south side, found use in the nineteenth century as the town’s first police station. The lodge was removed in 1865 to provide a second pedestrian arch.
At some point after the Dissolution the rooms above the gateway became the town prison, a use that continued until the Old Gaol took over this function in 1812. In 1826 this space was converted into a room for banquets and receptions, and is now a meeting room.
The Gateway is flanked by St Nicolas’ Church on the north and the former St John’s Hospital (now part of the Guildhall) on the south. The church was intended for Abbey tenants and servants. The hospital was an infirmary for the Abbey servants and also catered for sick and needy travellers.
See Glossary for explanations of technical terms.
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