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St John’s Abbey Gate

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Listed in Culture, Creativity & History, Places to Go, Religious Buildings


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This pinnacled gatehouse, elaborately decorated in East Anglian ‘flushwork’, is the sole survivor of the wealthy Benedictine abbey of St John. It was built c.1400 to strengthen the abbey’s defences following the Peasants’ Revolt. Later part of the mansion of the Royalist Lucas family, the gatehouse was bombarded and stormed by Parliamentarian soldiers during the Civil War siege.

The two-storey gatehouse with its battlemented roof would have made a powerful statement about the strength of the abbey. It has turrets at each corner – higher on the north front – with large pinnacles. The north front is the most richly decorated, with flintwork panels and ornamented niches for statues.

The gatehouse is principally built of flint and brick with limestone dressings, though Roman and medieval brick has been used at the back of the building. It consists of a gate hall and a porter’s lodge. There is a pedestrian gate alongside the main carriage entrance.

Both carriageway and pedestrian access have ribbed stone vaulting springing from moulded corbels carved with human heads and lions. A doorway in the east wall gives access to the porter’s lodge, which is now roofless. A doorway in the west wall once led into a now-destroyed adjacent building; a blocked door in the south-west turret once connected this building with the upper room of the gatehouse.

The lower part of the structure is mostly original, including the elaborate vaulting. The upper chamber, northern facade and turrets were heavily restored in the mid-19th century, but are believed to be faithful copies of the original work.

Open any reasonable time during daylight hours

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