- One of the gates in the City wall on its eastern side. It stood in the midst of the High Street, at the south-eastern corner of what is now Duke Street. It is shown in Leake's map 1666 and in Agas, Guildhall ed. 1578. There is a plan of the gate in a survey of Holy Trinity Priory made 1592, now at Hatfield (Home Co. Mag. II). The old gate stood 25 feet east from the corner of Jewry Street. See Plate IV.It is described by Stow as one of the four original gates in the wall and was new built in 1108-47, and again in 1215.Earliest mention found in records: "Alegate" occurs in the grant by Matilda in 1108, of " Portam de Alegate," to the Prior of Holy Trinity (Cal. L. Bk. C.-p. 73) and Allegate," 1108, Anc. Deeds, A. 1880.Dodsley (1761) says it is mentioned in a charter of King Edgar dated 967, but he gives no authority for the statement, and the charter is not given in Kemble, Birch or Thorpe.In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (ed. Plummer and Earle, p.181) mention is made in 1052 of the " Æstgate" of the city, and in the " Miraculi Beati Edmundi Regis" by Hermannus, written about 1070 (MS. Cott. Tib. B. II. I), the city was entered "a via que anglice dicitur ' ealsegate.' "Both these forms may well have been used to designate "Aldgate" in early days before its name was finally determined.The earliest form of the name in all records is " Alegate," " Algate," and this form continued in general use until the 16th or 17th centuries The form "Aldgate" does not occur until 1486-7 (Ct. H. W. 11.589), and this may be an error in the text of the Calendar, and the 'd' may not occur in the MS. itself.The dwelling-house above the gate was let to Geoffrey Chaucer in 1374 (Cal. L. Bk. G. 327-8). It was rebuilt in 1607-9, and when the gate was finally taken down and removed in 1761, some Roman coins were found under it. It was re-erected at Bethnal Green, but was pulled down not long after, and no trace of it now remains.The name of the gate still survives in the Ward and street of Aldgate. Stow derives the name from the "antiquity or age thereof," but in this he is certainly wrong. The spelling in all early documents is, as stated above, usually" Algate," and the "d" is invariably absent. It is intrusive and may be entirely disregarded in determining the derivation of the name. Mr. Loftie, who is "shocked at Stow's ignorant guessing," says that it means "free to all." But he does not show how or why it was more free than other gates, nor does he hazard a suggestion as to the original form of the word.The true etymology is undetermined, but several suggestions have been offered. Colonel Prideaux suggests in N. and Q. 9, S.I. 1, that it may mean the gate of the foreigners from "ael " = foreign. This word "ael" in Anglo-Saxon, besides being used in place of the prefixes " eal " = all, and "el " = foreign, is also used for " ele " = oil, and has further the meaning of "awl," so that there is here plenty of material for guesswork.It may be connected with " ale', in the sense of a feast, as in the word " bridal," or in the sense of an ale-house. If the reference given above containing the form "ealse" can be taken to apply to Alegate, it suggests that the gate may have been named after some one called "Ealh," an owner or builder, as this personal name was in general use in Anglo-Saxon times. The east gate of Gloucester was known as "Ailesgate" from "Æthel," and it is conceivable that the " ale " or " Alle " in Alegate is derived from the same name "Æthel," the" th" having dropped out early, but in the circumstances the name "Ealh" seems the more probable derivation.Portions of the foundations of an old gate (probably mediæval) were found in 1907 on the south side of Aldgate High Street, 25 ft. east from the corner of Jewry Street at a depth of 16 ft. 6 in., and on the north side of the street in 1908 under the Post Office (Arch. LXIII. p.266).
A Dictionary of London. Henry A Harben. 1918.
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